Network (1976)
June 4, 2019 9:08 PM - Subscribe

The seminal 1976 film has never been more prescient. When veteran anchorman Howard Beale is forced to retire his 25-year post because of his age, he announces to viewers that he will kill himself during his farewell broadcast. Network executives rethink their decision when his fanatical tirade results in a spike in ratings. Directed by Sidney Lumet.
posted by growabrain (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you've ever heard "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore..." It's from this movie, one of the best commentaries on American culture ever. It's basically about the news morphing completely into entertainment, complete with a horoscope segment. It's not done for laughs, it's gripping and tragic and mad just like the reality it predicted.

Now that I think about it the anchorman character is a bit like Trump. What to do? He's crazy. He could say anything. But... that's why he gets ratings. We need ratings.
posted by xammerboy at 9:22 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

The main problem with this movie at this point is that the outrageous stuff it predicts has basically all come true.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:12 PM on June 4, 2019 [16 favorites]

Network is worth it just for the Ned Beatty speech alone. (Small spoilers if you haven't seen it.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:35 AM on June 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

One of my favourite movies, and astonishingly prescient.

The other Oscar nominees that year were Rocky, All The Presidents Men, Bound for Glory, and Taxi Driver. Rocky was the winner, and William Goldman - the writer of All The Presidents Men - wrote about that Oscar contest in one of his books, and used it to illustrate that the prizes are often a matter of timing.

Going in to the contest he was sure that his movie would win, but Rocky won that year because it was a feel-good movie when America needed one. But if the vote was in 1982 - when he was writing - then Taxi Driver would have been the winner, since it reflected the violence around incidents like the Reagan assassination attempt.

But if the vote was a few years down the line, say, in 1985, then Network would have been the sure winner, because what seemed like a wild apocalyptic fantasy in 1976 was looking more and more like a vision of the future. He describes a crazy proposal for a show that never aired, where couples would fight their divorces in public: "We would be voyeurs, comfy and warm, seeing other people's real anguish for free. As I said, this divorce show didn't make it - or at least, hasn't made it yet."

We're living in Network's world.
posted by daveje at 3:00 AM on June 5, 2019 [11 favorites]

But if the vote was in 1982 - when he was writing - then Taxi Driver would have been the winner, since it reflected the violence around incidents like the Reagan assassination attempt.

Interesting theory, but Hinckley was obsessed with Taxi Driver and Jodie Foster and the movie directly inspired the assassination attempt.
posted by snofoam at 3:23 AM on June 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

I remember Network mostly for two things: 1) I read the MAD magazine parody well before I saw the movie (which was quite good, of course), and 2) there's currently a Broadway adaptation with Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:00 AM on June 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Come to think of it, the Robert Wagner speech in the first Austin Powers movie is kind of a callback to the Ned Beatty scene in Network.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:10 AM on June 5, 2019

Everyone was great in Network. Special props though to Robert Duvall in yet another one of his key performances.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:22 AM on June 5, 2019

Network is in that uncanny valley of satire where it’s so prescient about where society was headed at the time that watching it years later a lot of the attacks feel almost like cheap shots because they’re so dead-on. Of particular import today, of course, is the nightly news turning into fevered ranting by a madman who’s not even sure what he wants but knows he’s fed up with how things are now, and how that gets coopted by a plutocrat. I preferred it when the satire was mainly relevant for what it said about reality TV, but hey, welcome to hellworld I guess.

I didn’t get the chance to see the stage adaptation when I was in NYC last month but I’m super curious about it – certainly the cast is stacked. (Bryan Cranston as Beale, and Tatiana Maslany as Diana Christensen)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:03 AM on June 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

The two females roles (Diana Christensen & Max's wife) are rich & very well-played
posted by growabrain at 10:27 AM on June 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Network speech from Better Call Saul Uno episode
posted by growabrain at 11:02 AM on June 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

This should be the next rant thread:

"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore! "
posted by sammyo at 11:45 AM on June 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Network is in my top 10 list of best movies of all time. The I'm Mad As Hell scene still gives me shivers.
posted by hoodrich at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2019

Network is especially powerful if you are of an age where you can remember when network news departments were operated independent of ratings and advertising concerns. Post-Watergate, the MBAs began the steady chipping-away of that independence. Network was a satirical warning bell.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:50 PM on June 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

the audience at the Broadway play is encouraged to yell the line and most of them don't realize that they're being manipulated the final times.
posted by brujita at 9:47 PM on June 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I saw it very recently with a group, and we were all shocked by how accurate the the current world it seemed to be.

