Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rocky (Avildsen. 1976)

"Apollo Creed vs. the Italian Stallion. Sounds like a damn monster movie."

America is the land of opportunity. As young people in this country we are raised to believe that we can accomplish anything. In the naivety of our youth we accept this as truth. In the pessimism of age we realize this is not the case. Somewhere in the middle of youth and age sits our love for the underdog. This love is exactly what the Best Picture winning film, Rocky, is all about. I have seen a ton of films in my life. Rocky is still my all time favorite. The 1077 Films to See Before You Die obviously features a plethora of esteemed films, but this list is distinguished by the inclusion of Stallone and Avildsen's masterpiece.

At this point in our pop culture lives, we are familiar with the character of Rocky Balboa. He was created by Stallone in the early 70's and shopped around to all of the major studios before finally being picked up by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The studio did not originally want Stallone to star in the title role, but could ever imagine it any differently?

It has been said that, as Rocky, Stallone resembled the next Marlon Brando. He was gritty, growling and masculine with a false bravado that hampered him all of his life. Like Brando's most famous characters, Rocky "could have been a contender" but instead lost his focus and became a bum. He lives in the slum of a deserted-esque Philadelphia in a rundown apartment with his two turtles, Cuff and Link. In his spare time he trains in Mickey's gymnasium, but he is usually ignored by the head trainer. Rocky is also in love with the cripplingly shy pet store worker, Adrian.

Played by Talia Shire, Adrian exemplifies your typical sheltered child. She is awkward, unfriendly and submissive, but Rocky sees the good in her. As they fall in love, Rocky shows another Brando-ethos...the heart of gold. When Adrian asks him why he fights, he quickly answers with "because I can't sing or dance." He breaks his machismo for the one that he loves.

Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), the boxing champion of the world, gives the nobody Rocky Balboa an undeserved shot at the Undisputed Title. He does this in the interest of proving that America is still a great land of opportunity...or at least that is his surface reason. All of a sudden Rocky is the biggest underdog in boxing history and Philadelphia's newest sweetheart. But Rocky is not concerned with winning the match. He is more interested in living up to his potential- going the distance.

It is true that the underdog story had been told 1,000,000 times before Rocky, but Stallone's screenplay gives you an incredibly fresh take on everything. This is not a film about cliches or corn-dog feelings. Rather, Rocky is a film about the person that we all wish we could encompass. He is given the chance to live his dream and he takes full advantage. He gives himself over to the opportunity. Rocky is an inspirational picture that reminds us all why we like movies in the fist place.

As my all time favorite movie and a Best Picture winner, Rocky has always been well represented in personal DVD collection. It is a picture for people who like movies. Rocky Balboa has managed to remain one of the most recognizable characters in all of film. And though Stallone did not become the next Brando, we do thank him everyday for going the distance in his only Academy Award nominated performance.

Rocky: B+

My Next Film.....Grease (Kleiser. 1978)

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