The Godfather, Part II (1974)

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It’s kind of hard these days to be entertained by a vindictive sociopath.  In fairness, I’m not sure whether I would have enjoyed this much even if I hadn’t watched it dangerously close to the election.  I prefer even my anti-heroes to have a shred of humanity.  What’s the appeal of this gangster lifestyle, anyway?  It’s only attractive if you’re the one at the top of the food chain.

Michael’s transformation from college boy to powerful Mafia don is officially complete.  He even looks colder in this film, from his polished suits and slick hair to his stone-faced appraisal of his enemies (which, it seems, is just about everybody).  He’s apparently made a full shift to Vegas, expanding into the territory his own father refused to enter:  gambling.

Meanwhile, as we see Michael at his peak, we also learn more about how his father set off on his path to godfatherhood, starting from the murder of his entire family by the don they crossed in Sicily.  I’m not sure it’s a contrast, exactly, to see father and son learning how to kill.  If anything, it makes you wonder how two men with relatively different childhoods (one marked by trauma, the other by financial security with maybe some exposure to the grittier side of his dad’s day job) can end up at the same result.

In the middle, there’s a fairly muddled storyline about a movie producer and a congressional hearing and Cuba just before the revolution and people double-crossing Michael.  At some point in the film, nearly everyone is implicated in having a hand in betraying Michael, and I honestly don’t know for sure how much was paranoia and how much was actual scheming.  Also, I swear there was a guy working for Michael that shared the same name as the Mafia don who slaughtered the elder Corleone’s family back in Italy, but it was conveniently never explained.

Whenever I’ve heard about these two movies, it’s with the acknowledgement that the second one is better (and the final film a pretty distant third).  But I preferred the first.  I found it a bit predictable (well, the parts I could follow):  assuming you’re on Michael’s side, you might be happy to see that he gets his comeuppance against his enemies, but it’s far less satisfying that the vengeance wrought in Part I.

Michael doesn’t surprise me anymore.  He saddens me, to think that this is a man we (as a society, as a hyper-masculine culture) deem to be deserving of respect.  Perhaps the difference is that in Part I, he was protecting his family from an external threat.  Now, it’s hard to see what his motivation might be.  All he seems to be doing is demonstrating his power for the sake of it.

 

Theme:  sequel

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Godfather 2: The Godfathering

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The Godfather (1972)

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Many years ago, probably back in high school, I read The Godfather – the novel, that is.  I don’t know why.  Maybe there was a copy hanging around the house, maybe my brother had read it.  Or maybe, as in my current project, I’d learned that it was a cultural icon and thought that I should experience it somehow, in writing if I couldn’t see the film.

I have a terrible memory for books, so I don’t recall now whether I liked it or whether it left an impression on me at all.  The horse head stands out, not necessarily because of how gruesome it was (and let’s just start with, how could you possibly not notice that a horse head was crammed under your bedsheets until morning?) but because of how frequently that scene had been referenced or parodied.  There’s like five big scenes and lines from this film that have been churned out and run through a parody generator for virtually every comedy act in the past forty years.  More mythos without context.

Given that, I was surprised at how readily I could get immersed in the mafia world.  It’s distasteful, of course, and its true appeal leans more on the hyper-masculine side with the gunfights and macho postures and vendettas.  Mario Puzo supposedly knew actual members of the Mafia, from which he drew the information for many books on the subject.  I feel like there must be some kind of modern equivalent – militia groups or terrorist organizations or something – where you just throw together a bunch of angry men and guns and see what happens.  Maybe there’s an evolutionary advantage in that.

Several years ago I read an article about some kind of sociological study of how immigrants transition from illegal or illegitimate means of making money (too bad I don’t know how to go about finding it again).  I believe the gist of it was that even those who are involved in sketchy means of employment early in their American experience, they quickly become upstanding citizens as soon as the opportunity arises.  Working for the mob essentially is just the hustle you do to reach the American dream.

Michael Corleone did not read that article.  It’s an odd story, essentially, in that Michael is not the hero through whose eyes we see the sordid world of his father’s Mafia.  Instead, he’s the one who could have escaped (and, it seems, was supposed to escape) but gets drawn back into the same old fight.  I tried to figure how what it was that drove that change.  His decision to avenge his father is definitely part of it, but even that could have been a one-shot deal.  Somehow, he returns from his exile in Sicily as if he’s been initiated into the secret club.  He even looks more godfatherly.  Michael learns how to be ruthless.

