I kept looking through the “N-O” section. Surely I missed it. Is there a “next page” link? No. Am I in the right…no, I’m not on the wrong page. I’m in the “all films” section. Let me search by director, for the Lumet films. There’s “Dog Day Afternoon.” There’s “Night Falls on Manhattan.” There’s “12 Angry Men.” One vote each. Maybe it’s a glitch. Only three Lumet films? I’m getting side-tracked.
Finally it just settled: 846 top 10 lists from correspondents in 73 countries citing 2,045 different films, and not one of them — not a single one — thought 1976’s “Network” deserved a mention. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” gets to call itself one of the lot, but not one of the greatest films of all time, indeed, the greatest screenplay of all time.
My feelings on Lumet’s film have been conveyed. They don’t really matter, though. Here’s a film that — okay, let’s get it out of the way, even if it is an indicator of nothing — nailed down 10 Oscar nominations, including five in the acting arena. Wins for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay. So, you know, it’s not exactly obscure (though maybe that would have helped it).
“Seems to me that Sight & Sound has a kind of technocratic thing going for it,” a Twitter follower suggested earlier tonight. “‘Network’ was a triumph of writing more than form.”
Come again? Isn’t a triumph a triumph? And what, was it not mannered enough? Not overt enough? Not enough of a stylistic stroke? Maybe that’s what held Lumet’s work back on the whole. He was, in his time and anyone else’s, one of the finest filmmakers to give it a go. But his style was to get out of the way, to an extent. Nevertheless, it was always about crisp, focused visual storytelling.
“There are some films that are specific to the American narrative that don’t resonate the same way,” said another (Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone, in fact). Okay, but not one AMERICAN critic could go there? Not that I believe that a prescient treatise on the entertainmentization of news media is a strictly American consideration, mind you. I don’t.
Oh, and by the way, Lumet wrote what is widely considered one of the best books on the “form” that there is. This, I’m sorry, won’t do.
But I guess it will have to. Not that there should be cause for shock. It was even worse for Lumet in 2002, when not a single critic sprung for his work. Maybe he was too far out of critical favor at that time. Or maybe he, as I think happened throughout his career, was taken for granted. But here is a guy who was doing it until he dropped dead, and he went out with a bang. He was impressive enough to pop up twice on my own top 10 of all time, so that’ll have to do for me. (And “Network” also showed up on Drew’s list, so there’s that. But we weren’t polled, so…)
Anyway, here’s hoping the filmmakers’ poll will be a little more considerate of Lumet’s contribution to the “form” when it’s ultimately revealed. But I don’t know. They didn’t come out for him 10 years ago, either.