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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Breaking News

There is nothing of shock-value contained in this post, as it is only a reference to broadcasting. The reason for such a reference is the theme of two movies I shall describe in the following post. Originally, I meant to review just one film, obviously the first film I will talk about. Then, this morning, as I crafted my very own Russian crepes for my dad and I, we watched a beloved film of ours called Morning Glory, which does, indeed, have to do with broadcasting and the news. I realize that I did not mention the title of the first film: it's an older movie called Network, which, though much more serious than the newer movie, is very similar to it. Mainly, because of the ambitious, driven woman in the starring role. By starring role, I mean lead role.

Network - As I was lounging in my dad's cozy bedroom, home alone once again, I browsed through the Romance folder, which contains an array of corny love stories that I have seen countless times. After finding nothing I felt for, I started to head towards the Comedy folder, when I stopped at the Drama folder and had an urge to explore some of the many films I've yet to watch. Usually, I save these movies for when my dad is home, therefore this is a rare occurrence, and isn't likely to happen again. (That was for my dad's benefit, who was a bit jealous to discover I had watched it without him.) I have a feeling this is going to be an overly lengthy description. Anyway, I settled on Sidney Lumet's newsroom drama out of acclaimed-curiosity. I was surprised to find out that Sidney Lumet was the director of this fine film, a man whose films I've never seen. Not one single film. Until now. Since I've stated that this is a fine film so suddenly, prepare for a detailed review on why that is. (During the film, I actually took notes on nine sticky-notes with a great pen. It's one of those that writes like a marker, clear and without smudges. I think it's by Bic. Longer and longer.)

The film is about the sinister exploitation of a raging ex-anchor's rantings, used for profit by a fading network desperate for higher ratings. It stars William Holden as Max Schumacher, seemingly the only moral, sane person in the entire film. He drives the film in a way that reminds the audience that this is all fictional, and that reality is needed for such a powerful, consuming picture. Also starring is the enchanting Faye Dunaway as the zealous vice president of UBS determined for success, Diane Christensen. Faye Dunaway portrays a familiar, if not typical, working girl in an environment dominated by men, who successfully establishes herself as a compelling force. Now, that may sound cliched and like something a feminist would preach (and by golly, I'm no feminist), but it is merely a factual description. However, despite this characterization, the actress gives a phenomenal performance, and the source of this great performance is the fiery, tenacious fervor she displays on the screen so believably. Moreover, Faye Dunaway gives a unique performance as a female vice president in the "show business" industry of journalism. What is so unique about her in the film is that she seems to belong in this "plagued world of male dominance", so well, in fact, that I believe she can single-handedly run the network. Again, while that may sound like a huzzah for women and a boo to men, it is not. It is a display of admiration for Faye Dunaway's sensational performance. (Truthfully, unless the man is incompetent, they belong at the head of the workplace. Call me old-fashioned, or batter me with stones, but that's my feeling on the subject. Moving on.) In every film, there's a bit of romance, which is not true. (What a ridiculous sentence.) In all seriousness, there is love here, and it is between William Holden and Faye Dunaway. When the two escaped the world of show business, one they are devoted to, for the weekend, they celebrate it with a kiss. At that moment, I actually smiled. It is not as if this is a rare occasion, for I usually smile at adorable scenes of affection, but it does signify a film's undeniable good quality. During their romantic getaway, she is excitedly going on about the present events of her career, such as the new fall schedule. And, wouldn't you know, this makes the romance all the more real and enjoyable. Only I would find the romance in a serious drama of which love is an inconsequential subplot.

Another supporting actor, Robert Duvall, is marvelous as the heartless head of UBS, perhaps because he shouts a lot and he is consumed with profit. I enjoy cynical realists, they don't play games. And they're never caught looking like a fucking hypocrite. (They cursed in the movie, so why not.) Anyway, I find myself entertained by Robert Duvall, as the actor he is, but only in supporting roles, such as Tom Hagan in The Godfather. Otherwise, in leading roles for example, he should go away. I was surprised not to see him attain a nomination for his role here, just mentioning, for he was just as good as his co-cast.

Onto the main attraction of the film, one that most likely established this as a satirical, controversial hit. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Peter Finch, portraying the mad-as-hell ex-anchor in an Oscar-winning performance. (Fun fact: he was the first man to receive the Oscar posthumously.) Allow me to copy and paste a sticky-note I wrote to begin. It's amusing to see how television influences the public, who, unfortunately, is basically a stupid mob. Emphasis on mob. This somewhat insightful thought arose when Peter Finch delivered his "I'm mad as hell"-speech, and viewers followed his orders to shout out their window "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Peter Finch was overly convincing in his deranged outburst. Why, even I felt the urge to do as he said! Well, not really. This iconic scene isn't as awe-inspiring as one would imagine, but it does accurately depict the stupidity of viewers. Don't misinterpret my tone, for Peter Finch's rants on the degradation of society and the corruption of the "truth" given by unreliable television is absolutely brilliant. However, that is to the praise of the brilliant screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky. The corporate executives treat Peter Finch as if he were a mad man, a circus act sure to attract viewers, and this is really sad because most of what he says is completely true. He is pleading to his audience, albeit a tad erratically, to comprehend the dire predicament society is in, that society is degrading more and more with the help of television. The same applies for modern times, through nonsense government for one, and the closest we have to a character like Peter Finch are comedians like Bill Maher. (I underline his name in reverence.) Because, my friends, pointing out the humor of degradation is easier than changing things.

Please excuse this interruption for a sneaky side-note: What I want to stress about society is how blind, how unaware people are, how they require direct orders from a figure on the screen, which, overall, construes the image of society, then and now. "Less than three-percent of you read books," he tells his audience, and this applied to the 1970s. Imagine how embarrassing this statistic is now, in a world where the majority of books read include vampires. And they don't count as actual books.