I found myself wanting to know more about the women in the story – like the poor Sicilian woman (did she even have a name?) that Michael decides to marry and who pretty much never speaks.  How did they tolerate this life of violence and uncertainty?  And (spoiler alert), the movie leaves us on the poor, naïve Kay, who also decides to marry Michael despite having learned pretty much the worst of his family.  What the hell was she thinking?

Oh, yeah, Marlon Brando was also in this movie.  Though I associate him most with this movie (before having watched it, obvs), he didn’t seem to play much of an active role in the story, except as the scary patriarch who everybody avoids because they don’t want to make him mad.

 

Theme:  Marlon Brando

First Time Watching?  Yes, but not reading

Final Verdict:  Can’t refuse

Patton (1970)

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Is this America enough for you?

Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest:  I only half-watched this movie.  I’ve certainly done that before in this project, where I play poker on my phone or fold laundry or something while the movie plays in the background.  I figure, whatever, it’s not like I’m writing a proper review or something, so if it doesn’t grab me, then I might as well do something useful with my time.  But Patton was another thing entirely.  I definitely sat through the whole three hours, but I can’t say I gained anything from it.

If you want to actually learn something about World War II, I’d recommend reading a book.  If you’d prefer to watch a bunch of explosions and see a guy who’s kind of an asshole depicted as a hero, you can watch this film – or, really, just about any war movie from the past fifty years.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I struggle to follow movies with large casts of hard-to-distinguish characters or films that attempt to dramatize a swath of real-life events.  Though I’ve read quite a bit about WWII in my time, I didn’t know much about Patton’s role in the war.  This movie didn’t clarify a lot, except that his big “claim to fame” was that he mocked soldiers he believed weren’t courageous enough in battle, which almost cost him any lasting glory.  The film chose to overlook entirely his expressed views on Jews and blacks (spoiler alert:  not positive).

I don’t often mention topical issues in conjunction with my Oscar project, but I couldn’t help seeing the parallels here between Patton’s near-fatal mistake and Trump.  Patton slapped a soldier in hospital for “battle fatigue” – the era’s euphemism for what we now think of as PTSD – because he considered it to be cowardice.  Apparently, soldiers are meant to be mindless killing machines in his world.  Fortunately, instead of ruining his career, it merely redirected his command to Operation Fortitude, the phantom army at Dover that was meant as a diversion from the real invasion at Normandy.  Most of this I learned from Wikipedia rather than the movie.

There were a couple of interesting moments that sparked my attention.  At one point, someone says, “I shaved very closely in anticipation of being smacked by you,” which sounded startlingly familiar.  I should have guessed it, considering my memory for quotes is limited to those scenes I’ve seen many times.  Turns out, it was used on Battlestar Galactica, when Tom Zarek encounters Laura Roslin in a moment of political rivalry.  Apparently, the writers of BSG really loved this movie, because another line features prominently, as well.  Patton makes an off-hand comment about needing soldiers who are razors, once again echoed in a storyline on BSG.  Admiral Caine apparently has a crossover kinship with General Patton.  Imagine the fanfiction.

My attention to this film project has been flagging a bit recently, probably in part because I have a fair number of films like this to get through that don’t inspire me much.  That’s okay; I’m in the home stretch, and there’s definitely a trilogy or two of movies that I can look forward to binge-watching in the near future.

 

Theme:  General

First Time Watching?  Yup

Final Verdict:  Not as funny as Patton Oswalt

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

I would be remiss if I didn’t begin this review by apologizing to my friend Alice, who may or may not be reading this.  Years ago, she lent me a copy of the book on which this film is based (conveniently also titled One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).  By this point, it technically counts as stolen, because I still have it, and worst of all, I’ve never even read it.  I tried, once, and there’s probably still a bookmark in between pages 2 and 3, which is approximately where I left off.

