Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hopefully Rocky dies at the end

A long time ago, there was a hungry young actor who wrote a screenplay about a washed-up, journeyman boxer who as a publicity stunt was given a shot at the heavyweight championship. It was a great script, but the actor was unknown, and when he sold the film on the condition that he play the lead, the producers offered him $150,000 to let one of the biggest stars of the day play it instead.

He refused. But his troubles weren't over. When the film was being shot, he had to fight to keep in the movie's most pivotal scene, in which the boxer admits to his girlfriend that he can't beat the champ, but that all that matters is that he goes the distance. Production was running behind, so he had to do it in one take.

The film ended up being one of the greatest of all times. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film's four stars each were nominated for Academy Awards, and the screenplay also netted a nomination.

So what did this actor do next? How many other cinematic masterpieces did he unveil?

None. Instead, he cashed in. He made sequel after bad sequel. He made a sequel with Mr. T. He made a sequel that was thinly disguised propaganda. He made a sequel with Tommy Morrison. And now, at 60, he is going to make another sequel.

Why? Was the first film a fluke? Did he sit down at his typewriter, try to write another Oscar winner, and realize that his talents were fleeting, that he could never do it again? Was it greed? Was it fear that led him to take the easy road? Is he proud of what he's done?

Of course, one great film is more than most people have in them. Every time I watch "Rocky" I can almost forgive Sylvester Stallone for everything that came after.


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Blogger zp said...

Thank you for blogging on this important topic. I totally agree and have never put this into words . . . well, maybe angry, confused, hurt incoherant words, but you told the sad sad story of betrayal well.

My only addition, you've got to give credit to Philly itself. The location brings a lot to the script, makes it sadder, stranger, weirder, richer . . .

7:51 AM

Blogger Jonathan Barnes said...

Yo, Adrian!
Who is this guy Potts, talking down on me?
He don't know. I coulda been a contender!

Stallone only had one good one in him. He's really an actor, not a writer, I think.

12:56 PM

Blogger fake name said...


You really should regard Rocky, Rocky II and a now little known drama, Paradise Alley (1979, came between the two boxing flicks) as a trilogy of sorts for Sly.

He wrote and starred in Rocky, but Paradise Alley was his first directing gig. It's a quirky movie, often neglected today, but was a fine, small picture that combined sham wrestling, grifters and the mob.

And it featured Tom Waits as "Mumbles!"

It was a dark study in failure, lies, betrayal, corruption and sport. In sum, the perfect film to cap off the 1970s.

Which is to say, it made no money.

Rocky II was a good film, in many ways far more complex than the first feature because it dwelled on a failing family, the complexity of celebrity, yada yada yada.

I won't speak for the rest of Sly's career.

5:22 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

You make some valid points about
"Rocky II." Unfortunately, it had a cheesy Hollywood ending that Stallone had studiously avoided in the first film.

Thanks for the tip about "Paradise Alley."

5:45 PM

Blogger fake name said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:57 PM

Blogger fake name said...

I agree completely with your observation about the Rocky II ending, but I didn't want to mention it in case someone in here had not seen it.

Not because it would give the ending away (who cares?) but because it might detract people from watching the first 3/4 of the film, which is better in some respects than the first Rocky.

Sadly, it will be forever eclipsed by the sublime Raging Bull. RB came out a year later, and was so superior in every way to the Rocky flicks and Paradise Alley as to make them mere footnotes.

He's never been the strongest actor (and part of that is because he elected to make movies that never promised to stretch his range), but he had a nice turn in The Lord's of Flatbush (Henry Winkler was in that, too).

Stallone kind of mumbles and grimaces a lot and hits people.

Foreshadowing a career in motion pictures!

Don't watch it for the production values, but it's worth a peek if you've got nothing else to do. A lot of jerky, handheld camera work and mumbling Sly.

Don't watch while on ship.

Death Race 2000 is a joy of a campy sort. Do not expose your young child to it. Nightmares of machineguns and fay costumes.

He not only acted in one of the campiest movies of all time (DR2000) but HE DIRECTED STAYING ALIVE!

Was he trying to keep some gay street cred? Submissions to the Fire Island Film Festival?

There's a strong homoerotic streak that seems to run through all of his films. Hard to believe he wasn't an extra in Spartacus.

One would want to show some charity and say that Stallone's ouvre has been "uneven," but in reality it's been almost uniformly bad.

It's amazing to see some of the very talented directors, such as Andrei Konchalovsky (Runaway Train and the tender Malchik i Golub), smash their skulls against his acting.

Ted Kotcheff, for example, had made North Dallas Forty (one of the great but never seen sports films), the now dated Fun with Dick and Jane, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?

One would have thought he would be destined for something special. But then he did First Blood (not really a bad film, and with a really interesting anti-war message), and his career was finished after that.

How finished?

Eleven years later he was reduced to doing Weekend at Bernie's.


Stallone's films almost always drew frugal but plodding and unremarkable directors, most of whom now trawl the route of TV cable cop shows. To whom does this blame go?

Sly, himself. He produced most of them, and it was his production company backing it. Sometimes he wrote the crap, too.

Had he cared about cinema as an artform, he would have fired himself.

I give Tom Cruise this advice, too.

7:04 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

You can't discuss homoerotic themes in Stallone films without mentioning the scene in "Rocky III" in which Rocky and Apollo Creed dance in the ocean.

I thought Stallone turned in a respectable performance in "Copland." Unfortunately for him, the more accomplished actors in the film--Harvey Keitel, Robert DeNiro and Ray Liotta--read their lines as though they had all taken too many sleeping pills the night before. Speaking of "Weekend at Bernie's", DeNiro was about as animated as a corpse himself in "Copland."

10:41 PM

Blogger Sherry P said...

maybe, (and i'd pay to see this ending) rocky will be lifted bodily up into the heavens, to a chorus of angels playing eye of the tiger on golden harps,then, cannonized by the pope?? of course, there would be some confusion at first between veneration of st. rocco and st. rocky until his statues and holy cards come out. then we can tell the difference because st. rocky will be clad in red, white and blue depends and orthopedic boots.
hasn't stallone made enough money?

2:19 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

After most of a year that features such flaccid remakes such as "Bewitched", "Dukes of Hazzard", "Bad News Bears", "The Honeymooners", and "Guess Who". I am sure I have missed a bunch. What else do you expect?

Enough money? Hollywood is littered with people that do not get out at the top and instead go a bridge too far.

12:10 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

"Longest Yard", and "War of the Worlds" too.

How could I have missed a chance to bash a Tom Cruise movie? Selective amnesia is my only excuse.

12:25 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".
See Tom Cruise reference. Now all I need is a remake this year by Keanu Reeves, and I win a trifecta of movie banality.

"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" Ack!

"Amityville Horror"

12:36 PM


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