Monday, March 7, 2011

Rocky (1976)

Rocky (1976)
Rocky, without a doubt it is the height of inspiration in our cinema history. Rocky has asserted itself so well into our essential viewing collection, its spawned many parodies and memorable scenes. A tall order to call for Stallone who both wrote and acted as the main character, to create a decent drama, when he's given himself the reputation as a bad acting action star. Truth be told, Stallone has never been close to matching the Rocky series, although he has made a few actions, which the average rev-head would love. So you start to ask yourself, how can someone like Stallone make a masterpiece about boxing? The whole story was written in three days, it has a miniscule budget and of course, we got a big meathead with the lead role; all that Rocky gives us is quite easily a recipe for disaster, somewhat like The Room, a low-budget drama with an all-rounder on and off stage. Yet Rocky excels past your average low-budget independent film, it just has that extra little spice, which truly inspires you. I do not know about you, but I found myself trying a few push-ups during the work out scene.

The plot is quite a pleasant tale, although very simple. A washed-up amateur boxer lives a slow easy life. Just making his way by, earning an odd forty dollars a fight, doing a few little side jobs for the neighbourhood crook. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) also has a female conquest, where he tries and fails out of her shy nature. Meanwhile, in the evil headquarters - Apollo Creed's (Carl Weathers, the current heavyweight champion) manager's office - Apollo and his managers/trainers and whatever else a boxer needs discuss the recent boxer drought, them all being too scared to fight him, as he has never lost before. Therefore, with no professionals left, he gets an amateur at random, it happens to be Rocky, or the Italian Stallion. Apollo makes it out as an 'opportunity' for the average America, but really, it is just self-promotion. Rocky reluctantly accepts, and he gets ready for the fight. The problem is Rocky Balboa does not know it is a show.
The plot is simplistic, but most of it is Rocky sorting out his life. In hindsight Rocky is three-quarters of solid talking, which too many would be unappealing. Yet Rocky uses very realistic and humble story telling. The whole movie is about one man, but it does not seem like self-indulgence, Stallone always manages to seem like the underdog and highly likable, opposed to other pretentious Wiseau's. As well as surprisingly entertaining and emotionally moving slow-paced story telling, you will be rewarded with a fantastic boxing match. The Rocky series always creates a great fight, always interesting and well-made fights, well maybe with the exception of Rocky V.
Rocky Vs Apollo
The acting is probably one of the biggest points of criticism. Stallone is not a good actor, his actions lack the egotistical steroid madness, which he really needs, but Rocky is different. Stallone does a really lazy performance, it's as if he's not even trying, and when he does it's not very good. That is exactly why Rocky is so great though, Stallone and the support cast all bring a sense of realism to the film, the conversations at times are pointless, but that makes them all the better. The acting is probably the highlight of Rocky, Stallone brings such a strange act to the screen, and it is really just interesting to watch. Stallone has this trait, he rambles on screen, so you cannot really hear him too well and it seems to have nothing to do with the story sometimes, but when put in context, well all tend to ramble when we are trying to talk to a girl who is so shy she can hardly look at you. Therefore, all this nonsensical ramblings of Stallone start to make sense, agree?
Therefore, Stallone does a fantastic job, probably by accident, but it still is a great performances, he is just not a good actor. The support cast on the other hand, are a little more refined than Stallone; in fact, I do not think there is anyone else who could have pulled-off Rocky. Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers and Burgess Meredith, all do fantastic jobs. They all create a great character, and they do not fall into cliché too much, although Apollo is a little under-developed, he becomes a well-known character as the series continues.

Rocky did not win Best Director for nothing. John Avildsen uses the million-dollar budget, and creates a really well made film. As I said such a boring idea is made entertaining. He gets a lower levelled poor feeling around Rocky, but still gives us rustically pristine shots. Probably the most famous parts of Rocky would be the running up the stairs, very inspirational, and throughout out the whole time the camera and music all follow his workout, and creates such an inspiring image.
There are always the boxing matches. Rocky brings us some of the most beautiful use of boxing matches in cinema, while Raging Bull concentrated more on the mental state of Jake LaMotta in the ring, Rocky concentrates on the actual fight. This will always hinder Rocky from being better than Raging Bull, but they really are vast in comparison. In conclusion, Rocky maybe a little slow for some, but there are always entertaining and well-made fights that are always guaranteed to spark the inspiration-o-meter.
Training methods

I have already explained the criticism for Rocky on acting, so what else do people whine about? Probably the worst aspect of Rocky would be how predictable it is, for some people it just reads too easily. Yet I feel that we have enough tragedy in the boxing movies of pre-1970. It also is not as predictable as many claim it to be, in fact, the ending was quite a surprise. This is no Eraserhead, but Rocky has too many great attributes to let the predictable nature destroy it. Let us not forget we all need the occasional predictable masterpiece, otherwise the twists and surprise would be the new predictable, sometimes we need a tale of inspiration to be successful, but is it really with Rocky?

Overall, Rocky is a truly inspiring movie. It is such a calm relaxing masterpiece, and Stallone remains humble in all the possible self-promotion opportunities. Rocky cements itself as a masterpiece into our cinema with great acting, great story telling, and the ability to get the most lethargic of people and have them doing push-ups.

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