Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Best Actor 1976: William Holden in Network

William Holden received his third and final Oscar nomination for portraying Max Schumacher in Network.

Network is a very interesting film, and is incredibly well done in certain aspects. There are a few problems I have in the film, some of the things are a little too hard to believe, and the aspects involving the communist and terrorist groups kind of went from satire to farce.

William Holden plays Max Schumacher, an aged news president who does not like the changing way of the network, and is one of the few normalish people in the film. The only person who is truly human is Schumacher's wife, but Schumacher is closest to a normal human after her. Holden therefore does not constantly go over the top, and instead Holden is one of the few performance in the film that is mostly understated. He does a fine job of internalizing his feelings at times, although still letting the audience know them, without yelling, although he does that too.

Holden gives mostly a reactionary role. He always is reacting to basically the craziness of almost all  the other character. Holden though does speak out on occasion and he does this well. He always shows that Schumacher really cannot stand the new nature of people, and the loss of humanity of the people. His last two speeches to Fay Dunaway's character are brilliant done by Holden and these scenes are the strongest moments in his performance. The way Holden really uses his own age and face to show that Schumacher sees that he is closer to being dead than alive is completely brilliant on his part, on the fact that Sideny Lumet used that too. His performance certainly is strong, and good, but I did feel his role was a bit limited in some ways.

 He  seemed slightly limited in that he had  either one type of reaction of sad disbelief or the other of yelling back about his older age or about the lack of humanity in people. But these two reactions are always correct when he does them. I do not have a single problem with Holden's performance though, and he certainly was strong throughout the film. I do not think Holden does a single thing wrong in this performance, but I did feel he could have done a lot more if he was given more screen time and more to do. His character had a purpose and Holden served it but in the end his role did become a bit thankless at time since he went away completely from the films at times, and stopped being involved with the network at all.  I wish he had one more scene with Howard Beale, or with Frank Hackett to be involved with the network more time, but Holden still is always good in the film, and still gives a strong performance.

12 comments:

Twister said...

I love Holden's performance, and you nailed what was so great about it. He and Straight are the only two redeeming factors here and I admire them for providing layered and humane performances.

Max is stuck in a world with liars and fakes and Holden strongly but subtley conveys just how much human values are important to him and how he has seriously misjudged these freaks around him.

He's my pick, and I would give Finch the win for Supporting Actor.

Sage Slowdive said...

I think you pointed out my problem: reacting. It's nice there was a performance within it all that wasn't explosive, but I just didn't like it.

Louis Morgan said...

Twister: Thanks. They are the only real humans so to speak. I do think Finch is lead though because he has lead importance.

Sage: Yes he did need more to do.

Twister said...

Sage, do you think that maybe his performance felt out of place, or perhaps he didn't create his own character?

I think that Holden grows his characterization off of this, that this reacting develops the character as he learns and changes. He shows how these people, while absurd and crazy, help him to become a better person because they show him just how bad and evil people can be. He may be stuck in their world, but he forms a life of his own and eventually chooses to disconnect himself from it.

Sage Slowdive said...

Oh no, I thought he was great...I guess the reacting just didn't seem as interesting as the craziness of the film.

Twister said...

Oh okay, yeah that makes sense. Playing the straight man can't be fun and games all the time I guess!

Oh and Sage, check out my Geena Davis profile and tell me what you think!

Fritz said...

I love Holden's performance and I agree with Twister: the leading award for Holden and supporting for Finch.

Sage Slowdive said...

What about DeNiro? I think he's on a whole other level then either of them.

joe burns said...

I liked him a lot and would have given him a 4, 5/5. I think Finch was great, but needed more scenes, especially in the beginning.

Michael Patison said...

Great write-up on both Holden and Finch. Just wondering what you thought was so unbelievable about the plot of the film. Upon its release, the film was either loved or hated. Those who hated it did so because it was "unbelievable" and ridiculous. Now, 35 years in the future, almost all of the "ridiculous" plot elements, including the communist subplot, overhead clause and all, have happened in one way or another (just look at the lengths networks go to for good ratings with reality TV shows and celebrity-driven trash fests).

Louis Morgan said...

As I said I believe much of the film was very well handled in a satirical fashion. It is just the terrorists and the communists were handled in a farcical fashion from the way they were all eating fried chicken, than to the scene where they we reading the script, and one fired off a gun to keep order. That aspect of the film just wasn't as well handled as the rest.

Eytán Lasca-Szalit said...

"Holden gives mostly a reactionary role." You probably mean reactive, not reactionary.