April 13, 2010

MadAve In The Movies: Network


By Kurt Brokaw, Culture Editor

1976: "Network" had the audacity to suggest in the 70s what is happening at the network level today - the disappearance of the wall between entertainment and news. The Manhattan-based United Broadcasting System (UBS) is plagued with low ratings, and so top management puts the whole news division under the control of the Communications Corporation of America, the entertainment division.

The lead news anchor, Peter Finch, goes ballistic, threatens to commit suicide during his last news broadcast, and instead delivers his I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore speech one-air, and half the families in Manhattan seem to open their windows and yell it back in unison. UBS promptly rewards the anchor's sudden popularity by giving him his own show, an early "reality" property called "The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves."

This is Finch's Best Actor Oscar, and his work is awesome, as is Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay, much of which has come true. Faye Dunaway is the network dragon lady, and Robert Duvall plus William Holden lend strong support. But "Network" is just a warmup of the mass communications bloodbaths on the way.

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