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« Oscar Horrors: Hush Hush Campy Agnes | Main | I M 3 »
Monday
Oct222012

Monologue: "Lousy Lay"

I was married for four years and pretended to be happy and had six years of analysis and pretended to be sane. My husband ran off with his boyfriend and I had an affair with my analyst who told me I was the worst lay he'd ever had. I can't tell you how many men have told me what a lousy lay I am. 

I apparently have a masculine temperament. I  arouse quickly, consummate prematurely, and can't wait to get my clothes back on and get out of that bedroom.

I seem to be inept at everything except my work. I'm good at my work. So I confine myself to that. All I want out of my life is a 30 share and a 20 rating."

Has there ever been a screenplay as perfect as Network? Has there ever been a Best Actress winning character as aggressive as Faye Dunaway's Diana Christensen? Has there ever been a sexual come-on this unconcerned with its sexiness, like a business meeting.

Well, Max, here we are, a middle aged man reaffirming his manhood and a terrified young woman with a father complex. What sort of script do you think we can make out of this?"

Has there ever been a sexual come-on this unconcerned with its sexiness? It's not that Diana isn't sexy, just that her sexual allure doesn't concern her unless it's adding to her 30 share and 20 rating.

She asks if his wife is in town. "Yes."

Her no nonsense reply, like he's already signed off on her proposal. "Well then, we better go to my place."

One final question. Has there ever been a Best Actress decade as full of worthy winners as the 1970s? This last question is rhetorical since the answer is a simple "No".

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Reader Comments (25)

Well Nathaniel I suppose that's true about the 70s, but when I hear "70s" and "Best Actress Oscar" my mind can't help but go to what I consider the all-time most unforgivable Oscar snub: Gena Rowlands not winning for 'A Woman Under the Influence'

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean D

Nathan, thank you for this entry. Network is one of the all-time great films, and possibly the best of the 1970s, a decade chock-full of classics. The brilliance of this movie only grows with time, as its gift of prophesy foretold the demise of modern culture with uncanny accuracy and scathing humor. The screenplay is searing in its indictment of institutional hypocrisy. The actors take Chayevsky's script and explode across the screen; the roster of great performances in this movie is longer than any other film Hollywood ever produced.

Oscar trivia: Network and A Streetcar Named Desire are the only two films to have won three acting awards. Good stuff.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Sean, in the cruel world Oscar inhabits, the trickle-down theory can usually be applied to snubs. If Ellen had won Best Actress for The Exorcist as she should have, then she probably would not have won the next year. And Gena would have been victorious.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Bless! Network is my favorite film of all time, and that screenplay is quite the vivisection -- surgical precision that cuts to the bone.

Faye Dunaway was so perfect for the '70s; I'm glad she had a role like this to preserve her specific gifts in amber for cinematic posterity.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

P.S. "Mabel's not crazy, she's unusual." Fantastic memento.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Sexism destroyed Dunaway's career. People say Mommie Dearest, but, Faye had a rep for being difficult, which is perfectly okay if you're a man. No one talks about her like they do Streep (I'm not Steep bashing in this rare instance) or any of the highly regarded actresses of the present and the past. Dunaway is so much stronger than her peers (the pretty leading ladies) not the plain face, awesome, character actresses.

I think Paul Thomas Anderson should use her like Aronofsky used Burstyn in Dream. She's very capable, and yet, continues to be ignored, and denied, access, because she's difficult—sexist double standard. There are still Jewish men in Hollywood who want Gibson back on top. That alone tells you how ass backwards the whole thing is.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I'm ok with Burstyn's win...actually I think she's really better in ALICE than in THE EXORCIST (of course, still better than Glenda Jackson...)...Rowlands could have had the Golden Boy for GLORIA

I'm glad that Dunaway is an Oscar Winner, even if her role in NETWORK (btw a quintessential Dunaway's role) is not my fav

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

brookesboy: Eh. Rowlands winning is debatable even IF Burstyn won in '73. If Burstyn won in '73 it's just as likely, if not slightly more likely, that either 1. Dunaway would have won in both '74 and '76 or 2. Dunaway would have won in '74 and Spacek in '76.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

@4rtful interesting enough faye turned down that part in requiem, but I agree about her talent. Each of her 3 nominated roles are iconic.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzach

For all its camp reputation, Faye's portrayal in Mommie Dearest is pretty damn terrific. Her ability to mine sympathy for Joan from the script proves her great resourcefulness as an actress.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I'll have to demur on the idea of Network as a great screenplay, even though it is, in many ways, a really formidable piece of work. It's vilely mysoginistic, resting on a banal dichotomy between faithful homebody wife and carniverous career-woman mistress, and allowing the everyman protagonist a too-easy moral superiority over Faye's Diana (the speech in which he tells her she's incapable of love or somesuch is one of the worst things Chayefsky ever wrote, both preachy and psychologically flat). And the ending, with the televised assassination, is just ludicrously hysterical, even as satirical hyperbole.

But Dunaway is phenomenal. Like Streep in 'Kramer vs. Kramer' and Close in 'Fatal Attraction', she's a one-woman rescue mission, parachuting into a sexist film and single-handedly rescuing her character from pathologised caricature.

I'm guessing I'm alone on this one, though...

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

@Laika

The male perspective isn't inherently sexist. It's devoid of the nuance of empathy for the other side—that's a biological and cultural trait of maleness. Guy Lodge used the fiance character from Midnight in Paris as an example of misogyny in Woody Allen's work. Outside of Deconstructing Harry and Stardust Memories he's never been torturous to his female characters.