All of this is to say that I wasn’t familiar with the storyline, except that it took place in a mental institution in the time period when you really would not have wanted to be sent anywhere for psychiatric care.  I believe the book is based in part on Ken Kesey’s experience working in such an institution.  And this is just the sort of movie that, even though I’d never seen it, inspired all the horror stories and common (mis?)conceptions about what it was like to be “mentally ill.”  The basic idea is that to be mentally ill is to be dangerous, unpredictable, usually violent, and condemned to live out a half-life in a locked ward, following every instruction given to you by an all-commanding omnipotent staff.

Oh, and as omnipresent that staff is during the day, apparently all the nursing staff and attendings check out at closing time.  There’s a pretty significant chunk of the movie that relies on accepting the premise that at night, all of these unsafe people on a locked ward are placed under the exclusive care of a glorified janitor.  Say what?

Recently, I read Jill Lepore’s Joe Gould’s Teeth, which is about the homeless bohemian character who captured the attention of New Yorkers after a profile in the New Yorker by Joseph Mitchell.  I love Joseph Mitchell, particularly his final piece on Joe Gould, called “Joe Gould’s Secret.”  It’s an all-around sad story, and Lepore’s book offers perhaps the saddest perspective of all:  it really sucks to have lived with mental illness in the 1950s/60s.  She surmises that Gould spent his last days in a state mental institution, where he likely received a lobotomy to treat his violent outbursts or his alcoholism – or just because that was considered to be cutting-edge treatment at the time.  Spoiler alert:  it doesn’t end well.

Not having read the book, there are a few things that I don’t entirely understand about this movie.  First and foremost, why is Jack Nicholson there?  We’re given the sense that he’s faking it to get out of prison, though I can’t imagine why anyone would believe that one institution was better than the other.  I gather that the book is narrated by the Chief (and the fact that he’s not the POV character in the film apparently caused great consternation to Kesey).  I guess the idea that they’re faking it for whatever reason is supposed to make the ending all the more tragic, which sort of makes me wonder why.

I’ve only seen a couple of things Jack Nicholson has done now (probably all of them as part of this project), and my main thought is, “Oh, I wonder what Jack Nicholson is going to do in this movie.”  He’s one of those actors who doesn’t really embody a role so much as dominate a film with his presence.  I guess it’s fine if you like Jack Nicholson, but it’s harder to immerse yourself in a story when Jack Nicholson just pops up everywhere and reminds you that you’re watching Jack Nicholson.

 

I’d like to conclude with a few random observations.  First, thanks to Quantum Leap (again), I knew pretty much what to expect from this movie (doctors + electroshock = bad news).  Lastly, young Christopher Lloyd is kinda 1.21 giga-hottt.

 

Theme:  Mental health

Diagnosis:  Fake crazy?

First Time Watching?  Yeppers

Final Verdict:  A goddamn marvel of modern science

 

The Sting (1973)

 

Before anything else, I’d just like to acknowledge a minor role in this movie, played by Robert Earl Jones, father of James Earl.  His voice bears such a striking resemblance to his son’s famous baritone that I literally spent the first twenty minutes trying to place it before caving and looking it up.  He plays the likeable character Luther, who trains his protégé Robert Redford in the fine art of the street con – before they cross paths with the wrong mobster.

Also on the subject of family relations, there’s a bodyguard in this movie who is a dead ringer for Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I will never be convinced that he is not actually Flea’s father.

  

Oh, yeah, also starring is the famous duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  Quite a few years ago, I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but I must have been too young or something to appreciate it because I found it decidedly boring.  Oddly enough, though, I swear there was a makeover montage scene in that movie that was a dead ringer for the one in The Sting.  Was there just something about Newman and Redford that inspired shots of them being kitted out in fancy new duds in every film they were in together?

It is, in fact, my experience with films like Butch that have made me cautious about watching other classic movies because I inevitably seem to find them less than they’re cracked up to me.  However, I knew next to nothing about this movie (I do my best not to read much about an unfamiliar movie on the Best Picture list before I watch it in order to allow myself the freshest viewing possible.  Hey, you try shielding yourself from spoilers of decades-old movies.)

There’s a particular kind of film where a character who’s not exactly a good guy becomes sympathetic because he’s placed in circumstances where he’s the enemy of an even nastier guy.  In real life, you probably wouldn’t root for a con man, but if he looks like Robert Redford, anything goes.  I think the other appealing part about the story is that you can support the underdog, the guy who’s in over his head and now has mob bosses and cops all after him.  You kind of want somebody like that to catch a break.

