What with one daughter in Israel and the other in China, acquainting themselves with their (respective) mothers’ roots, “’twas the season” for me to rewatch 1976’s “Network,” with its Oscar-winning performance by Peter Finch, who didn’t live long enough to accept the statue but who was able to singlehandedly make America “mad as hell” and elect Ronald Reagan four years later to relieve the social angst.
Sound familiar? But for 2016 (40 years later!), there was no Howard Beale to make us “mad” enough to elect Donald Trump. There was, however, Twitter and the social media, which made Howard Beales out of all of us.
In watching “Network” for the first time in decades, I was struck by several realizations.
First, Beale (Finch) urged everyone to open their (okay, his/her) window and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Cut to people shouting out their windows and the first “as” has been eliminated: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Second, the vocabulary: When was the last time you heard the word “adamantine” used in a movie? Probably never, and that’s just one example of the million-dollar words screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky threw in.
(How about a reference between husband and wife during an argument to Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky? Would anybody understand that today?)
Third, the movie exposes the communism in capitalism and the capitalism in communism, labeling everything as “one system.” How true, and isn’t this what Bernie and Trump were railing about throughout their campaigns?
Finally, but not exhaustively, the acting: Wow, was this thing overacted. If actors are too subtle today, in 1976 they must’ve thought they were on the stage and had to gyrate and shout to an audience to be seen and heard.
That being said, in Finch’s case, he had to overact. There was no excuse for Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway and William Holden, however.
Shouting is now better left to the politicians. My, how the world turns.