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I watched Network last night for the first time in over ten years (or longer … or less … I don’t remember).

I was surprised by how relevant “an angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our times” is today, aware of television-viewing deterioration.

Deterioration? Have programs become worse? Does YouTube count? Are streaming services considered networks or TV channels? Is less time sitting before a television set a deterioration or a positive notion? Does a flat screen or a monitor adequately qualify as a television set?

The fact that a generation was making a film in 1976 about their fears of the next generation, the up-and-comers who were raised by the tube, is a theme that runs parallel today, for we have a generation raised by the Internet.

Raised by? Yeah, I’m going to stick with that.

The point, as it was then, is that we’re all living amongst each other. “All ages, colors, creeds,” … We’re walking the same streets and questioning the same morals and ethics of the world (videoed or not). We’re a social network (watching it happening on a screen or not).

I thought of quoting, deciphering, and reiterating Network’s work all over this article. But I’m not “as mad as hell” as I once was, viewing Network multiple times over the decades. (Upon my first viewing, at home, I stuck my head out the window and yelled. Upon another viewing, I turned off my TV halfway through as instructed.)

I’ll say this …

The final act (last 30 min. or so) loses its fast pacing just as it had upon its release and the last 5-6 times I viewed it. We go from zipping through locations and dialogue (similar to more recent films like Social Network and Nightcrawler) to a leisurely concentration on wrapping up stories and characters. Mentioning this is a reminder to myself why Network hasn’t ever made it to my top ten films list. The less-than-explosive final act is also a sign that movies were about to change (next year was Star Wars and all that has followed).

Just watch it with an open mind. Maybe you’ll love the last half hour.

And after Network, watch The Hospital (1971) – another intelligent film about strange and corrupt systems by the same screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky.

Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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