Beyond that, I probably don’t speak only for myself when I admit that stories about poker and gambling are appealing in a vicarious way because I’d like to believe that I could be a poker master, despite an utter lack of evidence of any talent or innate ability in this area.  The actual work of memorizing probabilities and reading faces and all that is not nearly as attractive as the general sense of what it might be like to be able to, say, shuffle cards without awkward stray flutters.  We all want to be card sharks.  Or is it sharps?  I’ve heard it both ways.

With so many of the films on this list taking themselves way too seriously, it’s nice to watch something that just ends up being a fun romp.  Why is it, these days especially, that a movie is only considered Important if it’s serious enough to put you to sleep?

 

Theme:  crime spree

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Wins by a nose

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

 

I swear I didn’t plan to watch a movie about divorce on Father’s Day.  GG, Bridget.  Granted, if there’s a movie that celebrates fatherhood more than this, I haven’t watched it yet.  It doesn’t remind me in any way of my own dad, but then again, my dad’s not Dustin Hoffman, either.

So, I ran into a bit of difficulty with my theme when I reached the seventies.  Fully half of the movies that won Oscars in this decade reference a dude right in the title, so that rules them out.  I suppose I could have managed Annie Hall if I hadn’t already written it up – though, in fairness, that film is less about a woman than about Woody Allen occasionally pausing in his whining long enough for a woman to wander by.  What’s left, then, but Kramer vs. Kramer?  Surely, I thought, in a movie featuring two parents, the lady Kramer would factor in about 50% of the time, right?  Right?

You’d think I’d have learned something, lo these six months.  This is not a movie for the moms out there.  In the first half hour alone, I found myself wondering just how many times I’d have to listen to the sound of boys taking a piss.  Rather than a movie about how difficult it is to be a parent (mother or father), this really comes off to me more as a film about a not-great-dad realizing how hard parenting is when he actually has to do it.  Do I sound bitter?  Maybe I’m a little bitter.

The truth is, nobody would have cared about this movie if the roles were reversed:  dad walks out and leaves mom to do the hard work of bringing up a child on her own.  Because we’ve all heard that story, maybe even lived it.  Even today, thirty-some years after the movie came out, in an atmosphere where work/life balance is acknowledged as important, women face the same threat to their priorities.  Your career sees a setback because you had to stay home with a sick kid?  Ah, too bad, you just didn’t want it enough.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kramer needs a job and manages to bully his way into a new one in the middle of a Christmas party, just because he wouldn’t leave until he got what he wanted.  Would a woman come out of that the same way, or would she end up getting kicked out on her ass?  I think we all know the answer to that.  The same is true in how each parent is approached in the courtroom during a custody dispute: (the former) Mrs. Kramer is grilled about her sexual history and mental health, her fitness questioned at every turn.  Nobody asks Mr. Kramer about the last time he had sex.

Maybe, in the end, this is just the right movie to watch – both on Father’s Day and during a month of movies meant to consider what it’s like to be a woman on film.  Whether it means to or not, it is a film representative of the female experience.  No matter how hard you fight, in the end, you’ll still end up doubting your own worth and giving in.

 

Theme:  Ladies on film

Bechdel Test:  Complete failure

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  No double-chocolate chip ice cream

The Deer Hunter (1978)

One of the most interesting things about this film is that, in a way, it’s really not about war much at all.  In fact, the screen time devoted to a wedding – its preparation, its celebration, its aftermath – far outstrips that spent in combat.  In fairness, war is the catalyst that drives so much of these characters’ actions, but the daily lives of these people, a close-knit community of Russian immigrant steelworkers in Pennsylvania, is what’s truly important.

I find myself complaining a little less about the length of these movies now that I’m a seasoned Oscar-film-watching veteran.  So many of them top out at three hours, and The Deer Hunter is no exception.  And yet, I didn’t struggle with the length of this one like I have with so many others.  Which is maybe surprising, considering how much of the first hour consists only of following a group of drunk dudes shout-singing at each other.  Voyeuristically, the viewer is plunged into the middle of the action without much of a sense of what’s going on, or who’s who, and yet, it gradually becomes clearer what the dynamics are between characters (even if one may still struggle with remembering names and faces…).