Intelligence. Sexuality. Strength. These characteristics in a woman will always feel like a threat to men because there's no premium in the male universe for vulnerability—especially to the weaker sex (upper body strength).

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Laika, I appreciate your post, but I don't find the screenplay necessarily misogynist. It's true that Diana is written as a horrible person, but that in and of itself doesn't always mean the writer hates women. Diana is numb to human pain and love because the story, if it is to make sense, needs her to be that way. Max is portrayed as morally superior to Diana in their final scene, but in the scene with Beatrice Straight, it's the woman who is illustrated to be morally above the man. In Network, neither sex is immune to falling into the moral cesspool.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Interestingly, the Diana character was originally intended to be a man. I'm glad that they made the character female, because Faye Dunaway is incredible in 'Network' (and in many other films).

The 1970s brought us some fantastic Best Actress winners and nominees, but also what I consider to be the greatest snub in the Academy's history: Shelley Duvall for '3 Women.' She gave the most amazing performance I've seen thus far, and I don't say that lightly.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Mike M

Yay for Shelley Duvall ! I loved that movie and especially her....

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

@4rtful

I take your point, but I see no evidence that the film itself registers this perspective devoid of nuance or empathy as in any way lacking - rather, it embodies it.

I'm not sure I follow the Allen parallell?


@brookesboy

But Straight and Dunaway aren't just 'women' - they're positioned very differently, one in the domestic sphere, the other in the business one. It's the dichotomy between them, rather than between either of them and Holden, that reveals the film's discomfort with authoritative, 'masculinised' women. Diana (Diana! The huntress!) is the source of corruption and evil in the film - she is the moral cesspool Holden falls into. Straight is its moral centre. Straight's character makes the film more problematic, I think, rather than less, because she becomes part of an implicit compare and contrast exercise. She can love, and Dunaway can't - seems to me that the film can't imagine a worse condemnation of a woman.

@Mike M.

That's fascinating - I didn't know that. But I bet that character was written pretty differently. I bet he wasn't accused of not being able to love...

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

Great movies generate interesting debates.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Wonderful monologue. Wonderful screenplay. Wonderful film (my all-time favorite along with Nashville). Wonderful performance. Faye Dunaway was just GREAT in this movie!

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

I don't know how we lost the experimental tone we had in the 70s...and those films were hits. WTF?! American Cinema used to dare.

Oh, and Faye Dunaway, what the f*ck happened to you?!! She was at least on par with Jane Fonda, who has had just as much surgery, but I guess a better surgeon.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I am so glad people started talking about Gena Rowlands. She should have won four Oscars (A woman under the influence, Opening Night, Gloria and Love Streams). I can't understand people actually seeing A Woman Under the Influence and not voting for her. I think the only reason to explain Gena losing to Ellen was that her movie was underseen. No momentum or overdueness would have taken the Oscar from Gena if people had seen the movie.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

re: 70's in Best Actress

I'd like to point out the number of foreign performers nominated. Liv Ullmann twice, Ingrid Bergman, Adjani, Barrault.

Adjani should have won, and also Ullmann, if she were nominated for Autumn Sonata instead of or along Bergman.

My winners, year by year, considering nominees only:

Jackson - Jackson
Fonda - Fonda
MInnelli
Burstyn
ROWLANDS
Adjani
Dunaway
Keaton
Fonda
Fonda

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Wow, I was recently thinking about Gena Rowlands' performance and I figured that I'm not as crazy about her as others. For me, it's a bit too technical and I felt Gena wanted us to marvel at her rather than understanding that woman's problems. All you have to think of "wow, how well she shows nervous breakdown" instead of "poor Mabel". I admire and love her (she's probably my pick), it's just that I cannot share the otherworldy fascination that some have for her. :/

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdinasztie

I'm sorry but Best Actress 1960s outshines the 1970s, and it's true too.

My favorite Dunaway is in "Bonnie and Clyde", not "Network".

Fonda's Oscar wins are weak. I know this website loves her, but Klute's an OK win, while Coming Home is a most unnecessary one. I like Glenda Jackson, but "A Touch of Class"? I'm not gonna argue with her own opinion about her wins.

Lousie Fletcher's win? Hmm, I do have mixed feeling's about that one, as I do with Jackson's "Women in Love".

"Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" is also nothing more than an OK win.

On the Other hand the 1960s have:

The Miracle Worker (that year had some of Hepburn and Davis' BEST too!!!)
Hud (supporting, yes, but BRILLIANT)
Darling (a marvelous performance and a highly unlikable character)
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (GENIUS)
The Lion in Winter (The Mirror scene alone could've won an Oscar)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (The one of a kind Maggie Smith makes her mark in history)

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Too technical? Too technical? She bared her soul in the movie, she is all flesh and blood and skin and nature and intuition, like you can see through her, inside her. like, technical? I've never seen anything so visceral in any actress, in any movie, in any art!

I understand that some people may not like going through that performance and may say she is over the top or something (I am lying, I don't understand), but I could never see that "too technical" thing coming. I am sorry, but I am speechless.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Laika, despite the trappings of realism, Network is essentially a satire, and consequently paints its characters in broad, bold strokes. While the brilliant actors bring a wonderful humanity to their roles, these characters are necessarily at extremes. They cannot be judged in solely human terms. The brilliance of Network is how realistic this movie is, but it remains a satire. Diana cannot be assessed by the same criteria as Alex in Fatal Attraction or Joanna In K v. K.

October 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy
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