Network (1976)

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Cinematography Owen Roizman

Network is a 1976 American satirical black comedy-drama film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with poor ratings. The film stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall and features Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, and Beatrice Straight.

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Howard Beale, the longtime anchor of the Union Broadcasting System’s UBS Evening News, learns from friend and news division president Max Schumacher that he has just two more weeks on the air because of declining ratings. The two get drunk and lament the state of their industry. The following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast. UBS fires him after this incident, but Schumacher intervenes so that Beale can have a dignified farewell. Beale promises he will apologize for his outburst, but once on the air, he launches back into a rant claiming that life is “bullshit.” Beale’s outburst causes the newscast’s ratings to spike, and much to Schumacher’s dismay, the upper echelons of UBS decide to exploit Beale’s antics rather than pull him off the air. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation, persuading his viewers to shout out of their windows “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

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Diana Christensen heads the network’s programming department; seeking just one hit show, she cuts a deal with a band of radical terrorists for a new docudrama series called The Mao Tse-Tung Hour for the upcoming fall season. When Beale’s ratings seem to have topped out, Christensen approaches Schumacher and offers to help him “develop” the news show. He says no to the professional offer, but not to the personal one, and the two begin an affair. When Schumacher decides to end Beale as the “angry man” format, Christensen convinces her boss, Frank Hackett, to slot the evening news show under the entertainment division so she can develop it. Hackett agrees, bullying the UBS executives to consent and fire Schumacher.

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Soon afterward, Beale is hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, top-billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves”. Ultimately, the show becomes the most highly rated program on television, and Beale finds new celebrity preaching his angry message in front of a live studio audience that, on cue, chants Beale’s signature catchphrase en masse: “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.” At first, Max and Diana’s romance withers as the show flourishes, but in the flush of high ratings, the two ultimately find their way back together, and Schumacher leaves his wife of over 25 years for Christensen. But Christensen’s fanatical devotion to her job and emotional emptiness ultimately drive Max back to try returning to his wife, even though he doesn’t think she’ll agree, and he warns his former lover that she will self-destruct at the pace she is running with her career.

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“You are television incarnate, Diana,” he tells her, “indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality.”

When Beale discovers that Communications Corporation of America (CCA), the conglomerate that owns UBS, will be bought out by an even larger Saudi Arabian conglomerate, he launches an on-screen tirade against the deal, encouraging viewers to send telegrams to the White House telling them, “I want the CCA deal stopped now!” This throws the top network brass into a state of panic because the company’s debt load has made merger essential for survival. Hackett takes Beale to meet with CCA chairman Arthur Jensen, who explicates his own “corporate cosmology” to Beale, describing the interrelatedness of the participants in the international economy and the illusory nature of nationality distinctions.

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Jensen persuades Beale to abandon the populist messages and preach his new “evangel”. However, television audiences find his new sermons on the dehumanization of society depressing, and ratings begin to slide, yet Jensen will not allow UBS executives to fire Beale. Seeing its two-for-the-price-of-one value—solving the Beale problem plus sparking a boost in season-opener ratings—Christensen, Hackett, and the other executives decide to hire the Ecumenical Liberation Army to assassinate Beale on the air. The assassination succeeds, putting an end to The Howard Beale Show and kicking off a second season of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour.

It’s so prophetic it’s scary

25 June 2006 | by malikroberts16 (United States) – See all my reviews

Now, here is a film that everyone needs to see, especially today.

Children should be raised on the truth instead of fiction.

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Television seduces, entertains, divides, desensitizes, and corrupts not just kids but adults as well. It’s gotten so bad over the years it’s like some kind of a disease now. Most people believe everything they see, read, and hear. Fortunately for me, I’m not most people. There are things that I question and there are things that I know are very wrong. Lying to the American people in every possible way is very, very wrong.

I’ve never seen anyone open up their window and stick out their head and yell that they’re as mad as hell and they’re not gonna take this anymore. I’ve never seen anyone say that they were a human being and that their life had value. We’re so screwed up in the head we don’t even deserve to be called human beings. We’re like pre-programmed, numbered, clones enslaved from the cradle to the grave; clones that are programmed and structured to obey authority of all kinds.

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“Network” deserved the Best Picture Oscar for ’76, but it lost to “Rocky”. How the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences allowed that to happen is beyond me.

That’s all I have to say about that.

We Have Seen the Future, And It Sucks

10/10
Author: Putzberger from Chicago IL
28 December 2005

This movie came out when I was nine years old, and I saw it on network TV the following year, lured by the brouhaha that surrounded the use of the “barnyard epithet” during prime time. I loved this movie before I understood it, and I worship it now. Like “Elmer Gantry” or “1984,” it’s a work of didactic art that only fails on an imaginative level — Sinclair Lewis couldn’t grasp how debased evangelism would become, Orwell couldn’t foresee the excesses of Mao or Pol Pot, and Chayevsky couldn’t envision the absolute decline of television from a vast wasteland to a malevolent sewer. Fox News, reality TV, even the OJ chase, “Network” anticipates every vile bit of it.