So much of the film revolves around this game of Russian roulette, which the guys first encounter in what seems to be a makeshift prison camp somewhere in Vietnam.  We don’t get many clues as to what’s happened to bring them to this point.  Instead, we focus on how they react under the intense stress of the situation.  Steven the newlywed can’t cope; he panics.  Robert DeNiro’s Michael takes charge, relying on the cooperation of his old roommate Nick for backup.  That’s when something changes for all of the men.

I mostly think of Christopher Walken as a cheesy guy, often mimicked for the sake of a joke.  The guy who appears dancing in a Fatboy Slim music video, who shows up in a wide array of films of varying quality.  But here he is tearing it up in a serious role that also happened to land him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Although the movie follows the law of Chekhov’s Gun (corollary: if a gun is used in Russian roulette, at some point, the gun will fire and kill a major character), it still manages to surprise in the meandering, unsettled way the soldiers’ lives resume after their service.  Michael doesn’t say much of his time in war, and yet he walks the town in his Special Forces uniform, mostly accepting the welcome return he receives from friends who stayed behind.  Nothing much seems to have changed for any of them.  And yet, not all of their number have come back whole.

War brings out an inner brutality in people that’s kept hidden in peacetime.  I’m not sure if it’s trauma or something else that triggers Nick’s transformation.  One shot is all it takes to kill a deer, Michael says.  One shot changes everything.  Big Buck Hunter this ain’t.

 

Theme:  War

Which War?  Vietnam

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Fuckin’ A

The French Connection (1971)

One of the difficult parts of watching older films is that you inevitably find things that seem overplayed or cliché, but you can’t tell whether that was the case at the time or if its techniques were novel.  For example, if you were to picture a car chase scene in a movie, one of the things you might recall being a common trope is the “woman with baby stroller narrowly avoids getting hit by out-of-control car in chase.”  But was this new at the time, or already a joke by 1971?

The other thing about a film like this is that you’re not really sure whether the anti-hero trope is yet overplayed.  These days, you can’t shake a stick without thwacking an anti-hero (who will probably thwack you back in response to your thwacking), and I suspect the early 70s wasn’t too early to catch the cynicism and ethical grayness that brings out the average anti-hero.  And as much as I love me a good ol’ anti-hero, I’m a little underwhelmed by Popeye Doyle’s tough guy persona in this film.  I suppose it’s just a personal preference thing – to me, anti-heroes are only interesting when you get a sense of what drives a character to make the decisions he makes.  I don’t really get that sense of interiority here; I don’t understand what drives Popeye, which ultimately makes him not very sympathetic to me.  Especially when you take into account the body count in this film, much of them thanks to Popeye himself.

The French Connection, according to Wikipedia, was apparently a common term for a certain period when heroin was smuggled into the U.S. from Turkey and beyond via France.  I wasn’t familiar with that, so this little chapter on the War on Drugs was something new.  Given that most of the country (and perhaps beyond) is in the midst of an opioid crisis, it’s interesting how timely this feels.  Yet also simplistic.  There’s a sense of the stakes here – admittedly ramped up for the sake of the movie – that suggests how much of an impact this one drug bust will prove.  Popeye and his unit break out all the stops to catch this one dealer, and there’s a genuine feel that this will truly have an impact on the addicted guys hanging out in the bar waiting for their next fix.  We don’t see that there’s another shipment right behind it.

Too cynical a view, perhaps?  Well, don’t blame me.  I’m just rolling with the bleak outlook these kinds of film demand.

I’ll be honest:  I was kind of expecting to enjoy this more than I did.  I figured that it would be more plot driven and exciting than the typical Best Picture biopic, that it might be wittier or more of a mystery than a straight up thriller.  And to be fair, I watched it while a bit distracted by other things, so there were some moments when I’m sure I missed something.  Either that, or I just suck at following storylines.  Instead, I found it kind of ponderous in parts, occasionally hard-to-follow, and without a sense of character that I find in more recent films (or, for that matter, books).  It also didn’t surprise me.  When somebody, a “good guy,” was shot near the end, I thought for a moment that he was actually playing for the bad guys, but that would be too surprising a twist, I guess.  Instead, we watch another good guy make questionable decisions and try to convince ourselves that he’s still the hero.

 

Theme:  undercover

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  I’m picking my feet in Poughkeepsie.

