Tuesday, August 23, 2011

NETWORK (1976) vs. ROCKY (1976)

I remember the 1976 Oscar race coming down to two movies. With all due respect to Taxi Driver, All the President's Men and Bound for Glory, the two major candidates were Network and Rocky. Rocky ended up winning Best Picture and Director and Network won three of the four acting awards plus Best Original Screenplay. But which won should have really won Best Picture that year?

The case for Network: Watching Network again for the first time in many years I'm struck by how modern it seems. Sensationalism in news and reality shows (Network had a group of revolutionaries with their own television show called the Mao Tse Tung Hour) is pretty much the norm for media today. I think Paddy Chayevsky’s screenplay for Network is a towering literary achievement. The performances by Faye Dunaway and William Holden and Robert Duvall are all strong. Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight were nominated for Oscars (Straight even won) for basically one scene apiece. And Peter Finch as newscaster Howard Beale is nothing short of astonishing. Director Sidney Lumet brought it all together in what I think is his finest film. It’s funny, relevant and who that sees it can forget “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more?” I thought Network was really a superb film all the way around. I’m having doubts Rocky can go the distance on this one.

The case for Rocky-Maybe the ultimate crowd pleaser picture. Also, the ultimate underdog picture. And the character of Rocky Balboa? What movie goer doesn’t know who Rocky Balboa is? The music? Gonna Fly Now may have been what won Rocky the Oscar in the first place. How could you vote for something else with that inspirational music playing in your head? And the final fight scene is exciting even after repeated views. A memorable movie-no doubt. But was it really enough to beat Network?

While I’m thinking this over, I’ll reminisce about some of the other movie titles that came out in 1976 that did not make the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die cut.

1. The Bad News Bears, If you were thirteen when this movie came out, you pretty much had to go see it.
2. The Big Bus, I know I saw this. It seemed like it was about this giant bus and you could do all these things on this bus like bowling. And it was like The Love Boat, only a bus and…whose idea was this anyway?
3. Bound for Glory, I wouldn’t have pictured David Carradine as Woody Guthrie. Still don’t really.
4. Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson, Not the most memorable of Robert Altman’s movies, but you know, this one may warrant a second look.
5. Car Wash, I certainly didn’t hear the song “Car Wash” enough in late 70’s!
6. The Enforcer, Callahan and Lacey?
7. Futureworld, It had been a long time since I had seen this one. I thought, “Yeah, the sequel to Westworld was actually pretty good.” After viewing it a couple of years ago….eh, not so good.
8. The Gumball Rally, A strange multi-car race around the world. Like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with lesser known stars. Though I do remember Raul Julia was in it.
9. King Kong, I was surprised to see that this infamous remake actually did pretty well at the box-office.

10. Lipstick, One of the Hemingway sisters gets raped and the other one guns down the rapist. I think that’s what happens.
11. Logan's Run, Yes, when I saw this movie I too thought thirty was old. Hah! There is no sanctuary!
12. Marathon Man, Hoffman-Olivier-Schesinger-Goldman. Top line thriller. Consider this one for the next 1001 Movie edition, why don’t you?
13. Murder by Death, Main draw today would probably be to see Truman Capote act.
14. The Omen, I actually owned the book on this one. But little did I know at the time it was just a novelization! I feel had!
15. The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The best of the Pink Panther movies was The Return of the Pink Panther, though it’s easy to get them confused.
16. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, I admit when I think of this movie, the first thing I think of is the infamous Playboy pictorial featuring Sarah Miles. If you can overlook that, and I admit it’s hard for me to do, it’s a pretty good film.
17. The Shootist, Fitting farewell for John Wayne.
18. Silent Movie, I’m guessing Mel Brooks being the last filmmaker to have a major studio finance a non-talking picture of his is a record that may last forever.
19. Silver Streak, First and best Wilder/Pryor teaming. Of course, I didn’t see their last couple of films, but I still feel pretty safe in that assertion.
20. That's Entertainment Part 2, Old MGM musical clips on the big screen may have worked in 1974, but by 1976, the time had passed.

The final decision: Howard “The Mad Prophet of the Air Waves” Beale defeats Rocky “The Italian Stallion” Balboa by a TKO in the 10th round. We'll have the details on the 11 o'clock news as soon as we make them up.


  1. I think this fight was rigged! Rocky must have taken the fall on purpose. Too bad. He coulda had class! He coulda been a contender!

  2. At least Joe Pesci wasn't his obnoxious brother.

  3. I sure hope someone will prove you wrong on #18!