While Peter Finch makes very interesting points in the film, that is to the credit of the writers and their masterful screenplay. Peter Finch, as an actor, is a bit unsettling to behold as he plays the anchor-turned-prophet. "I have seen the face of God", mumbles Peter Finch, and, whether it's because religion makes me uneasy or not, that's just creepy. His strange outbursts of omens of the future, accompanied by insane arm-flailing, is not good acting, but over-acting. It seems the Academy has not yet learned the difference. (Only in rare, special occasions.) That being said, I feel it is William Holden who should have walked home with the satisfaction of having earned another Academy Award. Then again, he probably would have been driven home in a limousine, since he was rich and famous.

The ending was very controversial, and I'm sure it was even more edgy in its time. Even before the shocking finale, the film was surprisingly wonderful in that it was so litigious (word of the day) and undoubtedly touchy for the boring 1970s. Why was that era so dull? Ask them, but I think it's because of the numbness brought on by those laid-back hippies and the dead-end desire for peace. It won't happen. As for the film, Paddy Chayefsky superbly documented the ruthlessness of television, how a dying show will be pulled from its socket the moment it loses viewers. To take such extreme measures to eliminate a man whose ratings were lagging just epitomizes the callousness of all television networks. And even more savage is how that stunning frame melded with the other innocent ones, such as a commercial for Life cereal. That, dearies, is the pinnacle of a glorious satire. See how I didn't actually tell the ending? I've learned the art of blunt implications.

Morning Glory - I doubt there will be any thorough or elaborate scrutiny with this quirky picture, nor will there be multiple paragraphs. This is simply a delightful comedy set in the chaotic world of broadcast-journalism, including the mishaps that unfold behind the scenes of a daytime news show. I've skimmed a general critical analysis of the film, summed up by a variety of critics, and am aggravated to see them compare this to Network. Aside from my own brief comparison of the leading ladies coming up shortly, the only likeness they share is that they take place in the atmosphere of television. Many critics, also, condemn this movie for failing at sending a meaningful message about the media. I highly doubt the filmmakers' goal was to create another cerebral satire on television as Sidney Lumet did with Network. This adorable picture has the sole purpose of entertaining, not to lecture on the complex world of the media. Sometimes, critics get too in-depth with their responses. Anyway, I'm going to brush them off for now. Rachel McAdams plays the part of Becky Fuller, portraying the role of ambitious, driven journalist superbly. She plays the role of the dedicated workaholic ideally, achieving the rare quality of being irreplaceable, and her awkward character is more endearing than it is pathetic. Saying that, it makes me frown and let out a disappointed "aww" when people around her, in the movie, scorn her embarrassing and hopeless enthusiasm. Honestly, I see her character as somewhat of a role-model, though that's most likely because I want to be in her line of business. It's a cruel world, that world of journalism and broadcasting, but gosh be darn if I don't have the same spirit as she does! Anyway, onto my brief comparison: Becky Fuller and Diane Christensen. (It really is brief, like too brief even for an introduction.) Pointing to the obvious, both are women in this business of broadcasting and both are keen on establishing themselves, as well as the network they represent, as an impressive success. While Becky Fuller has more of a charming, cute spunk, Diane Christensen has an intimidating aura of cold-hearted endurance. I see Becky, and perhaps her entire story in Morning Glory, as the prequel to Diane's career in Network. Similar qualities of devotion and intelligence are certainly evident in each woman's, albeit one is a serious drama focusing on the corruption of television, while the other is just a sweet, enjoyable comedy. Once again, different genres call for different perceptions.

Back to the movie in question (Morning Glory that is), I loved it after the fifth time seeing it. Many of the laughs are summoned by the typecast-rough-yet-charming Harrison Ford, in a role where the most action he faces is marching up a flight of stars leading nowhere. ("What's in the briefcase? Anchorman papers? And where am I going?") This is the film that made me like Harrison Ford because, before this, I viewed him as the irritatingly self-absorbed Han Solo whose smile was meant to cause Princess Leia to melt. Please excuse this interruption. I just watched a clip of Harrison Ford being interviewed on ABC, and he was quoted of saying that Han Solo should have died in the film. As a character, Harrison Ford says, he was not so interesting. That just raised my level of adoration for him. Harrison Ford's on-screen relationship with Rachel McAdams is so bewitching and sweet, as are most successful contrasting characters'. Her bright-eyed optimism clashes with his stern, egotistical coldness enormously well that when they develop a friendship in the end, you feel as if it was always there. And perhaps it was. Always there. Diane Keaton is smashing as Harrison Ford's supercilious co-anchor who is just as desperate for higher ratings as anyone else, though her confidence deflects that "pathetic" hope. I would have hoped to see more of her in the film (not more like in Something's Gotta Give), though, sadly, she contributed a few great moments of comedy. The entire movie was absolutely delightful, which will be stressed and repeated as much as to establish it as a terrific piece of work.

Yet another example of how I condense two film reviews in one post, though this wasn't so succinct. I hope you enjoyed each of these descriptions. I also hope that I didn't sound pseudo-intellectual with that lengthy, uncommonly profound piece on Network. Sometimes, I have insights influenced by those so-true comedians out there, as well as my surroundings and personal viewpoint on events. My so-called insights aren't just copied from Google sources (I would never do such a thing), therefore they are cultivated by my constant study of the world around me. Once again, I aspire to entertain you readers, if not to receive that ultimate satisfaction of clicking "Publish Post". Serenity now.

2 comments:

  1. Hey, I nominated you for the Liebster Award :) http://splendidandlovely.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/liebster-award.html

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    1. Thank you so much! It really means a lot!
      That was my acceptance speech, in case I would win.

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