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Rocky (1976)

Rocky (1976)

I have avoided watching Rocky my entire life because I never found anything to respect about it. Being born nine years after it was released, by the time I became aware of Sylvester Stallone, he pretty much seemed like a joke who did nothing but Rocky movies and other action junk. The sequels themselves also seemed to make this man’s movie a source of derision in my mind as well. The movie certainly has its fan following, as evidenced by the ability of Stallone to make so many sequels, but I really cannot find a way to say it stands up over time.

The movie was a Best Picture winner and was nominated for 10 total Academy Awards, but compared with some of the great movies that came before it and since that have earned that honor, I really find nothing to compare. Part of the problem is the performance. I find it hard to relate to or sympathize with a character who is so dumb. Most dim-witted leading characters are at least adorable or funny, but Rocky is not. He is not adorably awkward either. His romantic approaches are painful to watch as his ignorance also apparently extends to interaction with women.

The start of the movie is horribly depressing as Rocky fails to gain respect at the gym, in his work as a loan shark’s leg-breaker and in his romantic approaches to pet shop worker Adrian (Talia Shire). Only once we get to the point where Rocky has accepted a fight for the title with Apollo Creed do things brighten. The training routine and the increasing glamour of Adrian at least lend some pleasantness to the story.

The tale of a down-and-out boxer who is randomly afforded a chance to become somebody should be accompanied with an overwhelming feeling of hope but I felt no overwhelming feelings of any sort. The movie was not terrible by any means. It was fine, but not Oscar-worthy by my assessment. When you consider the other nominees –such as All the President’s Men and Taxi Driver— I find it difficult to understand what the Academy and perhaps audiences saw in the movie, which also lacks any artistic qualities in terms of cinematography/directing. Certainly it was a feat for a near-nobody in Stallone to write and fight to star in the movie, but it was nothing like Robert DeNiro’s accomplishment in Taxi Driver.

I am sure many of you will disagree with me, and perhaps part of the problem is that I am female. I struggle to take pleasure in boxing itself, but that’s not to say I didn’t love Paul Newman’s Somebody Up There Likes Me and James Cagney’s Winner Take All. Mind you, those films were much older and did not depict the gore that Rocky does. So comment away, and I’ll see if I can rebut any of your opinions!


3 Responses

  1. Was “Rocky” worthy of the best picture Oscar? Maybe not, but in a time of mass disillusionment and anger (one example is the Watergate scandal) it really struck a chord with audiences – as you know. I like the original “Rocky” and its awkward, gritty qualities. I admit I’m a sucker for that scene where Rocky runs up those stairs and stands triumphant with his fists in the air. I also like that he doesn’t win the big fight in the end. And I admire his dogged determination.

    In my opinion, the rest of the “Rocky” movies seem like vehicles to indulge Sylvester Stallone’s ego, and I can’t be bothered.

  2. I have never wanted to see a film because it won or was nominated for a Oscar. Despite being a fan of action films I can count the number of Stallone films I enjoy on one hand and still enough fingers to hold my nose over films like Cliffhanger, Over the top and plenty of others. I was probably drawn to Rocky by my love of sports films even though boxing isn’t as high up on my list as other sports. I enjoy the dark mood early on and those parts tend to be more memorable to me than does the big event at the end. It’s his down and out situation that makes everything that happens afterwards so important. It’s the ultimate underdog story and not winning (well, this time) made it for me because that’s part of sports and part of life.

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