Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'ey, Yo! Y'know?

You know, I wasn't going to say anything about it, but it still haunts me a bit.

Last post, I called myself a hipster. Maybe I am, but I really don't think so, now that I think about it. Yeah, I'm into horror movies, Asian culture, Pop music (The traditional kind; that is, the kind that people think about when the phrase is uttered: Beatlesque, Beach, Surf, Motown Soul... that sort of thing), women, sex (not the same thing)... geez, the list goes on. I like a lot of things the hipsters like. The major difference is, I suppose, I don't like things to fall into a bag; to fit in, as it were. I could care less if you hold me in disdain for liking something you don't. I live for me, not the acceptance of others (which is probably why I don't have any friends left). Every time I think I'm turning totally hipster (and as a result, hollow) something happens to snap me right back into reality.

A week ago last Tuesday, I went to the dollar theatre to catch a flick. I was bored and I intended to see the new Bond flick, "Casino Royale". When I got there, I started looking at the posters and I was suddenly self persuaded to see "Rocky Balboa" instead. Must have been some kind of possession by some unseen force, but I gave in. I'm really, really, really glad I did. I've always liked the Rocky movies, but I was never Italian enough to take it to a "Star Wars" level of enthusiasm. In fact, I'm not Italian in the least. Not a drop in me. Still, I was curious enough to see what exactly Sylvester Stallone had on his mind. It's easy to dismiss him and his character, "Rocky". It's even easier for some to confuse the two into one person. It's a great mistake, though, to do that. He's more than proven his longevity from the early 70's to late in the first decade of this Century. You may not like the bulk of his (some would say) mindless, simplistic action films, but you can't deny his box office muscle or his charisma.

So, on to "Rocky Balboa": The first thing I noticed was it took THREE studios (MGM, Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios) to get this film made. I'd heard no one wanted to make this film and the fact that it took Stallone to enlist this many backers to get it done is a testament to his tenacity. He's a can do guy. I was already impressed. The next thing I noticed was something minor. The opening credits are centered in the frame. In previous "Rocky" movies, the credits were off to a bottom corner of the frame. It's an unimportant thing, I suppose, but it would've gone a long way to getting me into "Rocky" mode.

The Rocky Balboa we're introduced to here is a pretty broken man. He's lonely, his wife Adrian has passed on from what he refers to as "The woman Cancer" later in the film, and he's a creature of habit. He works out in the morning, visits his wife's grave in the afternoon and runs a restaurant (named after his wife) in the evenings; hosting his guests and regaling them with his past boxing stories. His son is now grown, taking crap from the corperate man and snubbing his father for having to live in the shadow of the great Rocky. It seems the only friend he has now is Adrian's brother, Pauly, and that friendship is mostly out of loyalty to family. Rocky pines for his lost wife and Pauly acts the supreme crumdgeon, finding the dark cloud in every one of Rocky's silver linings.

Things change when he ends up at an old bar hangout after a day of revisiting old haunts around the town on the day of he and his late wife's anniversary. There, in one of the best surprises in the film, he becomes reacqainted with a woman he walked home once, 30 years before (a minor character in the first film). His reconnection with a living, breathing lifeline to his cherished past gives him a reason to be, or at least something to do.

Before long, a computerized fight on ESPN, facing off an in his prime Rocky agains the current Heavyweight Champion, Mason "The Line" Dixon (I gotta admit, that name made me smile) sets off a national media firestorm when the digitized Rocky becomes the victor. Before long, the news of the fight gets back to Rocky and he feels the desire to box again, much to the dismay of all of his friends and family.

What realy amazed me about this film is how easily it jerked me around emotionally. I sat in my theatre seat and I felt some strong emotions wash over me. It was a combination of the terriffic script by Stallone, who also directed as well as starred and the earnest performances by the incredibly talented cast. Burt Young is always his gruff, uncomprimising self and that's all he has to be. Much Kudos to Stallone, though, for raising Rocky above that 2 dimensional cartoon of "Yo!" that he became after the first film. Rocky, in this film, is grounded in reality and an emotional mess. I, myself, felt the tears well up in a few scenes. One cast member I have to point out is Geraldine Hughes, who completely stole my heart as Little Marie, the woman Rocky reconnects with after all those years. She's from Ireland, Belfast, I believe, but there aren't any hints of her being European in her performance. She's aloof, world weary and totally Philadelphia street. I look forward to seeing her in more movies.

The script, and some may call me looney, has an incredibly Shakespearian manner to it. There are many great monologues in there and even a couple of short soliloquies by Rocky. Indeed, this film was about the demons we all have to face throughout out lives. They don't stop once we become a certain age and sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do to exorcise them. It also addresses how we don't have to stop living our lives the way we want to at a certain elevated age just because society (particularly the youth) mandates it to be so. The movie had me so spellbound that I really didn't care if there would have been a fight at the end of it. Of course there is, it being a boxing movie, and it's a great one. Once that Rocky fanfare begins, my hackels get raised and I'm pumped all over again. Also, being a boxing movie, it's smart that it doesn't pull any punches. There are no cheap shots; no out of place elements for the purpose of patronising the audience. Does he win or lose? Yes... and no... and yes... and no. You'll have to see the movie for yourself to understand that, and I hope you do. It's a favorie of mine already. I would've paid full price for it.

...and that's about as far away from hipster as I can get.

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