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Now, it’s ridiculously overwritten — NO ONE is as articulate as the characters in this film, and most certainly, no one who works in television is as literate as Diana Christensen (the Faye Dunaway character). I doubt that poet laureates or even Eminem could spew as witty an aside as “muttering mutilated Marxism.” But damn if that isn’t part of its charm. Plus, outside of Max Schumacher (William Holden), the characters are pretty much archetypes instead of real people (the Robert Duvall character might as well wear a black cape and top hat), but their two-dimensionality works as a good metaphor for Max’s seduction into the “shrieking nothingness” or television. Plus the actors are so superb they make screeching caricatures into almost-sympathetic characters: Duvall is a credible and charismatic villain, Finch is a fine mad prophet and Faye Dunaway manages to make a shrill, manipulative, soulless neurotic so damn cute and sexy you’ll want to leave your wife for her, too, just as long as she promises to keep sitting cross-legged on your desk and hitching up her skirt. (Therein lies the real eroticism, forget the intentionally mechanical, unerotic coupling later in the flick). Anyway, this is complex, high art masquerading as popular entertainment, go rent it now.

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The Age of Network

10/10
Author: nycritic
22 February 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Thirty years after its release to public praise and multiple Oscar wins, Network is one of those films that instead of dating badly or becoming a product of its time has actually grown and become even more relevant today, and if it were re-released in 2006 for its actual thirtieth anniversary not on film but on national television right at the beginning of the fall season (complete with the most lurid reality TV shows and inane TV pleasers), it would only become more justified in its story.

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The story of the failing network that didn’t have a show on the Nielsen Top 20 and resorted to extreme measures to ensure that this changed seems so today: we see how channels that once had failing ratings churned out shock television right smack in the daytime while still applying Standard and Practices to other “prime-time” shows that could be taken the “wrong” way. Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Rikki Lake, Oprah, Mark Burnett, MTV — they’re all here under different guises, all competing to have their voices heard on television, all eventually becoming as ratings-hungry and establishment-friendly as the CEOs running the show.

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Today we don’t quite have Howard Beales ranting and raving about the ills of society on national TV (although they do “tell” us how we should feel, when we should laugh if we’re too stupid to get the joke, who to vote for, the “truth” about the tobacco industry). Today media is all the rage and televises even a fart if it deems it interesting and guarantees more viewers. Today shows like “20/20” or “60 Minutes” bring us ‘exclusives’ even if it’s at the cost of journalistic integrity. And now, with ‘reality TV’ still the dominating novel trend even in little-seen cable channels, creating stereotypes in leaps and bounds while claiming authenticity of the events depicted, there hasn’t yet been a need to create a lunatic who could sermonize everything and make us Mad as Hell.

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On this aspect alone NETWORK has dated: the 70s were all about counterculture, anti-establishment, revolution, leftists, Patty Hearsts, Lennon and Yoko, “Nova”, the Mansons, the hippies, the Earth-lovers, the militants. Nowadays, buff bodies parade themselves in shows containing outlandish competitions where eating the most grotesque concoctions are the norm, or enduring a barrage of extreme insults has become entertainment (i. e. “American Idol”) and the very concept of dignity flies out the window. Of course, after signing an extensive release form in which they free the network of all responsibilities if something goes wrong because we all know networks can’t be held liable for any faux pas. In short, nowadays people from all over try to become the next It person and outlast their 15 minutes of fame. Nowadays, everyone has their own reality TV show depicting their 24 hour day activities. I wonder if Diana Christensen isn’t alive and well and exerting absolute control over the networks in general, bringing anything and everything that can garner a little bit of shock value (Boy Meets Boy, or any reality TV self-made “villain/villainess”) and eventual ratings, taking over actual scripted shows with real actors.

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NETWORK is a powerful movie of which I can’t praise enough about even if its screenplay, by Paddy Chayefsky is a little too verbose. No one talks the way he makes his characters talk, using impassioned speeches with big, even archaic, words, and more than once the script makes the characters go completely over the top but even then it makes its point. Of the actors, William Holden’s quiet portrayal of a former television exec, Max Schumacher, who has a conscience, but still feels some attraction to danger and risks his own family to experience is who is at the heart of this crazy story who was ahead of its time. Peter Finch’s Howard Beale never comes through enough as a real human being: just someone who was pushed too hard and decided to shut down for the remainder of his life. But Holden holds the moral glue of the story, and interestingly enough, is wise to know that his affair, perfectly scripted as he even states, will end on a high note — he’ll return to his sanity and his wife, and Diana Christensen will bask in her own executive madness, since this is all she knows and holds dear.

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In her last words — “Let’s kill the son of a bitch.” — she informs us this is all she is about without so much as batting an eye. Who comes, who goes, is irrelevant to her, as long as the network can be number one. And that is the inhuman reality of television — a media directed to entertain humans.

Guess What?..Everything is a Commodity!!

