RETRO REWIND & REVIEW: NETWORK (1976)
There are some classics that I am embarrassed to admit I have never seen. Network is one such movie. So I rented it recently, and found this 1977 nominee for Best Picture to be extraordinarily relevant. From FCC censorship to corporate ties to the Middle East, to the political and financial underpinnings of large-scale mergers that directly affect network television programming, this film exposes the power of the media decades before we were aware of such possibilities. Network also introduces the concept of Reality TV for what must have been the first time on the big screen, exploiting a celebrity for ratings while producers get rich and a man’s life becomes a train wreck for the world to observe.
The script, for which Paddy Chayefsky won Best Screenplay, is phenomenal. And the kind of performance that Peter Finch delivers is unparalleled in contemporary film; these days whoever filled that role would be accused of overacting. Faye Dunaway is also amazing, an absolutely ruthless television producer that probably exists in one form or another at any given network today. I found myself pondering a remake, and pictured one scripted by Aaron Sorkin, directed by George Clooney and starring Annette Bening. A girl can dream.