January 13, 2008

Network

I don't know how I managed not to see Sidney Lumet's Network years ago, but I rectified that situation tonight. There are certainly aspects of the 1976 film that date it — the lack of omnipresent cell phones and computers is particularly jarring, and infuses an inadvertent "period piece" feel 30+ years later — but the problems we face as an easily distracted technological race aren't among them.

The monologue that marks the end of the second act, delivered brilliantly by Ned Beatty, holds every bit of the meteoric impact I'd heard attributed to it. (And I have to admit, I couldn't resist listening to Snog's "Corporate Slave," which samples this speech to memorable effect, immediately afterward.) As much as those moments in "Valhalla" stand out, however, the remaining dialogue is similarly noteworthy. I'm sure it'd invite a sniff of derision from those who'd mutter that this is not how people speak in the real world, but I'm of the opinion that it works beautifully in Network's deliciously self-referential context.

Hell, I wish the precision and flavor of half-dollar words didn't send so many listeners scurrying for rationalistic judgement. ("I don't know this word, therefore the speaker is a pretentious git," seems to be the underlying thought process.)

I could spout on for the rest of the evening about Network's prescient satire, but that's been done well enough elsewhere that I'll simply say that if you haven't yet seen it, you're missing a true cultural landmark.

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