OBJECTIVE: Watch a popular or critically acclaimed film we’ve never seen to the halfway point. Pause it. Work together to predict the ending.

NETWORK (1976)

Network Half Flick FINAL

THE LAST THING WE SAW: We paused at 01:00:30, in the middle of Faye Dunaway’s first meeting with Marlene Warfield about giving the Ecumenical Liberation Army their own TV show.

And now… discuss!

Ben: Damn, Faye Dunaway’s arc just got dark! I knew she was determined, but did you imagine her authoring terrorist plots?!?

Phil: I think this all goes into showing just how exploitative and money-focused both execs, Dunaway and Duvall, are.  I don’t think she even realizes the implications of her actions.

Ben: Copy that. There’s a weird power structure among the non-anchors, isn’t there? Everyone thinks they’re in charge, but it’s hard for me to tell who truly is.

Phil: Frankly what I think is about to happen is that Beale’s rants will start revealing how morally questionable these execs are and how much they are exploiting the truth, their workers, the public.

Ben: Beale is certainly becoming a questionable but popular (and populist) mouthpiece for the disenfranchised and confused. I think we’ll see him attempt to drop a major knowledge bomb before being removed from the picture, camera-wise or from all existence.

Phil: Yeah, he’s going to say something that brings an investigation upon them or brings them to court. However, the movie is coming at this cynically enough (not a bad thing) that Dunaway and Duvall will likely still be seen as heroes by the Network in the end.

Ben: Cynicism in art is as welcome as it is accurate, and it’s very welcome here. If this is of those flicks where the villains win, I’m betting that Beale and/or Schumacher will die. But I don’t, and I bet we’ll have a “The Talented Ms. Slutty Ripley” ending where she’s not indicted, but haunted by her actions.

Phil: Hmm, could be. I agree that this movie is not going to be sanctimonious enough to make its point with a heavy-handed protagonist death, but I do not see any remorse coming from either executives. I think that the movie will end with nothing having been fixed and the Network execs will go on their merry way continuing their questionable behavior because it makes money. Everybody in the public will have gotten Mad as Hell, and yet it will get them nowhere!

Ben: The film is certainly smarter than most, and no ham-fisted character assassination (literal or otherwise) is necessary. But its hard-boiled, real-world nature also won’t let a non-savvy whistle-blower escape alive. Suicide seems most likely if foreshadowing is any indicator. I just wonder how the internal power struggle will go down.

Phil: I disagree; I think that Beale will get over his mania, and then he will realize that his actions and ideas that were good enough to stir an entire populace to yell out their windows were to no avail. He will be depressed, but to the point where he doesn’t even have the energy or the wherewithal to commit suicide. Again, I don’t think death will enter into it, and I don’t think the power struggle will change much—Howard and Max will shuffle off into the sunset, relics of a time when a sense of duty and the truth meant more than ratings and dollar signs.

Ben: I agree one million percent with the sadly outmoded sensibilities of Beale and Schumacher. I foresee Schumacher sticking his neck out for Beale–and having that decision bite him in his emotional, middle-aged ass. There’s no way that the crusty-but-benign Schumacher gets out with his dignity intact; this movie has more teeth than that. And in a world where appearance is everything, Beale’s bat-shit appearance is likely leading to an equally messy and crazy demise, especially since the higher-ups have more concern for his profitability than his health.

Phil: Indeed. Agreed on all fronts. Faye will likely even get her morbid, perverse violence reality show. With no help from that Marxist lady—she’ll probably be part of the investigation/condemnation of the Network executives, again to no avail.  She’ll be joining them (at least metaphorically) in the same bar in which we found Beale and Schumacher in the opening scenes.

Holy balls. I just realized that in that scene (and later in his office) Schumacher tells his story of being perceived as jumping off the George Washington Bridge; not to mention Beale’s suicidal tendencies. Could you have been right all along, that they go out with a blaze of glory, Schumacher ending right where he started? They grab a cab and say, “Take me to the middle of the George Washington Bridge!”?

Ben: I’m always right; just ask my two dozen ex-girlfriends. That would be one hell of a denouement! Especially since the story has been told twice already, a third time would charmingly round that out. It’s a mad world when the Marxist pal of extreme terrorists might be the most level-headed and least morally corrupt character. It sure seems like Christensen is giving her just enough rope to hang herself with, morally speaking. My biggest question is how Christensen talks the Marxist into the TV show plot, and it looks like I’ll have that answer in 2 minutes.

Phil: I think she’ll leave the meeting with her dignity intact, but any actions on her part to expose the exploitation and manipulation of Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall will end with little change. Same goes for our intrepid duo Schumacher and Beale. Meanwhile, Network Execs will be hailed for keeping the Network afloat—which is all it was ever about for them, anyway. Ultimately I am expecting a cynical yet vividly eye-opening portrayal of this world. We shall see.

AND NOW, WE FINISH THE MOVIE:

Ben Katz works in acting and politics. For a copy of his movie The Eighteenth Hour, send a message here, and talk to him on Twitter. Phil Hobby is an actor, writer, and director. Wait with continuously quivering anticipation for his performance in Banky Reed and the Passage to the Edge of Space, a web series debuting soon, and tweet at him.