“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
That is Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch) jeremiad proclamation, echoed by a handful of New Yorkers decorating its apartment walls. Seeing this on the big screen will incite wonder and dread, the first of many proclamation within this movie.
One of the components of a movie or it to be considered a favourite is the crazy. I mentioned this in my post about “Twelve Monkeys,” but you’ll hear different pitches of it in “Network.” The movie is one dialogue explosion surpassing the previous scene, culminating with a last and fucked up solution.
Sidney Lumet, one of my favourite directors, is the hand that rocks this film. His theatre background is well demonstrated here, again handling Paddy Chayefsky’s eloquent script like it’s Shakespeare. Howard Beale asks his audience to be involved the same way Lumet provokes his audience to new crazy heights. The characters referring to the fourth wall reminds us that a self-aware fictional lie is better than the comforting one.
Everyone else who has seen this movie will talk about its parallels today. We’re at the ‘Golden Age of Television’ now, but that doesn’t stop “processed instant God,” as Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) says, to seep through and turn every viewer into a madman. Imagine a Glenn Beck who cannot understand Ayn Rand.
I want you get up now, turn off your computers, get up on your chairs, and go to the Bloor tomorrow night at 9. Plan this. Take at least one other person with you. See the movie and find out whether “Rocky” should have won. You have to see this movie before you die.
I love watching people in movies who are past their prime. Not like Meryl who gets offered roles like she’s still in her thirties, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The characters I am talking about are old and will not shut up about it. “I’m John Wayne, I’m old and I have cancer, make sex with me!” Lauren Bacall, who pretty much takes Wayne in as her second movie-husband, ain’t having none of it.
Surprisingly John Wayne comes off as a benevolent figure in “The Shootist,” when he retreats to Carson City and wants to go out without an elegy. He’s a cowboy with the same practiced drawl, and we can’t take that away from him. He can go from hot to realist to sensitive father to psycho to now this, a man who wants to be left alone without being misanthropic.
Since other amateur shootists will not leave him alone, he decides to leave the world with a five man seppuku. SPOILER, he invites three other shootists to a saloon, a less claustrophobic version of the run down taverns in the Old West. This rub out is happening in 1901 after all, not 1871. We might think that he wants to test the three at who is deserving to take out the big man himself. But none of these guys fit the bill, he eventually outlives these guys by a few seconds. He’s gonna die and take four with him (three a bartender who, by traditionalist creeds, is a bad agent in society). His purgation of the bad elements in the burgeoning Carson City is his dying wish and gift to his Christian landlady, Bond (Lauren Bacall).
Noir is a bit of a questionable genre for me. The more bebop, B-film, chiaroscuro, surrealist, youth culture oriented it is, the more I like it. It’s the convoluted plot of the mainstream ones that turn me off. The noir world is one for the wise and the good listeners. We are lucky that there are some great cinematographers, and the more recent the example is, the more visual the story gets. Conventions of the classic version of the genre, however, has dialogue snappier than Tarantino’s. The oldies also add more on-screen and off-screen characters and more dead bodies and more stolen artifacts, and unfortunately I’m too wired and ADD for that.
Like The Maltese Falcon, for instance. Watching Humphrey Bogart finally taking lead is rewarding. The guy who has been playing second fiddle to Jimmy Cagney and Bette Davis mixes his hard, New York voice with elocution in the moments when he’s on the spotlight. He perfected his angry man thing even when he was doing supporting roles, and now that it’s his show, he gets to change the world and wipe out one scum at a time.
I also admire the bravery of the actors like Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor who allowed themselves to be photographed in such unflattering angles and moments. You’d think that the former is a giant circus freak or the latter as haggard and broken down if this is the first time you have seen them (and if you’ve seen Mary Astor in “Don Juan,” you might as well have seen the face of God). The latter examples of noirs would be full of beautiful people – Barbara Stanwyck and her dyed golden locks, Alan Ladd and his chiseled face. But in “The Maltese Falcon” we see people who look as rotten as the criminal plans they have obsessed with for years.
Let it be known that I can’t fucking stand Kate Hudson. I took this picture in Goodwill, where I also glimpsed and did not buy the first All Saints album. But hey, if you want THAT, I’ll give it to you.
And yes, I do find myself at Goodwill at times. But I’ve never been abandoned there.