Part of a cycle of 1970s conspiracy films and a sharp satire of the TV business, Network bitterly critiques corporate culture's impact on the spread of information and the resulting cult of the TV guru. As directed by Sidney Lumet and scripted by Paddy Chayefsky, Network takes a relatively straightforward approach to its outrageous acts, even those of Faye Dunaway's ambitious programmer, lending a disturbingly matter-of-fact tone to the corporation's most venal and dehumanizing machinations. The mad ravings of Peter Finch's messianic Howard Beale become an almost sane response to the systemic rot, but the corruption is too deep and the TV audience too fickle. A popular and critical hit, Network was praised for wittily yet somberly tapping into the mid-'70s mood of cultural disaffection, providing the perfect catch phrase for any and all frustrations, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Nominated for ten Oscars including Best Picture, Network won four awards, including Best Screenplay, and three out of the four acting awards: Best Actress for Dunaway; Best Supporting Actress for Beatrice Straight as William Holden's bitterly wronged wife (at that time, the briefest Oscar-winning performance in history, since bested by Judi Dench's role in Shakespeare in Love); and a posthumous Best Actor for Finch. While journalists in 1976 howled about the film's inaccurate absurdity, the continuing conglomeration of the media and resulting excesses of infotainment ensure Network's continuing sting.
by Lucia Bozzola review