Movie Rundown: Network, Elizabeth, Fear and Loathing

It was all about Netflix this week:

Network won four Oscars, and deserved every one. It was written almost thirty years ago, and as relevent today as 1984. Peter Finch is brilliant as the failing news anchor who descends into a mad furor over the dehumanization of the audience. His rants blow the ratings through the roof. The network staff is shaken by internal politics, allowing a programming executive (Faye Dunaway) to gain control of the news department. Her dream project is taking actual footage of acts of terror and constructing a Law-and-Order-esque back story (a bank robbery by the "Ecumenical Liberation Army" is the erstwhile pilot). Paddy Chayevsky couldn't have imagined how much worse television's gotten in thirty years, though. From reality programming to 24 hour propaganda channels, we're no closer to waking up than then.

Elizabeth is a current subject of study at the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, a group I go to occasionally. It's a very clear example of a character arc - we watch Elizabeth transform from a vibrant princess in love to the familiar Virgin Queen icon. Next Thursday, I'll compare this arc to Margo Channing's transformation in All About Eve. Having focused on the arc before seeing the movie, I'm glad to report that the movie is gorgeously made and quite good as a story.

Finally, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This is one of the few Gilliam movies I've never seen, Brazil being my favorite movie of all time. Fear and Loathing seemed to be about just how messed up one weekend can be if you possess enough drugs and don't mind taking them all at once. Plenty of memorable moments - Benecio Del Toro's Dr. Gonzo singing One Toke Over The Line had me reaching for the nitroglycerine. Ellen Barkin's damaged waitress scene was emotionally wrenching, and if you thought Gilliam couldn't do any more damage to Katherine Hellmond's lovely face, fasten your seat belt. But this felt like a movie that was filmed for the people who have already read the book.

PS: Johnny Depp might be considering the role of Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I couldn't think of a more fitting actor with whom to trust that part.