[Back in 2018, there was a social media challenge on Facebook in which a person posted a picture a day for 10 days of 10 films that made an impact on them. However, I went a step beyond and posted an explanation as to why they made that impact. For the sake of posterity, they're being reposted here in their entirety (with some modification/update where warranted)]:
Day 8 of 10 movies that had an impact on me. 10 films that inspired you, 10 days, one image. I was nominated for this challenge by Andrew Baldwin. Do it today, ‘cause there is no tomorrow.
Speaking of Sly (see day 6)…
Yo, Adriaaaaaaan…we got 'n Osca’ winnah, ova’heeya….
All these years later, who’da thunk?
Hell, even back THEN, who’da thunk?!
After all, this 1976 film went up against some serious pedigree for “Best Picture” at the 49th Academy Awards. Compared to such sophisticated fare as “All the President's Men”, “Bound for Glory”, “Network”, and “Taxi Driver”, “Rocky” was the uncomplicated and relatively simplistic “odd man out”; the "Marisa Tomei" of its day. But then, the John G. Avildsen-helmed feature was truly a study of “the underdog” in both narrative and actuality. It's thematically resonant and deeper than the critics gave it credit for. It also had the advantage of being released at the right time...or perhaps it was created because of those times, rather than in spite of. The Seventies was a very powerful, experimental, and examinatorial period in cinema; one wherein society’s ills and problems were being reflected back to us in celluloid with all stories tinged with varying shades of grey. The zeitgeist of the time didn’t help matters either. For all the “come on get happys” and "free love" of the period, there was equal or greater amounts of reports of government corruption, rising crime rates, job decimation, and economic hardship (sound familiar)?
So is it any wonder that “Rocky” made the impact that it has? Though the plot is based upon fighter Chuck Wepner’s ability to go the distance with then-champ Muhammad Ali, the film (as to many degrees all the films that followed were) is autobiographical, running parallel to creator Sylvester Stallone’s life. According to legend, he wrote the script at his most destitute. The producers wanted to buy the script but wanted a name attached at the lead (his biggest roles at that time was a part in the ensemble film “The Lords of Flatbush” and a film Sly would rather be off his resume, “The Party at Kitty and Stud's” [later retitled “The Italian Stallion” for obvious reasons]). Stallone held fast, insisting he be the lead or no deal. In a foreshadowing of the film’s thematic hook, against all odds, the producers acquiesced. Maybe that’s what made Balboa so appealing against the likes of Woodward and Bernstein, Howard Beale, and Travis Bickle. It was a film that showed the world as an unforgiving landscape that blocked our development at every corner; a world that dictated who one was opposed to presenting the chance for self-identification. It postulated that when that rare opportunity in life presents itself, it has to be grabbed as ferociously and tenaciously as possible with both hands with an iron grip. That despite circumstance, we can rise above it all and surprise not only our naysayers, but ourselves. Whether or not one succeeded in the venture didn’t matter…it was the attempt to rise above the hole that is fatalistic expectation was all-encompassing.
It’s said that the best stories are the most personal; the ones wherein the author is personally invested, and the audience identifies with on a fundamental level. I believe that’s why it won, and why to this day it remains one of my favorites.
In that sense, we are all “Rocky”.