No I'm not talking about The Social Network, I'm talking about the extraordinary 1976 satirical black comedy Network. As a millennial myself I know what you fellow millennials are thinking: "a movie from the 70s? That's gonna be boring!" However, I urge you dear millennials to look past your short attention spans and immerse yourself in a film which remains relevant today despite being 40 years old.
What is Network you may ask? Well, it's about a fictional TV network called UPS which is consistently at the bottom of the ratings. The news section of the station faces an interesting dilemma when news anchor Howard Beale, a clinically depressed man who learns he only has 2 weeks before he'll be fired, announces on the air that he will commit suicide on next week's live broadcast. At first, his supervisors expectedly respond negatively to Howard's behavior but still give him a second chance to go on the air and apologize for his comments. Instead of reconciling for his outlandish statement, Howard goes on a rant about how life is "bullsh*t" and causes even more uproar. However, Howard's rant draws big ratings and national attention to the UPS network. And that's when the real fun begins.
Peter Finch gives an excellent performance as Howard Beale, a man who has clearly lost it but continues to be encouraged for his radicalism. Faye Dunaway (Chinatown) plays Diana Christensen, the head of the network's programming who takes full advantage of Howard's delusional state of mind. William Holden delivers as Max Schumacher, the news division president who begins an affair with Diana. Supporting roles include a younger Robert Duvall as Diana's boss and Beatrice Straight as Max's wife (a role which won her an Oscar despite only being on screen for a little over 5 minutes!)
Howard Beale's "life is bullsh*t" rant quickly turns into an hour-long program on the network with a live studio audience. If you think a program that consists of a madman making outlandish claims of receiving words from God, Diane also creates a reality series about a radical group of terrorists.
Okay so all this sounds pretty outlandish from a 70's film that won 4 Academy Awards, but Network never loses its razor-sharp social commentary. It basically predicted the basis of the FOX network's success, 11 years before it was launched. It also portrays a pretty accurate state of the media which is almost scary considering the film was released 40 years ago. It's no secret that today's media will do anything to get big ratings and Network provides a very sharp insight into the mindset of the people of the media.
Faye Dunaway's performance really stands out and Peter Finch really makes an impact in a nearly iconic role which features the infamous "I'm mad as hell" scene. There's also plenty of laughs, dark humor, and mind-blowing epic speeches by some of the main characters.
So dear millennials (or anyone who wants to watch a quality film for that matter), I urge you to check out Network and be amazed at a truly powerful, timeless film.