Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rocky (1976)

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is a bum. He could have been somebody, but instead he does odd jobs for gangsters. It's a living. His life is turned upside down when the reining world champ wants to fight him. You see, the contender had to drop out because of a scheduling conflict and nobody else wants to go up against Apollo Creed. So, for the nation's bicentennial, Creed chooses a working man. This is the land of opportunity, after all.

So Rocky goes into training. The old man (Burgess Meredith) who hates him so much agrees to be his manager, he goes running in the early hours without a filming permit, eats raw eggs, and punches meat. You know, standard training stuff. In the midst of all this, Rocky is wooing his asshole friend's weirdo sister.

For some, it is unthinkable that a Rocky film actually won an Oscar for best picture. Also keep in mind that Sylvester was nominated for best actor AND best original screenplay. Unthinkable, but true. What was unthinkable to me was that I had never seen it.

So, how low budget was this film? How much of a risk was it to make? When the studio found out that Stallone demanded to star in it, they cut the budget in half, to 1 million. More than that, the producers were told that if it went a cent over budget, they would be personally responsible. They had to front a hundred grand of their own money to get the film made. It became the highest grossing film of the year.

Rocky is a slow burn, spending much more time on the love interest than the fight. When the fight comes into focus, it's seen through the filter of the budding romance. So, one of the most iconic sports movie ever (and the only to win best picture) was in fact a romance.

And a good film at that. I hadn't seen any of it's best picture competitors, but it's a fair selection. It's gritty, character driven story rings true even when elements become far fetched. I'll consider a second viewing. AMRU 3.5.
"I think we make a real sharp couple of coconuts - I'm dumb, you're shy, whaddaya think, huh?"

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