The Primal Forces of Nature

Network was directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Paddy Chayefsky.  It was released in 1976 and received enormous critical acclaim as well as numerous Oscar nominations and wins.  
Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is a veteran anchor for the UBS Evening News.  Due to a combination of declined ratings and a hint of depression, Beale announces on national TV that he will kill himself live on air the following evening.  This prompts his resignation followed by a reinstatement by the network when the corporate heads realize that this altered personality of Howard Beale is actually improving their ratings.  They set Beale up as modern-day prophet; someone to tell it like it is in a very harsh way.  The network assumes the shock value of this side-show gimmick will increase the ratings, but Beale has a real impact on the people of America.  Upon learning that CCA, the UBS parent company, will be bought out by another even larger company in Saudi Arabia, Beale goes off on a rant on live television and demands that his audience send telegrams to the White House in protest of this deal.  Up to this point, the big dogs at the top have both benefited from and gotten a kick out of Beale’s depressed and manic state of mind.  However, Beale has gained enough support and influence from his viewers that his most recent tirade could seriously put a hold on this Saudi Arabia deal.  In an effort to put a stop to Howard Beale, he has been summoned by the CCA chairman, Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty), who dramatically and fiercely lays it out for Beale in this brilliantly executed monologue.
This monologue alone earned Ned Beatty a Supporting Actor nomination.  Beatty breaks the world down for us in savagely depressing terms and alleviates all of our hopes, leaving us in despair with his very colorful, very dramatic monologue.
The lighting and framing of Beatty in the shot is suggestive of a vision of God.  The desk lamps are aligned so that it resembles a dream-like tunnel of light leading straight up into the heavens.  It’s reminiscent of a runway to the cosmos as Arthur Jensen gives us a smack down by filling us in on the cold hard truth of “the natural order of things today”.
Peter Finch, the posthumous Best Actor winner, is virtually silent during the entire scene.  This scene is the linchpin of the film.  There’s a decisive and dark turn at this point.  It was suggested earlier in the film that Beale had a vision from God.  Here it is quite literal that Beale is playing the part of a prophet that has been struck by a vision and given a message.  His face is eerily lit and he wears the reaction of one frozen withawe.  He has heard the voice of God and must carry out His message to the world.
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The 83rd Academy Awards Reaction

 Of course we all manage to find something to complain about regarding the Oscar ceremony each year.  Whether it’s an awkward arch of past winners interminably flattering the nominees or embarrassing musical numbers, there will always be something for us viewers to harp on.  This year was no different.  One half of the Anne Hathaway/James Franco combo (FrancAway) did a great job. 
First of all, you need to get a host that cares.  There have been plenty of hosts that bomb throughout the evening or use jokes that fall flat here and there.  But at least the past Oscar hosts look like they’re trying.  James Franco can do many things, but hosting the Oscars is not one of them.  After about the one hour mark he clearly stopped trying and barely phoned in the rest.  Obviously, Mr. Franco isn’t used to failure and, like a child, he didn’t handle it well.  “The Rock” eyebrow raises and devil-may-care smirks got old real fast and I just couldn’t handle it when his squinty mug was right up on the camera as Sandra Bullock spoke to him.  But there’s something about this guy that I love.  He was funny when it looked like he was ad-libbing.  His reaction to Melissa Leo’s F-bomb and the “congratulations, nerds” comment was humorous, ad-libbed or not.  I like Franco, but having him host was a huge mistake.
So now that I’ve vented on that important piece, allow me to go through some other suggestions I have for the betterment of future Oscar ceremonies:
1) One Funny Host
Multiple hosts have worked in the past.  I thought Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were decent, but it’s difficult to get the timing and delivery down when there are two different people running the show and especially when neither are comics. Next year they need to go back to a one-host show and that host also needs to be a comedian.  No more of this actor-turned-host stuff.  Make it a funny guy or gal.  Bring back Jon Stewart, Chris Rock or Billy Crystal to inject some life back into this.  I wouldn’t be against giving Letterman another shot.  Or better yet, Conan!!
2) Make Me Laugh  
What happened to shticks?  Make me laugh!  I want jokes that are relevant to the movies that we saw!  I want jokes relevant to what these actors have been doing in the tabloids!  I want a roast!  Make fun of the movies and people I love!  FrancAway sat on a veritable gold mine of Charlie Sheen jokes, but never cashed in.  Hollywood’s feelings are too easily hurt.  Ricky Gervais was the best thing about the Golden Globes, a pointless awards ceremony.  They smartly asked him to come back for a second straight year just to turn around and hypocritically crucify him for doing his job.  If only Hollywood had the sense of humor of Robert Downey, Jr.  There’s one of the most talented actors alive who has not only gotten over a drug addiction, but has embraced his past and learned to laugh at himself and with all of America.   By the way, his work’s never been better. 
3) Old and Lame
The Oscars aren’t young and hip and that’s okay.  The Oscars are like our parents, when they try to be cool they are at their lamest.  This year’s Oscars actually did appeal to the young and hip by nominating The Social Network.  However, just like parents, when you’ve got the kids’ attention and try to hard, they lose interest.  The few young film fans out there that watch the Oscars every year don’t care if it’s hip and those that don’t watch the Oscars aren’t going to start even if its hosted by Taylor Swift and the Biebs, himself  The Oscars are not for most young people.  For most young people it’s a boring, 3-hour show about a bunch of movies they didn’t see.  For the rest of us, it’s the Super Bowl.  Just be the Oscars.  Tell us what the Academy thought the best films were and stop trying so hard. 