10/10
Author: dataconflossmoor from United States
28 April 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Groundbreaking is the term for this movie…It is considered one of the hundred best movies ever made and for very good reason…Director Sidney Lummet has a reputation for the director of the non-conventional!!…A cogency for making the absolute truth a guileless villain, a rude awakening for television viewers, and a stubborn scripture for facts is what purports a film like Network as a masterpiece for the prolific and intellectual!! You could not ask for better acting!! The acting in this movie is second to none!! Robert Duvall, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Ned Beatty and a whole list of others…

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Perhaps the best acting in any film made whatsoever!! It starts with Howard Beale (Peter Finch) a victim of his own human pitfalls…Ossified and dejected from his declining years going from bad to worse, he becomes isolated, desultory ,morbid and morose and feels his life has no meaning, he threatens suicide on live television and is discarded as being a wacko!!…At first!!..but guess what!! he’s a hit!!…So the ratings crazed cutthroats make him an instant success by labeling him “The Angry Prophet Denouncing the Hypocracies of Our Time”…As long as we’ve gone this far, let’s break all of the rules…Bring on the terrorists, the soothsayers, the insurectionaries, the financial gurus, the faith healers, and the para military radicals, to reduce the severity of hard bitten news to a side show of carnival freaks!!!

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William Holden plays the old school business man with “primal doubts” about his life in general…”male menopause” with “defineable features” He is happily married yet after being bombarded from all sides in the autumn of his years, he is frightened that the new generation is impervious to basic tenets of human morality such as ethics and compassion…The woman with whom he gets involved, is callous not because she is vindictive, but because she is emotionless!! This woman (Faye Dunaway) is the “Television Incarnate” Ice Queen who reduces time and space to “split seconds and instant replays” the daily business of life is a “corrupt comedy” and the only redeeming quality to modern marvels and a “radiant eruption of Democracy” is that it gets a 32 share!!…This acting performance is perhaps the best acting performance I have ever seen…The type of person Dianna Christensen was supposed to be was played out perfectly…

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The delivery of the elaborated monologues and diatribes were absolutely remarkable….She was ideologically explosive yet person-ably obtuse. You knew why she wasn’t the drinking type…she was too emotionally detached…In the thick of women’s liberation, whereby a woman wanted to be just like a man, this movie portrayed how being just like a man had it’s drawbacks!! “Arousing quickly, consummating prematurely” and suffering from the cumbersome fate of being crippled by ineptitude at everything else but your work, made Dianna Christensen perennially wistful of testosterone laden aggression!! Aggregately, she invoked societal demise through channels of deductive reasoning!! Director, Sidney Lummet, was insistent that Dianna Christensen be utterly devoid of vulnerability!! Mr Hackett (Robert Duvall) played the hatchet man for the CCA…A rough around the edges errand boy for Mr Jensen (Ned Beatty) who viewed this network as his big chance and that whatever worked worked ..

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Scruples were never an issue, and ratings were pending exchange!! Howard Beale (Peter Finch) the “Angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our time” surprised even himself with his charismatic clout with the naive television audience!!! He was the UBS star-lighted “Mad Prophet of the airways”…He could arouse anger and counter-culture overzealousness just by appearing crazy!!! One speech Mr Jensen (Ned Beatty) was a bit role but incredibly powerful in his delivery of the basic concept that ideology is for sale and that television is the ultimate vehicle for manipulation!! Paddy Chayefsky is pioneer with this film as an acrimonious depiction for making world phenomena such as the fall of Communism and landing man on the moon to be minimized to a market share!!!..The terms entertainment and egalitarianism now became pejorative!!!! The movie audience is hit with the terrifying reality that a societal caprice will induce the avaricious to capitulate to human catastrophe…

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Give Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lummet credit for unveiling the revelation that ratings and the dollar take precedence over humanity!!! Howard Beale, the decrepit alcoholic, euphemistically transformed to the prescient paragon of intuitiveness, was alright so long as his innocuous chastisements did not disrupt worldwide pecuniary acquisitions!! Once they did, he was quelled, and thus deemed a total ratings chart disaster!! Ultimately, Howard Beale, the once disheveled dipsomania-cal curmudgeon, turned Messianic Savonarola, becomes the typification of the corporate guinea pig!!!!

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This movie is avant-garde in it’s ability to convey the message of greed first democracy second, or third, depending on the sponsors of the Howard Beale Show… An incident was determined traumatic or not traumatic by it’s lucrative marketability potential!! Terrorism is not terrorism if it means ratings!!! The character assassination of all the people in this movie was at the grass roots level!! Their avoidable flaws were entrenched as irreconcilable!! Any people with any conscience whatsoever (William Holden & his wife) were decimated by reveille with selfishness, now it is imperative that they pick up the pieces!! How many imitations of this movie have there been…thousands!! Network however was the first movie of it’s kind to effectively portray the concept of “dying Democracy and dehumanization” probably the best movie of it’s kind as well…

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This is an illustration of how heinous tragedy has to be stomached by the television audience, their response to clinical trauma transcends the impact suffered by the actual victims involved!! It is a proverbial case of ratings eclipsing reality!! The film “Network” resonates itself to a point whereby the American people are reduced to meager by-products of the Fortune 500!! I wish there could be a movie of this caliber made again!! I am angry that there has not been a sensationalistic masterpiece to come around for some time, and I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!!!

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