Late to the Oscars! A review of Rocky

[Editor's note: In the month of February I am reviewing several Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning movies that I haven't seen. Rocky received ten nominations in nine categories in 1976 and won three:

Prologue by Jason:

If I asked you to tell me the first thing you think of when you think of Rocky, I’m willing to bet that you’d talk about boxing, at least, or sports in the broader sense. And I think that’d be a shame, because Rocky is much different from every sequel that followed and had quite a bit more to the story than the gloves. It’s understandable, because everyone else talks about Rocky that way; my friend Andy can’t think about Rocky without thinking about Rocky IV and Dolph Lundgren’s thighs. To be fair, that scene with Drago using the leg weight machine is definitely the best leg-weight-machine-scene in cinema history, but the script was written by a 5-year-old with crayons.

Truth is, Rocky is basically a love story about a boxer with some good boxing scenes thrown in. A large portion of this movie is focused on the awkward, sad, pathetic romance brewing between two complete losers who end up together because there’s no one else that will date them. Undoubtedly, no one likes to think about their love blossoming because 1976 Sly Stallone isn’t making any panties wet enough to drown a toddler in. Except for Adrian’s panties, I guess, which probably had little pictures of animals on them, or maybe were those solid gray Hanes panties that Women’s Studies majors wear. Anyway, even the original theatre poster supports the point that Stallone wrote this movie with love in his heart. I’m sure you know he wrote the script, but I’m not sure I believe it. I kinda think he had a Matt Damon to his Ben Affleck, but Sly locked him in a basement for the past three decades to guard copies of The Lords of Flatbush.

Sure, “Yo Adrian! I did it!” comes to your mind when you think of Rocky. Many of the memorable scenes from Rocky aren’t the love story scenes, though. Running up the stairs, training sessions with Mick, and the fight. I think those have probably stuck with people the most. The fight scene is actually inspired by a famous fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, in which Wepner goes 15 rounds to surprise everyone before getting TKO’d by Ali, and it really is a fantastic end to the movie. Carl Weathers as Apollo is the perfect complement to Rocky in one of his earliest roles, before he really shines in Predator. And I loved the build up to the final scene with the training segments and the every-man persona that Stallone gives the character. It always makes Rocky out to be an underdog toward the end of the film, and it almost feels like a realistic portrayal. But the rest of the Rocky movies after this one are boxing movies with terrible non-boxing back stories, and this is the only one you should see if you can only see one.

I’m only surprised Laura hasn’t seen it because she has a thing for black guys that look like Carl Weathers.


LTTM review:

For the record, Jason, I was a strategic communications major but there’s something to be said about a nice, gray pair of Hanes. They are comfortable and I can buy, like, fifty of them at Target for $1.

So I was never interested in Rocky because I don’t like boxing. I don’t like watching dudes hit each other for hours, I don’t understand the scoring, I’m unimpressed by the silk shorts and Mike Tyson scares me. The sports movies I tend to enjoy are always about teams doing the unexpected, or contain a plot or lesson where the sport is secondary to something much bigger (“hey dad, you wanna have a catch?”). Because Rocky was written by Sly Stallone, and because I assumed he was a brainless meathead, I assumed it wouldn’t be deeper than a boxing match and never cared to watch it.

This movie should require a warning: NOT ABOUT BOXING. If I knew that, I would’ve seen it years ago. And it appears as though everyone who loves this movie knows that it’s not about boxing, so WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THAT?

I really loved this movie, and like Jason I have a hard time believing that Stallone actually wrote the screenplay. To me, Rocky is about two things: love, and the underdog. As a closet romantic, I found the love story very sweet– Rocky pursues Adrian although she is very shy and seems uninterested at first, but she can’t help but fall in love with him. She even buys him a dog (Butkus!). I love that sort of thing way more than any modern-day lazy rom com.

It feels like such a cliché to say this, but Rocky’s underdog story completely drew me in. Rocky is a bum, he is totally out of shape, and even though there are people like Mickey who believe Rocky could be an incredible boxer he’s never put in the effort to get there. I love the two different scenes where he climbs the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art: the first scene has a slower, sadder version of Gonna Fly Now and Rocky is completely out of breath when he reaches the top; the second scene has the upbeat, inspiring music playing as Rocky runs quickly up the stairs and pumps his arms victoriously. When I ran my first 5k back in November with Kevin, he told me that he had downloaded the Rocky theme song to listen to as he ran and I admit that I thought it was a little goofy. Now that I’ve seen Rocky, I get it and I’ll be adding it to my 5k soundtrack.

I have to admit that, even though I don’t like boxing, I appreciated the fight scene. It’s disgusting as can be (HE ASKS FOR HIS EYELID TO BE SLICED OPEN, HOLY CRAP) but you can really feel how painful and tiresome the fight is. And even though I feel like I should hate Apollo Creed because he seems to be an egotistical douche, I just can’t. I was a bit surprised that Rocky didn’t win the match because I had always been under the impression that he came out the winner, but the point is that he managed to get through an entire fifteen rounds with the greatest boxer in the world and was the first person to knock down Apollo Creed in this first round in Apollo’s entire career. And by the end of the match, finding his love Adrian was more important than finding out whether or not he won the match (d’awwwww).

I wasn’t as impressed with the supporting characters as I was with Rocky. I liked Adrian and Mickey but I felt like they weren’t as developed as they could have been. Also, I was a little confused by Adrian’s physical features. I had seen the photo of Talia Shire in the red beret (she will always be Connie Corleone to me) but assumed that she had a minor role. For some reason I imagined Adrian was more of a blonde Farrah Fawcett type, and when I expressed that to Kevin he said, “if you thought that, it’s because you don’t understand Rocky.” Well, no. I didn’t– I hadn’t seen the movie yet. Anyway, I feel like an idiot for that one.

