Rocky Indeed

In an effort to educate myself about American film and its history I set a goal (on my Ultimate To DO list) to watch all of the films listed on AFI's 100 years, 100 movies list.  My hope is that by watching these films with a critical eye and then researching their cast, crew and cultural impact I can "home school" myself through film school.  Not a bad way to spend some time and save bunches money, huh?

Several weeks ago I watched Sylvester Stallone stumble through his much acclaimed film Rocky.  I was so disappointed by the experience; I opted not to write about it.  My hope was that someday I would watch it again and be won over by its seemingly non-existent charm.  And then on Christmas Eve we saw The Fighter and I decided it was time to review Rocky after all.

Let's get a few things straight before I begin my review: 
  • I don't like boxing.
  • I have what verges on a mild hatred for Sylvester Stallone.  (Basically the only thing that keeps me from saying I think he is worthless in the acting department is the crowning jewel of his career Demolition Man.)
  • I've always been a little tweaked that a boxing movie starring Sylvester Stallone won the Best Picture Oscar the year I was born.  (Irrational?  Possibly. But it beat All the President's Men, Network & Taxi Driver?!?!?!)
  • I dated a guy named Rocky.  It was not what one might consider a healthy relationship.
All that being said, Rocky did not have a ton going for it as far as I was concerned.  Watching the film didn't change my mind.  I'm just going to say it.  It was awful.  A.W.F.U.L.  Awful.  It's only redeeming quality was the theme song, which incidentally I think should be added to every running playlist on Earth.  It is THAT inspiring.  Bravo, Bill Conti (with lyrics by Carol Connors & Ayn Robbins).  You supplied the only worthwhile contribution this movie made to cinema in general.  The story is cliché.  The acting is pitiful.  And (spoiler alert) he doesn't even beat Apollo Creed!!! WTH?

I get that Rocky was kind of the Good Will Hunting of its time.  Stallone wrote and starred in it and it catapulted him to super stardom. (God only knows why).  But, wow! This film was not. good.
I realized how horrendous it was after watching The Fighter.  The Fighter is everything Rocky is not.  It is inspiring, full of amazing performances and gritty.  Admittedly, I'm not a huge Mark Wahlberg fan.

Wait, let me rephrase that.  I'm not the biggest fan of Mark Wahlberg's acting.  However, he is wildly successful in The Fighter.  There is vulnerability and depth to his acting.  And people, he manages to hold his own against Christian Bale.  Bale, quite frankly, is so disturbingly good in this film he made me physically uncomfortable nearly every time he was on screen.  If he doesn't win the Oscar there is something wrong with the Academy.  The cast is rounded out by several strong ladies as well.  Melissa Leo is a force to be reckoned with as the hard drinking, pushy and co-dependant mother of nine. Amy Adams plays against type as Wahlberg's bar maid girlfriend-to-the-rescue. And I don't quite know what to say about the band of bitches sisters.  They were an absolute riot to watch as they attempted to make Adams' character's life miserable.

But what I found most appealing is that The Fighter is a boxing movie that is more about the fights going on outside the ring than those inside.  It is chock full of fights between family members, fights with chemical and emotional demons, and fights to find one's voice.  It is a work of art.

In countless ways, The Fighter proved to be the movie that I've always heard Rocky was.  It undoubtedly packed the artistic punch that Rocky failed to land.