4) What the Tech?
Give us better lead-ins to the Tech awards.  I want better insight into the Visual Effects, Sound, Art, Costume, Makeup and Cinematography categories.  There was a cool rainbow-like screen they were working with this year, but they chose very poorly what to show on it.  Give us more behind the scenes footage of a rotating hallway or shots of Roger Deakins working the camera.  Show us how the nominated films did what they were nominated for, like the Screenplay awards.
5) Pipe Down
No more singing the nominated songs.  It’s always a struggle to stay under three hours, right?  Well, it just so happens that the lamest part of the show is also the very thing that takes up the most time.  Kill two birds with one stone and stop singing the nominated songs.  It’s the least important category and they allot it the most time.  I would much rather see more behind the scenes on the tech categories than suffer through pitchy performances of kitschy songs.
6) Play the Right One Off
When speeches go too long, the orchestra comes in.  I’m all for using the music as a “hurry up” reminder, but don’t play Aaron Sorkin off the stage and then let 8-time Oscar nominee and 2-time Oscar winner for costume design, Colleen Atwood, lifelessly drone on in verbatim from her crib notes.  She’s been there before and she should already know what to say and the producers should know better.
7) And the Oscar Goes To
It sounded like the presenters wrote their own jokes.  I know that can’t possibly be the case.  Regardless, get better writers.  For the presenters alone, you just need about 24 one-liners or jokes regarding the category, nominated films in that category or anything related to anything at all.  I don’t need to hear McConaughey and ScarJo talking over each other.  Equip the presenters with good material.  They’ll never survive out there on their own. 
8) The Kids Aren’t All Right
I don’t know the story behind those kids singing Over the Rainbow and I don’t want to know.  What I do know is that it was awkward and it didn’t work, especially with the Oscar winners hoisting their statues overhead and staring out at all the losers.  Seriously, who thought this was a good idea? 
9) “Because I Have a Voice!”
If you’re nominated, then prepare a speech.  Read over it.  If you win, then you will probably already know most of it and if you go completely blank up there, then you can use your paper for reference.  There’s something endearing about a winner fist pumping the statue in one hand and holding a crumpled piece of paper in the other.  However, don’t read straight from it, like the aforementioned and be-gloved Colleen Atwood.
Likewise, if you’re Melissa Leo and you know you’re going to win, then don’t act so shocked when they call your name.  It’s obvious she was unprepared.  She spent too much time campaigning and not enough time preparing for a very probable win.  A humble, classy speech from Leo would’ve won the hearts of the Academy and viewers at home.  After her speech this year, I’ll be shocked if she ever wins again.
I’ll end it on a high note with some positives.
1) Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway came out of the ceremony as the real winner.  She handled the worthless material, stagnate crowd and the debacle that was James Franco with grace and aplomb.  If she was perturbed, she didn’t show it.  She gave it her all and had a smile on her face the entire time.  She never wavered.  She’s talented, funny and does not have to bare all to be appreciated.  I wouldn’t be against her co-hosting again someday as she was probably the best thing about the show.
2) Comedic Montage
I thought the opening montage putting FrancAway in the Inception elevator and going through different movie levels worked even if Billy Crystal did it years before.  That’s basically making fun of the movies, which is what we need more of.  I could do without the auto-tune gag, even though the “Tiny Ball of Light” was pretty funny. 
3) Kirk Douglas
When Kirk Douglas started speaking I crossed off the “Presenter Flubs Lines” square on my Oscar bingo card.  I was a little embarrassed for the poor old guy.  But the longer he stayed up there the more I realized how funny and how “in on the joke” he was.  He knows he’s old and still got up there and stole the show.  Good for the producers to be patient and let him do his thing. 
4) Best Picture Montage
The Best Picture montage showing clips of all 10 Best Picture nominees with The King’s Speech score and speech recited by Colin Firth playing over them was absolutely brilliant.  The only thing that would’ve made it better is if it ended with the word “Class” over a background of a hounds tooth hat.
One more thing, I can’t help but notice all the snide remarks regarding the Best Picture winner not being The Social Network.  I’ve never seen so many people get their feelings hurt just because their favorite movie didn’t win.  Steven Spielberg himself said that the other 9 films that don’t win Best Picture “will join the ranks of Citizen Kane, The Grapes of Wrath and Raging Bull.”.  Oh, and The Blind Side, too right?  It shouldn’t shock anyone that the Academy picks what they want.  Think about the fact that the majority of the Academy voted for The King’s Speech.  It’s no fluke.  There’s no injustice.  Maybe we’ll all look back on this choice in 20 years and realize how bad of a decision it was.  I don’t think I will, but it’s okay if I do.  Part of the fun is having your own opinion.  It seems that the majority of the non-Academy film fans thought that The Social Network was the better film.  Perhaps the Oscars ARE appealing to a younger crowd, but just not agreeing with them.
Thanks for reading.  Be sure and keep up with my Wizard of Oscar blog where I will attempt to watch every Best Picture nominee in the history of the Academy Awards.