Lastly, I assume that Adrian’s attire is based on this 1959 Norman Parkinson photograph:

Adrian versus

Adrian versus Vogue

Face palm moment: I’m not really embarrassed by this, and maybe I should be, but I know Carl Weathers from Arrested Development (“Baby, you got a stew going!”).

Favorite part: I’m a worthless, romantic sap. Do I really have to tell you that my favorite part is at the end of the match when Rocky is yelling for Adrian? Isn’t it obvious? Where are my Kleenex?

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: Rocky is like most of the other movies I’ve reviewed in that the quotes or moments like Rocky running up the stairs are known to everyone on this planet, even the people who live under rocks much as I did. Therefore, I don’t feel like I missed out on much from a trivia standpoint. But I do understand this commercial a little better:

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): Lord knows I’m a sucker for the underdog. 10/10

20 responses to “Late to the Oscars! A review of Rocky

  1. How in the hell didn’t Deniro win for Taxi Driver that year? Also, how did Rocky win director and picture but not original screenplay?

  2. I’ve never seen it. Add it to our list.

  3. The real prologue (not the pandering non-sense written by jason above) that was vetoed by Kim Jong Watkins:

    I have seen “Rocky IV” at least 50 times, but not in the
    last half dozen years or so (other than catching 10 or 15 minutes when it’s on
    cable). For those of you who know me
    (and I’m guessing none of you since this is some hipster blog written by some
    girl I only know from the internet, wait that didn’t come out right…..) my
    memory kind of sucks. I could have
    re-watched the movie for this review, but this should be funner.

    Anyway “Rocky 4” is one of those movies that have something
    for everyone. If you are into Inter-racial,
    gay porn featuring two guys who are hopped up on horse steroids, it’s got it. If you are interested in aging, reforming
    Communist Leaders with birthmark’s in the shape of “Whistler’s Mother” (Laura
    doesn’t get this reference), it’s got that too. If you are into futuristic animatronic
    servents with female humanoid voice capabilities, you betcha. And those are just the sex scenes.

    This movie is chock full of iconic moments in cinematic
    history. Who hasn’t exercised while listening
    to “Hearts on Fire” and being pushed by the image of Ivan Drago getting pumped
    full of synthetic testosterone? Or
    jumped into your $150k Italian sports car while images of George Burns (I was
    confused by this as much as you were. I can only guess it was a scene from “Raging
    Bull”) flash through your head as a way of dealing/mourning the loss of a
    frienemy. But all of that was simply an
    appetizer to the amazing finale of Rocky vs. Drago. Now, a little suspension of reality is
    required for this scene as Stalone goes about 4’11” and Dolph Lundgren is about
    7’1”. However, round by round each man
    takes an absolute beating. Rocky’s “David”
    to Drago’s “Goliath” inspired the crowd to begin rooting for the American. So much so that by the time Rocky knocks out
    the Russian, the crowd listens to his incoherent mumblings (his speech was English,
    but they all understood him anyway?), takes to the streets, overthrows the oppressive
    communist government and installs a democracy. Inspiring.
    Amazing.

    The Soundtrack from this movie alone is worth the
    viewing. “Burning Heart” by Survivor, the
    aforementioned “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty. “Eye of the Tiger”, “Living in America”, “No
    Easy Way Out” and Kenny Loggins who by law was required to have a song on every
    soundtrack for a mid-80s movie submitted “Double or Nothing”. If you don’t have this soundtrack on your
    iPod, Quin Snyder won’t come to your parties.

    I have never watched the original Rocky. I haven’t seen Rocky II, III, V or the most
    recent one. I don’t really care that
    Laura watched the original for this blog, this is the one she was supposed to
    watch. And the fact that she still hasn’t
    is a fucking travesty. She probably believes
    Bridgette Nielson is famous for having sex with that dude that wears a giant
    clock around his neck on the VH1 reality show. She probably believes that Carl Weathers is
    only famous for his roles in “Action Jackson”, “Predator”, “Star Wars: Empire
    Strikes Back”, “Hot Ice” with Ann Archer, or his Colt .45 commercials. She probably still has no idea that someone
    actually gave that hideous creature from “The Shining” (Talia Shire) another
    acting gig. And the biggest issue is
    that she doesn’t know the true story behind the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union. Tragic.

  4. Very nice review. It’s always heartening when people understand that it’s not a boxing movie. At all.

    Three things:

    1) I’m pretty sure that the theme song is “Gonna Fly Now” not “Gotta Fly Now.” I could be wrong about this, however.

    2) Rocky didn’t knock out Apollo Creed in the first round. He just knocked him down. Still an awesome accomplishment.

    3) Interesting bit of trivia: Stallone was said to have been inspired by a boxer named Chuck Wepner. Wepner fought Muhammad Ali when Ali was at or near his best. Ali beat the snot out of him. Wepner left the ring with orifices that didn’t exist when he entered the ring. Still, despite the pounding, Wepner kept coming and coming and Ali kept hitting and hitting. I imagine you can find it on You Tube and, having seen the fight on ESPN Classic, I can vouch for the fact that Wepner was an inspiration. A bloody and lumpen inspiration, but still.

  5. I have a feeling you will not enjoy RAGING BULL (even though it’s also not about boxing).

  6. I had never seen Rocky until Jake and I started dating. Now I’ve seen every Rocky movie at least 20 billion times. Still trying to convince him that we shouldn’t name our first child Rocky or Derek Jeter.

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