Sunday, December 19, 2010

1976: Rocky

One of the contenders for heavyweight boxing champion has broken his hand and won't be able to fight.  So the reigning champion decides that as a publicity stunt he's going to pick an unknown club boxer to fight him for the title.  He randomly chooses Rocky Balboa, who has nicknamed himself "The Italian Stallion."  Rocky is pretty much a bum who fights occasionally, works for a loan shark on the side, and is beginning to develop a relationship with a shy pet store worker named Adrian.  Rocky doesn't know that this fight is a publicity stunt, so he gives his all to train for the championship.

At its surface, this may look like a typical rags-to-riches story, and to some extent it is, but it's more than that.  Rocky doesn't care about publicity or renown or money; he just wants to prove to himself that he can do something significant.  It's interesting to me that the writer, Sylvester Stallone, who was then relatively unknown, insisted on playing the lead role himself.  Apparently he, like Rocky, wanted to prove to himself that he could do it.  And now everybody associates Sylvester Stallone with Rocky, and it's difficult to imagine anyone else playing the part.

This is a well-told, inspirational story with a great cast, a fabulous script, intriguing characters, a magnificent soundtrack, and an epically intense boxing match.  Even if you're like me and know absolutely nothing about boxing, I think it would be hard not to enjoy this movie.  You can't help but like Rocky and want him to win the fight and the girl (he only wins one of them, unfortunately, but that makes this movie a little less predictable, which I also like).  But of course, Rocky also wins the hearts of Americans, the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the chance to make five sequels, so it all works out.

Up next: Annie Hall

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