It is simply breathtaking to watch this film from 1976 and glory in how prescient it was about the descent of the mainstream media into bottom-line oriented entertainment masquerading as news.
It just knocks your socks off. All the issues are here: corporations buying up entertainment companies buying up news divisions; the emergence of multi-national corporate allegiances; the devolution of news into entertainment; the subjugation of news divisions into larger profit centers that are more concerned about marketing and market share than the truth; the emergence of the television-weaned generation of Americans -- and more.
This Academy Award winning bitterly satiric script by Paddy Chayefsky (under the direction of Sidney Lumet) has an all-star cast to match its penetrating insight into when television news went off the rails. Peter Finch as the aging "Edward R. Murow Generation" newscaster who becomes a psychotic television prophet, and Faye Dunaway as the "anything goes for increased" ratings news executive, both won Oscars, as did Chayefsky for his script. William Holden and Robert Duvall put in tremendous performances. In fact, there's not a sour note in the cast.
But it is Peter Finch, as Howard Beale, a relic of the golden age of news, resurrected first as a news evangelist encouraging viewers to vent their anger and, open their windows, and shout, "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Later, under the spell of the CEO of the parent corporation of his network, he becomes an apostle for the multi-national corporate world encouraging everyone to give up their individual identity and become a cog in the great machines of the world that supposedly yield prosperity, such as IBM, Standard Oil, Morgan Stanley, and the like.
Unfortunately, a film that seemed so outrageously sardonic in 1976 appears to have become the norm in many ways, if you look at it as a broad metaphor for what has happened to television news.
Watching "Network" is like finding buried treasure, a little anthropological/sociological discovery that reveals so much about the media world we live in today. Chayefsky thought that he was making this stuff up, but it turns out his wildly entertaining script became a blueprint for some corporate news executives, and now we're in a heap of trouble, aren't we?
Want to know why the story of "The Runaway Bride" trumps the war in Iraq. Watch "Network."
Imaginative and brilliantly ahead of its time.