Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oscar Month: Rocky (1976)

Oscar month continues today with the Best Picture Winner of 1976: Rocky. The boxing classic received three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (John G. Avildsen) and Best Film Editing. Rocky also received an additional seven nominations including Best Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Best Actress (Talia Shire), Best Supporting Actor (Burt Young), Best Supporting Actor (Burgess Meredith), Best Original Screenplay (Stallone), Best Original Song and Best Sound Mixing. This is one of the Academy's most crowd-pleasing Best Picture picks. But did it deserve to beat out classics like All The President's Men, Network and Taxi Driver? I think so (although it is a tough decision).

Rocky tells the story of the titular character, Rocky Balboa (Stallone). He's a small time boxer who pretty much hangs around the streets. Rocky never really amounted to anything and although he has a lot of talent, he hasn't really done anything with it. He's also slightly insecure; he loves his friend Paulie (Burt Young)'s sister Adrian (Talia Shire), but doesn't really know how to show it. One day, Rocky gets the chance of a lifetime when Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), the world heavyweight champion, offers Rocky a chance to fight him for his bicentennial match. Rocky's life changes and his inspirational story takes him from a terrible training session all the way to the ring for the biggest fight of his life.

Rocky is one of those franchises that has become somewhat of a laughingstock because of the sheer amount of sequels that were produced. That makes people forget how great the original Rocky is. It's truly a great film and one that is both entertaining and deeply human. It's a crowd-pleasing film for sure, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. The acting is terrific, the script is fantastic and the film is just extremely entertaining. Rocky is an undisputed classic and will be for years to come.

People look at Rocky as a boxing movie, but honestly, there isn't that much boxing involved. This is a human story and a love story first and foremost; boxing comes second. Sylvester Stallone really did a great job with the script for this movie. He puts real human emotion into all of the characters and makes the film extremely compelling. It feels authentic and every conversation feels like one that could be had in real life. I love films that feel like they're ripped right out of real life.

The performances in this movie are also really good. Sylvester Stallone kills this performance and although Rocky is a little annoying sometimes, he still feels like a real, fleshed-out character. People always mention Jake La Motta in Raging Bull when they talk about insecure characters. I would definitely throw Rocky in that mix as well. He's certainly an insecure person and Stallone plays him that way. Talia Shire also gives a strong performance as Adrian. She's shy but supportive and her love story with Rocky is one of the most interesting aspects of this film. Burgess Meredith is pretty much a grumpy old man, and Burt Young succeeds in being a jerk for about ninety percent of the film. But all in all, the performances are great in this film.

Most importantly, Rocky is a very entertaining film and one that you can relate to. There's a grittiness to it, but there's also a sense of sentimentality that make this film interesting. It's a unique love story, it's an entertaining boxing movie and it's a spectacularly written drama. The boxing scenes are brutal but they also manage to invest you in the action. There are also a lot of great, interesting themes in the movie. Themes that you wouldn't expect an underdog story to explore.

So all in all, Rocky is a film that I love. It's a tough choice between All the President's Men and Rocky, but I think that the Academy made the right choice. This is an extremely well directed and entertaining film with a terrific screenplay and great actors. The series may have slipped in quality from time to time with sequels like Rocky V, but there's no denying the greatness of the original film.


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