Peter Finch in 'Network' (1976)

All this week we'll be highlighting some of our favorite scenes from Oscar-winning films and performances leading up to this year's Academy Awards on Sunday night.

The Republicans were voted out of office after eight traumatic years, the incoming Democratic administration was offering the nation change -- and along comes a movie that says it's all bulls***. Sidney Lumet's Network was released in late November 1976 and tried to rile up a country that was celebrating its bicentennial after being worn down by Watergate, a gasoline shortage, and raging inflation.

I didn't see Network during its initial theatrical release, but I certainly heard about the scene I've embedded below. Kids at school were quoting variations on its most memorable line ("I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"), which became an enduring catchphrase. Since then I've watched the movie at least a dozen times, and Peter Finch's stirring delivery of this speech, as newscaster Howard Beale, never fails to electrify me.

It's the context of the speech, though, that touches me now, and provides some evidence why Finch won Best Actor over his fellow nominees: Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, Giancarlo Giannini in Seven Beauties, and William Holden. (Finch, who died on January 14, 1977, was the first individual in Academy history to be honored posthumously with both a nomination and a win.) Holden appears briefly in the scene, expressing his dismay because he knows his friend Howard is suffering from a mental breakdown. Faye Dunaway, who won the Oscar for Best Actress, shows up, too, oozing odious charm as a ratings-hungry exec.

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