Would someone please explain to me why contemporary films suck so much? Maybe it is because everything I seem to watch from other eras has been pre-filtered but occasionally I get the opportunity to see pure genius unfold before me on screen and I am reminded that today’s film makers just aren’t cutting it…
“Network” is a well-crafted piece of celluloid that holds up quite nicely in the feeding-frenzy mentality that defines modern media. Centered around the mental breakdown/complete insanity of a national news anchor, “Network” provides enough dark humor and cynical outlook to keep the most jaded film fanatic glued to the screen.
Peter Finch plays Howard Beal, longstanding national news anchorperson whose ratings have slumped to embarrassing lows. Upon hearing the news that his program is in jeopardy and that he will be losing his job, Beal promptly delivers the news that he will commit suicide on the air the following week. This announcement creates a veritable firestorm within the station but results in an inevitable surge in ratings as the prurient public latches onto the decree and can’t keep their eyes off Beal’s show. What are the higher-ups to do? Cancel the program and lose ratings share? Leave him on the air and risk the consequences that occur when a raving lunatic is running the show? Money holds out over compassion as Beal is allowed to continue his broadcasts no matter how maniacal they become. All of this is engineered by upstart Diana Christensen, amazingly portrayed by Faye Dunaway, a power hungry uber-yuppie (way before that phrase was coined) whose haughty aspirations for career success are unbridled. She quickly builds on the success of Beal’s program to develop “reality TV” based on the escapades of a national terrorist organization from whom she received, and aired, unedited footage of a bank robbery. Worlds soon collide and all hell breaks loose.
Social commentary runs amok throughout as “Network” provides an adept look at today’s cesspool that most of us call “nightly news”. Who wrote this thing, anyway, Nostradamus? (Actually, it was Paddy Chayefsky, whom I would kiss for his efforts had he not died in 1981.) This film practically predicts the evolution of network news and throws a heavy dose of “reality TV” to boot. Normally I tend to shy away from Academy Award winning efforts as the Academy tends to miss the boat in most cases but this appears to be one of those years where they actually got things right (Network raked in four: Peter Finch, Best Actor; Faye Dunaway, Best Actress; Beatrice Straight, Best Supporting Actress; and the aforementioned Paddy Chayefsky, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen). Looking to blow a couple of hours and not feel ripped off? Skip the latest Ah-nold vehicle and rent “Network”.
“Network” definitely shows its age a bit here with a transfer that simply looks “old”. This is probably due more to the techniques used in the original filming vs. any fault of the transfer. Fortunately, this doesn’t really detract from the experience too terribly and the film is presented in a wide screen, anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio and Dolby 1.0 sound. English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.
As far as extras go, the DVD for “Network” provides an interesting look at the Neilson Ratings system (Easter-egged in the “Special Features” section-hit your right arrow on the remote until the button on the TV is highlighted then hit “enter”) and an interactive quiz game that was more of a time waster than informative.