At The Movies With Javid #19

ERMAHGERD!

ERMAHGERD!

Network (1976)

With the events of yesterday still fresh in the mind it’s interesting to look back on some of the films I’ve watched recently. If you’ve never seen network, the opening scene says enough – a drunken news anchor, about to be fired due to poor ratings, concocts the idea to tell people he’s going to kill himself on live television.

The whole idea of the film is about the change in news from an information service into a ratings competitor, manufacturing the news and exploiting passionate madmen to keep us all hooked. The network even sponsors a terrorist organisation, and one scene in particular, where the terrorists and network executives sit in a run down house and discuss the division of profits and marketing revenue, is amazing.

What inspired me to watch this film was Shaun Micallef’s ‘Mad As Hell’ – it’s where the line comes from – “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” – and I’m so glad I did. It’s the 1984 of the media, and it’s alarming how so much of it has come true. The breakdown by the ruthless executive of the world as a business still echoes.

I could probably write a whole blog on this film alone, but instead I can only recommend you watch it yourself. Yes, it has its imperfections, but the monologues and performances are so incredible they’re worth sharing. The way of the world, business, the individual, the media, so much is covered and so well. I implore you to watch both of the videos at the end, and dare you to tell me that neither of them is relevant today.

I know that I’m incredibly late to the party, with the film being nearly 40 years old, but I can guarantee many of you haven’t seen it, and you should. For the rants, for the meaning, and for the love of God – 10/10

Nightcrawler (2014)

It’s amazing that a film can come out 38 years later with an almost identical premise and fall so very, very short.

Jake Gyllenhall plays an overtly creepy loner who enters the world of amateur crime footage (you know, those people who listen to police scanners and arrive at crime scenes to get in and get footage instead of help people, and then sell that footage for a profit).

Remind me to get a selfie later guys

Remind me to get a selfie later guys

It attempts to be very much like Network in the way it examines the eternal quest for ratings, and poses the same relationship with the genders reversed with the young, ambitious male wanting to bang the older woman instead of the young ambitious woman wanting to bang the old man. It initially poses interesting questions about the ethical dilemma posed in the new ‘everybody is a cameraman’ era, but they fall away as the protagonist falls further and further down the hole, in an entirely predictable fashion.

Speaking of predictability, you can deduce what’s going to happen in the final scene of the climax well before it comes along, and without an enjoyable performance to cling on to, it leaves you with little at the end – perhaps that’s the idea, emphasising how desensitised we are as a society, but I highly doubt it.

Perhaps Gyllenhall’s blank, expressionless character is supposed to be a representation of ourselves, gulping down everything we can, but I doubt that too. Even if these two hypotheses were true, it still falls short.

It’s certainly relevant given the news coverage and propagation of false information all day on social media, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any better than it was when I watched it.

It’s a bit like Drive meets Network, except it’s nowhere near as good as either. 5/10.

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

the-skeleton-twins-2

Before they left the air forever, I caught Margaret and David both having nice things to say about this film, and with some light-hearted clips on their program, plus the appearance of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, I assumed it would be a bit of a dark comedy.

I was right, but I certainly underestimated just how dark.

The film deals with suicide pretty heavily. The two actors play siblings who haven’t seen each other in 10 years, and their father threw himself off a bridge. We meet each character about to kill themselves, and as Bill Hader falls back into the bath and the water turns red you don’t even bother saying I thought this was going to be funny.

First and foremost, this is another film built on strong performances. There’s a strong believability to the estranged but familial relationship between Hader and Wiig.

The characters present themselves to the world in starkly different ways, and each one desperately wants what the other one has – but these false faces hide the fact that they’re both the same, miserable person trying to fill voids that can’t be filled.

The film confronts you – the characters are human, and while they both do somewhat contemptible things, that humanity means you can’t deride their actions. There is one particular scene that is typically the type I hate, that involves 80’s rock and cheesy lip-synching, but in the context of this film, surrounded by the bleakness of human existence, it’s incredible.

The ending, whether real or metaphorical (and I personally think it was the latter but you can decide for yourself), is fitting. There are few people on this earth we can truly drop all the bullshit with, and even with them it’s hard – but when we finally do everything just seems so much more… alright.

In conclusion, don’t watch this film if you’re a manic depressive only child. That might sound like a joke but the more I read it the more I agree with it. Otherwise, it’s a truly good, if depressing, film built on some brilliant performances.  8/10

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