PCWB’s Cinematic Nirvana #1: Howard Beale’s Anti-Television Rant in “Network”

Another series I’ll be running that will hopefully be easier to write than the “10 Albums” series which takes an age to put together thus, they’re very interspersed. This series is far more brief and will focus specifically on (you guessed it from the title) some of my favourite moments in cinematic history. There is also going to be a counteracting series with the more ridiculous, god-awful moments from movies. It’s going to be a huge amount of fun. 

Network (1976, Sidney Lumet)

You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing! WE are the illusion!

Network is a fascinating watch, mainly because it’s still relatively true to modern television. This is despite being nearly 40 years old. It’s a deeply cynical and satirical look at the inner-workings of a network following the meltdown of lead news anchor Howard Beale (played by the later Peter Finch who rightfully won a posthumous oscar for his performance) who upon being told he is to lose his job, threatens to commit suicide on live television. What follows is a maniacal quest for higher ratings at whatever cost. Beale becomes an almost cult leader on the small screen to millions of Americans as he plunges further into insanity.

The film is full of great speeches from Beale but it’s this one that seems unnervingly true to modern life. Without getting on my beloved soap box, television has a grip of a lot of people and a large number of people get the majority of their information on things from TV. Beale’s impassioned speech is so accurate; TV can make or break politicians and it also lies to you on an all too regular basis. It also has the ability to interweave itself in our everyday life to the point where it’s almost a necessity or part of the family.

Moving away from my brief rant on television, Finch’s performance here is so engaging to watch. He’s channelling an Evangelical preacher with his delivery as he performs his very blunt sermon on the state of America. Network’s a film laden with great Peter Finch moments, but this is my personal favourite.


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