Network, the 1976 powerhouse of a motion picture, in which its statements on national and world politics, Hollywood, the television industry, and the human population in general resonate more relevant in today’s age than ever before, celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.
Directed by Sidney Lumet, with an Academy Award-winning screenplay written by the genius small and big screen writer Paddy Chayefsky, Network, originally released on November 27th, 1976, doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever, in terms of its script, narrative, themes and especially its performances. Faye Dunaway leads an ensemble group of Hollywood’s finest, including William Holden, Ned Beatty, and Robert Duvall, all of whom explode across the screen while naturally spouting dialogue of the highest intellectual and emotional order.
Dog Day Afternoon, the larger than life true story about an everyman and his psychotic partner who rob a bank in Brooklyn, an operation which winds up botched and turns into a literal three-ring circus for a few hours afterwards, gripping the city of New York with an anti-heroic proceeding that almost borderlined on sheer, bizarre entertainment, celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.
Full of potent performances from Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, Chris Sarandon, and others, a surefooted, ham-fisted naturalistic directorial style by Sidney Lumet, and an Oscar-winning script by Frank Pierson, Dog Day Afternoon remains a benchmark film of the 1970s, and in many ways expertly captures the entire zeitgeist of not only the mid decade feel and energy of New York City but also of America at the time, full of a post-Watergate paranoia and unease, with huge slices of humor and even pathos in the middle.
One of those names that might not be quite as recognized as others, Sidney Lumet is one of the legendary directing talents in film history. Lumet died early Saturday in his sleep after suffering from lymphoma, his family confirmed.
Born in Philadelphia in 1924, Lumet soon moved to New York City where he would remain for the duration of his life and where he would set many of his eventual films. His career started early on with a radio job as a 4-year-old child and he had a run on Broadway in the ’30s before going off to World War II where he was a radio repairman.
Upon his return, the director formed an acting company in 1950 and many of his first directing jobs were TV series throughout the ’50s. Then came the big one: 1957’s 12 Angry Men, which nabbed Academy Award nominations for best picture, best writing, and best directing for Lumet — one of his five nominations. What’s even more impressive, perhaps, is that it’s listed at #7 on IMDB’s top 250 movies of all-time.
12 Angry Men – **** (Classic Movie) Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Henry Fonda, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec, Robert Webber
Twelve men walk into a smoldering, small, fan-less room. They are a jury and have to make their decision on whether or not an 18-year-old boy who stabbed his father to death is guilty or not guilty. We only see outside of the small room for 3 minutes (secondhand learning of the case, never any flashbacks) and in one of the scenes it shows the judge telling the jury to make their decision in a bored tone voice. He knows that the jury is going to vote “not-guilty,” but he’s wrong. Most of them are thinking that this is going to be a half-hour meeting. Some light up their cigarettes, open the windows to get a whiff of fresh air, and sit back ready to make their vote. The foreman of it all then lays down the rules that there has to be a unanimous decision and then asks to hear everyone’s verdict. Eleven hands go up for claiming the boy guilty, which would lead to the boy getting sentenced to the electric chair, but one lone hand is proudly raised for not guilty.