Starring: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Peter Finch
Director: Sidney Lumet
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
In network television, ratings rule. When you watch films like Christine (2016) or Network, you get the feeling that things were changing in the 70’s and that getting people to watch was more important than the morality of what they were watching. The popularity of this film, and it’s 4 Oscar wins and 6 nominations perhaps attests to how cynical people were perhaps feeling at the time, as well as, of course, the cleverness of the film as a whole.
Howard Beale (Finch) is an anchor facing retirement, who openly states on air that he plans on killing himself. Though he is pulled off the air, Diana Christensen (Dunaway), vice president of programming (and a very snappy dresser, I might add) sees a potential way to boost numbers, and soon Beale is ranting to the public in his own show. Paranoid and delusional, the public love him, but while Diana and nightly news Max Schumacher bask in the success without seeing the potential dangers, Frank Hackett (Duvall), another executive, is the dying voice of moral and ethical journalism.
Beale is used and manipulated, then coldly eliminated when he’s no longer of use. And life goes on. There are so many commentaries in this film about TV viewers, sensationalism, the lack of journalistic integrity, ego and playing with people’s lives and emotions, that this film could have been a diatribe or a long sermon, but the humour and cynicism are used masterfully and to great effect. It’s hilarious, even though it’s also kind of scary. And Faye Dunaway is brilliantly cold and calculating, a delight to watch.
See It If: you’ve ever complained that TV is too violent or isn’t what it used to be. Or any of you out there who are cynical, you’ll get a kick out of this.