Bonus late review today! I’m trying to put together my August roundup post & ended up writing too much about this one. So I’m posting it separately. Sorry for the rubbish review of such a classic… (I didn’t love it).
Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
Directed by Sergio Leone
Based on The Hoods by Harry Grey
Starring: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams
Music by Ennio Morricone
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Based on Harry Grey’s novel The Hoods, it chronicles the lives of best friends David “Noodles” Aaronson and Maximilian “Max” Bercovicz as they lead a group of Jewish ghetto youths who rise to prominence as Jewish gangsters in New York City’s world of organized crime.
Being stuck in bed recuperating after a hospital stay made me decide to finally watch this almost-four-hour epic because what the hell else was I going to do with my time? It’s also a part of my IMDb Top 250 Challenge so it gets another movie crossed off of that list.
Hmm. I admit that I didn’t love this one but the gangster film genre has never been a favorite of mine. I did think The Godfather I & II were good but have had no desire to rewatch them. And I’ve never even watched Casino because the violence in that sounds far too extreme for me. So I’m admittedly not the best audience for this film, which was also very violent and, er, way more rape-y than I was expecting. This won’t pass the Bechdel test! But I don’t believe in art being forced to follow some bullshit rules – This is just a warning that women aren’t treated well in this film but it’s probably an accurate representation of these violent sort of men with no morals.
I did appreciate how much time was spent showing us De Niro’s character’s past and liked the part of the film focusing on his childhood & his criminal friends the most. And, hey – Brian Bloom was in this as one of his childhood friends! He was a heartthrob in all the teen magazines I bought in the ’80s but I knew absolutely nothing he’d actually starred in (I should point out that he was also in the ridiculous “horror comedy?” The Stuff, which was horribly bad but is more my type of thing than gangster films). You almost started to care about these guys after seeing them grow up together and somehow stay loyal to each other as they became partners in crime. Almost. The characters were all truly horrible human beings and I struggle with films that have no sympathetic characters. Actually, Fat Moe was okay. Yay, Fat Moe! He was kind of likeable. Unfortunately, De Niro lost any sympathy I may have had for his character after his final “date” with the girl he claimed to love (played by Elizabeth McGovern).
Sorry for the negative sounding review! This is, admittedly, a very good and well-made film. Sergio Leone was a brilliant filmmaker. Oh, and this once again had an Ennio Morricone score. Of course. So I was very happy about that as I’m a big fan. I should point out that I really like Leone’s Dollars Trilogy (especially The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) and also far preferred Once Upon A Time In The West to In America. And those certainly aren’t passing some stupid test gauging how female characters are treated either – they’re just much more my style and I think they’re damn good films. Was hoping to like this one as much as those but do think this is as good as all the best of the gangster films that have been made.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
Here’s a quick list of the Blind Spot films I’ve watched so far this year, from my least favorite to my favorite:
So, yeah – I liked Rocky the most (so far). It’s one of those movies that’s so iconic & has been spoofed so often that it felt like I’d seen it already anyway. I suppose that’s why it’s taken me so long to finally get around to watching the whole thing. I’ve seen bits & pieces of it over the years and knew the ending. It was definitely worth sitting down to finally watch it from start to finish, though. About damn time, right?!
Watching Rocky also means I can add another movie seen to my IMDB Top 250 Project (It’s currently at number 218. WTF? Too low). Yay! Another one crossed off my list (I’m never gonna finish watching those 250). Oh, and I can add it to my list of My Top Ten Best Picture Oscar Winners! Okay – I’ve just updated that post so you can go have a look to see where I’ve placed Rocky. Nah, screw getting extra views – I’ve put it at number six. It’s good. It’s worthy of its status. I’m glad it won Best Picture. What did it beat? *Googling now*… All The President’s Men (not seen it), Bound For Glory (wtf is that?), Network (okay but Rocky is better), and Taxi Driver (erm, like Rocky I feel like I’ve seen it but don’t think I’ve ever seen it all the way through. Rocky is better anyway).
Should I get around to reviewing Rocky? I’ll be honest – I don’t really want to. It’s been around forever and has such loyal, diehard fans that you should really just go read reviews done by those who have a strong personal connection to this character and the film’s themes (like Eric of The IPC – this is his review). As the plot synopsis above says, this film is all about “going the distance” and believing in yourself and all that feelgood hoohah that so many movies attempt but very few manage to achieve without feeling phony & contrived. Rocky is genuine.
I was quite surprised when looking Rocky up at IMDB for this review to see that it has quite a low “metascore” (that’s the rating from “professional critics”). This is where professional critics piss me off. How miserable do you have to be in life to not at least be slightly moved by one of the best feelgood movies out there? Admittedly, Rocky is going to feel somewhat dated in its themes nowadays as sooooo many movies have tried to do similar since. But this came out in 1976 and there hadn’t yet really been any movies quite like it (that I can think of, anyway, but I’m probably wrong because I often am). It seems like uplifting, feelgood movies often get slammed by critics. Who wants dreary & depressing all the time?! Just because a movie is depressing, it doesn’t always make it good. And just because a movie is uplifting, it doesn’t always make it bad. Yeah, I’m also one of those lovers of feelgood galore The Shawshank Redemption. It makes me happy. And that’s okay, professional critics! It’s okay to be moved by a film because it makes you feel good! I happen to think that truly good filmmaking is the ability to make an audience love your film because they connect so deeply with your characters and/or your story. I know that Rocky is one of those types of films. Like my Shawshank, I can fully understand why Rocky means so much to some people.
