Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, Jimmy Gambina
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 119
Date: 11/20/1976

Rocky (1976)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Gonna Fly Now

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though not exactly a masterpiece, the first Rocky still feels fresh and miraculous, a true Cinderella story making Sylvester Stallone a worldwide star. According to legend, he wrote it in just three days, as if in an inspired fever. It was the most popular movie of the year, and won the Oscar for Best Picture, completing the fairy tale. Stallone was also nominated for Best Actor and Best Screenplay.

It's not the story of a boxer who becomes champion, but simply the story of a boxer who gets a shot. It contains so many indelible images and lines that most Americans can simply play the movie in their heads: Rocky running up the steps to the tune of Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly Now," Rocky punching the hanging meat, the goldfish, the Thanksgiving dinner, ice-skating, and the dialogue ("Yo, Adrian!"). Then there are the memorable performances by Talia Shire, Burt Young, and Burgess Meredith, all three of whom were nominated for Oscars, not to mention Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed.

Even though John G. Avildsen won a Best Director Oscar, and even though his work on Rocky effectively serves the screenplay, he was never a very interesting filmmaker -- he also helmed the three Karate Kid movies as well as the much-hated Rocky V. It would have been interesting to see what Stallone could have done behind the camera back then. He above anyone else understood Rocky's lower-class regular-guy appeal --not dissimilar to Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp.

On another viewing, the movie is strangely full of subtle, masterly touches, with plenty of quiet moments, plenty of edginess, and plenty of humanity. It's a movie full of pride, anger, love, rage, and just about everything else that makes us great.

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