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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
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Network, by Sidney Lumet
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S. Kubrick 2001 - A Space Odyssey
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Sindey Lumet. Network
Film Information Synopsis Release
Director: Sidney Lumet
Student: Kim Duclos
UBS, a "Network" television station is unwavering in their quest to increase their ratings at any and all cost. Their exploitation and lack of concern for their deranged news anchor Mr. Beale, played by Peter Finch, shows just how scandalous and ruthless the pursuit of power and ratings can become.
Faye Dunaway plays a news woman (Diana Christensen) with an unwaivering vision, as she is intent on increasing the network's ratings; her ideas are far from conventional and are criminal to say the least. Robert Duvall (Frank Hackett) plays an all or nothing type of television producer, lacks empathy and is eager to join forces with Diana on the quest to achieve the ratings they both desire. William Holden (Max Schumacher) plays the aging news anchor that falls in love with Diana. Although Diana seizes his job and Max is disposed of after more than 30 years with the station, he continues his affair with her and retains his premium seat to witness the destruction Diana inflicts on herself and those around her. We must not forget the God like figure Arthur Jenson, head of UBS Television played by Ned Beatty; he brings
to life in the film.
“Network” touches on murder, terrorist groups, anti-government sentiments, extortion, adultery, love, deceit, manipulation and a plethora of other behaviors and sentiments. Can television affect the behavior of its viewers? Can television lead its viewers unquestioning in a direction of their choice? Let's take a look at the examples set forth in "Network".
When I was searching for a film for this paper I came upon a movie that starred Faye Dunaway and William Holden; both actors had been in films previously assigned in our English 476 class. I had never seen the film “Network”, but the actors had my attention, I was intrigued and wanted to see what the film had to offer. Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty are veteran actors with many successful films under their belts, they too were included in this star studded film.
(Reelviews Movie Reviews 3)
In the film Network, UBS is intent on obtaining ratings and getting its share of viewers, while demonstrating the lack any moral fiber. Money is important to the television network and the shareholders mandate that the executives perform. UBS hit pay dirt when the decision was made to fire Howard Beale, a 30 year veteran of the station (not a far stretch from the departure of CNN Lou Dobbs) and when Beale gets the news of his upcoming severance, he vows to commit suicide in 7 days on his live broadcast. What a fiasco, but the ratings go through the roof. UBS takes action to pull Beale from the show, not allowing him to finish out his term as broadcaster. In a moment of uncomfortable confusion and embarrassment, they feared Howard was in the midst of a breakdown. Could the network be liable if he really did take such action? How would this affect their ratings? God forbid they think about Howard with care and concern, they had ratings to contend with. Beale ultimately promises to back off his suicidal vow, and asks to be allowed to say good bye to his audience and leave with dignity. The decision was agreed upon to allow Beale that opportunity; he takes his chair at the news desk and provides us a provocative speech
MAD AS HELL
Everyone in the country has heard about Beale’s threat, the ratings are through the roof and as he gives what was suppose to be his exit broadcast, many American’s take his
“mad as hell”
advice and start to shout out their windows and from the roof tops, “I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore”. Instantaneously a phenomenon has been born and Beale is that phenomenon. Diana, Max and Frank meet to discuss the Beale phenomenon and Max is concerned with Howard's state of mind, he is genuinely concerned with Beale's health. At this meeting Max is fired, Diana takes his place under the direction of Frank and they create a show based on Beale’s rants:
During this same time, Diana has a scheme to create a type of reality show for a new series based on the lives of the
“Ecumenical Liberation Army” (a reflection of the
Simbionese Liberation Army
of that time); the Ecumenicals' film themselves live robbing banks for the new series, and the series is called the “
Mao Tse-Tung Hour
Jerry Springer has nothing on Diana and her creative madness to obtain ratings.
As I watched the film, I kept thinking, is this really a possibility and are television networks powerful enough to dictate the thoughts and actions of our citizens?
Currently in 2009 and as we embark on 2010, we encounter controversial statements being made about the news reporting in our everyday lives. There is a continual discussion on how the current administration controls the media, and how most major news outlets are “pro-Obama”. We are informed of a huge government bailout for General Electric, which also owns NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, Universal Studios and numerous holdings which can be found at
General Electric Assets
. The Chief Executive Officer for General Electric is Jeffery Immelt; he holds a key position on the Economic Advisory Board for the Obama Administration. Could a power house like General Electric “owe” any reverence to the current administration? Could news presented to the United States citizens be skewed in any way?
In “Network did Arthur Jensen provide accurate broadcasting or was there a political agenda behind his media distribution?
In viewing the film “Network” we are shown the ultimate push/agenda for a “Universal Nation”, being driven by a force with the intention to acquire money and power on a universal scale.
In the article “Chayefsky’s NETWORK”, Theiman discusses the breakdown of individuality, family and community which is provided by corporate capitalism through television (Thiemann 116).
Media has a primary role in our everyday lives, and with the inundation of information, it is not always easy to disseminate truth from fallacy.
In the current state of our nation, everyday people are driven by the necessities and luxuries of life and often don’t take the time understand what is really happening in our world.
If bailout money is made available in current times and allegiance is given to those providing the funds, what advantage is there in providing truth in reporting as in the case of GE/NBC? UBS did not have the luxury of bail out money and had to compete for their market share. As the Max Schumacher’s and the Frank Hackett’s of UBS struggle with ratings and morality, it is apparent that money is critical in their decisions, and that money comes from ratings.