Shit. I’ve still not really talked about Rocky yet in my Rocky “review”. Let’s start by talking about the character of Rocky. Am I a fan of Sylvester Stallone? No, not in the slightest. Is he a good actor? Nope. But that doesn’t matter. As Rocky, he’s perfect. He IS Rocky. I just read this little tidbit at Wikipedia:
“United Artists liked Stallone’s script, and viewed it as a possible vehicle for a well-established star such as Robert Redford, Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds, or James Caan. Stallone appealed to the producers to be given a chance to star in the film. He later said that he would never have forgiven himself if the film became a success with someone else in the lead.”
Seriously?? Those choices would’ve been SO wrong to play Rocky and the movie wouldn’t have achieved so much success without Stallone in the role. I’m glad he fought for the part (and like the fact that the movie itself was an underdog that went on to beat the odds, just like Rocky himself). I think, having written the script, it really shows in Stallone’s performance how the character is a part of him and that we wouldn’t have gotten the same genuine feel from another actor. It’s why Rocky became such a beloved character. I can see why this movie propelled Stallone to fame and why he still has loads of, let’s face it, dude fans. He’ll still never ever be a favorite actor of mine but I certainly have more respect for him now. He makes this movie what it is. So don’t avoid this film if, like me, you don’t necessarily love Stallone.
Also, don’t avoid this movie if you don’t like sports movies or boxing. Yes, those elements are what have made this movie one that has made many manly men freely admit to crying manly man tears over. I f*^king hate sports. All sports. Especially boxing! Rocky isn’t really a sports movie and it has about as much actual boxing in it as British households have on Boxing Day (which is probably a little bit as family get-togethers at Christmastime can be very stressful). Seriously – I decided to torture myself by watching this & Million Dollar Baby over the same weekend back in February. Million Dollar Baby has a million times more boxing in it (but still not loads). However, I ended up loving them both. So, if I can like two “boxing movies” (that aren’t really about boxing), I promise that you can too! And one is a feelgood movie and one is depressing as f*^k but both are good. (But critics probably prefer the depressing one, as I previously bitched about in this review already). Where was I? Rambling, as always. There’s hardly any boxing in Rocky. Just FYI. Who knew??? (But I still don’t like RagingBull very much. Certainly not a feelgood movie and probably a miserable critic favorite).
Oh! Burgess Meredith! I love Burgess Meredith. He was actually the biggest reason I wanted to finally make myself watch this film. And he’s great in the role of Rocky’s trainer. He’s perfect. I badly want to watch all the Rocky films now (but I’m waiting for hubby to make the time since he says he wants to watch them with me. Hint hint). I’m not stupid and know the rest aren’t meant to be great but I want to see what happens and I’m hoping Meredith has a bigger part in the second film. But….. I’m not sure what happens beyond that (other than finally getting to hear Eye Of The Tiger in, what, number three?). I’ve done my best to avoid the Rocky series spoilers this long but it hasn’t been easy!!! FYI: don’t read the synopsis for Creed if you KNOW NOTHING because I actually didn’t know… Something about someone. Ha. Damn. All I know is that Rocky & Adrian better stay together throughout them all or I’m going to be seriously pissed off (don’t tell me).
You gotta love Rocky & Adrian’s relationship. I loved those two crazy kids and their weird ass romance. It was sweet. And a little nerdy. They’re made for each other. Hollywood nepotism gets on my nerves but these two are such a perfect match that I’ll let that “how many f*^king Coppolas ARE there?!” thing with Talia Shire slide. At least her then-husband didn’t compose the music for the film, as originally planned. Can you imagine having Rocky without Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now song? No. You cannot. That song and its montage scene is one of the most iconic moments in movie history. Oh, and Carl Weathers was cool too. I look forward to seeing him in more in this series (He IS in more, right? How many? More than Meredith?? Wait. No. Don’t tell me).
Rocky is good. Rocky makes grown men cry for some strange reason. I can’t claim to have gotten at all misty-eyed while watching it and I won’t pretend that I fully connected with it or that it moved me in the way it has moved a lot of (mainly male) viewers. However, it deserves the love it still receives to this day and I can fully understand why some people love it. It’s one that all film lovers should watch at least once if they want to continue calling themselves film lovers. No, it’s not a new all-time favorite of mine personally but I enjoyed it and I especially liked the characters, which is the most important thing to me when it comes to movies. Rocky lives up to its reputation and slightly exceeded my expectations.
My Rating: 8.5/10
*I saw this movie back in February and I’ve only seen it the one time so hopefully all these pictures I used are from the first movie & not the sequels or else some Rocky-loving dude will probably come along & yell at me… 😉