I discovered that I already knew a lot of key lines due to the song "Corporate Slave" by Snog.
posted by rednikki at 10:11 PM on June 5, 2019

As some of you may know from other FanFare threads, Paddy Chayefsky turns up as a major (and wonderfully sympathetic) character in Fosse/Verdon, so this feels like an inspired watch right now. I had intended to go back and do so anyway, so thanks for the prompt.
posted by mykescipark at 11:06 PM on June 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of my all-time favorites, top 5 for sure. The "mad as hell" scene and the Ned Beatty scene are both incredible. And the "I just ran out of bullshit" scene too, I love the weird mixed tone there--in the foreground there's comedy as people scramble to react, but in the background you can hear Beale the whole time pouring out totally legitimate depression about "this demented slaughterhouse of a world" etc.

And the editing is so sharp and fast. Right from the start, there's that shocking cut from Beale and Schumacher cracking up over the old Washington Bridge story ("didn't I ever tell you that one before?"), straight to the now-somber Beale saying "I'm going to kill myself".

The total lack of musical score is unusual too but definitely works somehow. Maybe because the drama is so perilously close to over-the-top already, music would just push it too far...
posted by equalpants at 8:28 PM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I watched this movie for the first time around 2003 I think. The speech the network CEO gives to Beale about what is going to happen in the future (not just in television) is so fucking spot on for 1976 I was totally dumbstruck.
posted by dry white toast at 9:43 PM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Network is worth it just for the Ned Beatty speech alone.

Goddamn, what a towering performance. Mr. Beatty often excelled at comic relief, but the man has range.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:45 PM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

"He's saying that life is bullshit, and it is, so what are you screaming about?"

Unsurpassed in all of filmmaking, if you ask me.
posted by churl at 5:57 PM on June 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

No one’s gonna talk about Faye Dunaway, though? Because Faye Dunaway, though.

The first half of this movie is riveting and terrifying and then the midpoint turns, as people are screaming out of their windows at Beale’s instruction / then he gets his big production show, and it starts to feel, for me, a little dated. Diane Christensen flattens to a caricature, there is a LOT of speechifying that reads like it’s supposed to be in a book as opposed to a visual medium (or maybe on the stage?), and you can see how narrative conventions have tightened so much in the past 40 years.

But that first half. God, that first half. Terrifying and perfect, and then more terrifying when you realize the satire doesn’t go far enough for today.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:16 PM on June 15, 2019

Also, it’s on Netflix in the US!
posted by schadenfrau at 5:21 PM on June 15, 2019

I'd never seen this before! A bit blown away.

I also like when Max and Diana go on their fling and Diana is just talking about work in every little scene and then during kissing and then during sex too.

There's a lot to chew on with this movie, I was surprised at both the quality and quantity of the criticism, which was all a lot better than I was expecting from a 70s satire. It also made me think of a Cohen brothers movie except it was not as individualized as they would do (and I think smarter than what they do.)

I guess though it underestimates the power of the evil companies to be just fine with rabid populism and so while it predicted Trump a bit, it also reminded me of my feeling during the 2016 primary, when I thought, surely this is the kind of obvious threat where you assassinate the guy. For that matter when the discussion in the movie turns to assassinating Howard Beale and Diane especially does not miss a beat, it was understated and perfectly chilling.

It's also interesting to think about how TV is dead now. Though that also leads to thinking about facebook and 4-chan.
posted by fleacircus at 5:35 PM on June 18, 2022

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