I have witnessed discussions in the past few weeks on the “allegiance” that different media outlets have to their viewers versus the truth corporate America, or the government wants us to have.
Network's writer and producer worked well together and most often agreed on the production with this film. Chayefsky knew that Lumet could bring this film to life with a kind of "reality" in it's creation. (Considine 322)
Sidney and Paddy went to some extent creating a circus like atmosphere in their depiction of the media; I have to agree that some of it rings true in today’s world.
Lumet and Chayefsky “showcased” a program in which a mentally unstable Beale ranted for the nation as they looked on in awe.
How many times do people tune in the Jerry Springer show to see some “insane” behavior brought directly into our homes?
The viewers of UBS were given a chance to “vent” along with Beale; they were given an outlet for their frustration.
Do viewers tune in to Jerry Springer and Glenn Beck to experience an outlet of thoughts and emotions, or is it just a way to leave one’s own life behind for an hour?
I was amazed at the scene in which Jenson meets with Beale "to set him straight". I felt the filming of this scene was moving and brought the power to the part of Jensen. Beale sat at one end of the long executive's table and Jensen stood at the opposite end in a position of power. The lights were so bright that Howard had a distorted image of Jensen as Jensen's voice loomed forward like a God from Heaven. There is a type of sound trick that politicians utilize in their speeches; they use some type of reverberation in order to sound "Godly" and "Powerful". I felt the scene in Network with Ned Beatty, was one in which Lumet used that same reverberation effect just as some of our modern day politicians.
Insighting fear in regard to terrorists groups might be something to consider in making a film in 2009, but during the creation of "Network", we were inundated as a country with the Patty Hearst kidnapping case and the Simbionese Liberation Army. Diana sought out a Liberation Army to kill Beale on television in this film. She again felt it would increase ratings and get rid of Beale in a BIG way. I don't believe that newscasters are sitting around thinking about killing someone for their ratings, but how far do they go in today's world? Not that long ago I watched a young Chicago boy be beat and stomped to death on a television news story, it was courtesy of a camera phone. The television station hazed out the faces of the those directly involved, but I was able to witness the students standing around watching the boy be beat to death, and I mean to death. I could see the boy down on the ground as the brutality took place. Are Chayefsky and Lumet so far off in their portayals?
The film “Network” has it's place in American film history.
It was brought to life by a director of exceptional stature along with a writer with unprecedented success.
Although at the time it was released, some people could have seen Chayefsky’s work as “paranoid”, it did garner much critical acclaim and produced many lofty awards.
It is a great American film and it may purpose an extreme depiction in some areas of media; it does however at times come uncannily close to truth.
Article IV. Research:
Mad as Hell, The Life and Work of Paddy Chayefsky
. 1st ed. New York: Randon House, 1994. Print.
The book provides us with an in-depth look at the life and times of Paddy Chayefsky.
At the time the book was written Paddy Chayefsky was the only author to win three academy awards, and one of the awards was for “Network”.
. 1st ed. New York: Harmony Books, 2005. Print.
Suzanne Finstad writes about Faye Dunaway and her insanely perfectionist style. Faye once had a role that demanded she drop 30 pounds in days, her commitment was relentless and she was a woman of determination and results.
. 1st ed. New York: VintageBooks, 1995. Print.
Sidney Lumet writes about his process of movie making. Sidney has been nominated for more than 50 Academy awards; he has received the prestigious D.W. Griffith Award, the Lifetime achievement award from the Directors Guild of American and numerous other cinematic awards. The book touches on the work he did with Paddy Chayesfsky in Network and the choice of Faye Dunaway as the Lead. Faye had a reputation that preceded her, Lumet says the rumors were not true and she was a selfless, devoted and wonderful actress.
b. Academic Journals
Calivito, Marco. "
31.4 (2006): 85-86. Print.
The journal describes Chayefsky’s genius and his ability
to put it in the face
of his viewers the things that might be uncomfortable, but are critical truths about the period in which we live and breathe.
Thiemann, Fred R. "
54.2 (1996): 115-117. Print. This journal discusses the monologue in detail that Arthur Jensen delivers to Beale, after Howard Beale, interferes with the ability of a Saudi Arabian Company to acquire Communication Corporation of America.
This is a great piece on “Network” and the dynamics behind the writer.
Trier, James. "
Network: Still "mad as hell" afer 30 years
Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy
50.3 (2006): 232-38. Print.
Investigates the possibility of just how “correct” the author’s portrayal of a news outlet is.
Is there some a semblance of truth, or is this film just paranoid mumbo jumbo?
Berardinelli, James. "
Reelviews Movie Reviews
. 1998. Web. 16 Nov. 2009.
This is a synopsis of the actors and their stellar work in the industry as well as discussing the vision that Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet developed with this film.
Sharrett, Christopher. "
Movies vs. the media | USA Today
(Society for the Advancement of Education) | Find Articles at BNET."
Find Articles at BNET | News Articles, Magazine Back Issues & Reference Articles on All Topics
. The Reel World, Mar. 95. Web. 16 Nov. 2009.
The website article provided us an evaluation of television and the media driven culture.
Snider, Mike. "
USATODAY.com - Sidney Lumet's 'Network,' 'Dog Day' still echo today
News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World - USATODAY.com
. Visionary films of the '70's get new life, 28 Feb. 2006. Web. 16 Nov. 2009. <
Discusses Sidney Lumet’s many losses at the Oscars, reminds us that “Network” had a real message for its viewers.
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