Annie Hall (1977)

Recently, my boss, who’s a psychiatrist, was asked to give a lecture at the annual meeting of his profession’s major organization. He spent a lot of time debating over the title of his lecture. Once he came up with an idea he liked, he solicited people’s opinions to gauge how it might go over with an audience. The title? But We Need the Eggs. Few people got the reference.

I spent a good chunk of time during this movie wondering whether I’d misremembered Annie Hall being the film from which that punchline is derived. It’s basically the very last line, a summation of why we carry on in relationships despite their absurdities. And I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sure I understand the metaphorical eggs, either in the way Woody Allen meant it or my boss (though, to be fair, I never actually heard my boss’ talk). But it’s interesting how joke-telling plays a role in the film, not so much as a character trait, but as an overarching commentary.

Joke-telling itself is sort of a dying art. That is, of the sort that Woody Allen’s character partakes in here, where he tells us a joke and ends with the punchline. Jokes that used to be filed away in paperback books, like 1001 Funniest Jokes about Walking into a Bar. I don’t know anyone who tells jokes like that these days, excluding stand-up comics. Now we have the internet and memes and gifs, but people don’t tell old school jokes. I imagine cocktail parties in decades past, where people would gather around the resident wisecracker, who rattled off a parade of jokes, and everyone laughed at the appropriate point. Maybe people never did that. Or maybe I just don’t have very many friends.

Before this, I don’t think I’d ever seen anything Woody Allen has made, and certainly didn’t realize that he’s released a movie every year since the 1970s. Of course, even underneath the homey little rock where I live, I have a general sense of Woody Allen: neurotic filmmaker, skeevy personal scandal.  That’s all I got.

What’s striking about Annie Hall to me is that, even in the context of these Best Pictures, this film is quite unlike anything else I’ve seen. It’s not so much that any individual device used is unique in itself (although it’s quite possible I’m thinking of all the people that stole his techniques afterwards); it’s the cumulative effect that makes the movie stand out. This is self-aware, with a knowing narrator pausing in the action to address his audience directly. It’s also full of hilarious, subtle lines (“Darling, I’ve been killing spiders since I was 30”) that often stand out as clever, written lines rather than natural speech, but don’t detract in such a meta sort of film.

Although I enjoyed it, I did find the frenetic pace overwhelming. That’s partly a personal quirk – I tend to struggle with following dialogue-heavy scenes, which is basically all of Annie Hall. Also, watching anxious people usually makes me feel a bit anxious. As I write this, several days after watching the film, I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics of the plot. Will I check out his other films? I’m not sure – how do they compare to this one?

 

Theme: New York romance

First Time Watching? Yes

Final Verdict: Like a $400/month apartment in New York.

Rocky (1976)

 

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a secret fascination with boxing. I’ve never really watched the sport much, to be honest, and don’t understand the strategies or the scoring rules. Despite that, it still has a hold on me.

Probably my first boxing-related memory was of watching an episode of the Twilight Zone, in which a down-on-his-luck boxer gets in the ring with a robot. Though it wasn’t intended as horror, something about that episode terrified me. Maybe I was too young, or my imagination ran with the impossibility of man battling machine. Even then something in me understood the fundamental truth of boxing, that the odds are always against you.

In middle school, we did an icebreaking exercise in which everyone filled out a list of our favorite things and then found matches among our classmates. I guess I didn’t understand the purpose of the activity beforehand, but I wrote boxing as my favorite sport – and didn’t find anyone else who agreed. Was I just trying to be contrary? I could have said baseball and it would have been more truthful. That must be the pull of boxing – something about it gets under your skin, opens you up like a good punch. Even if you hate it, you still kind of love the pain.

Fighting, in a way, is not a sport, but something more fundamental, baser and beastly. Boxing appeals to that animal instinct inside us all, makes you want to prove yourself, prove that you could survive battle.

Rocky is one of those films that is so well-known that you don’t need to have seen it to know the basic story: down-on-his-luck boxer (is there any other kind?) gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot to prove himself, and even when he loses, he’s still better for it. Admittedly, if I didn’t already know the ending, I don’t think I would have realized that Rocky didn’t win the decision. The ending was a little confusing. On the bright side, I’ve been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so it was nice to actually watch the scene that inspired that statue of Rocky on the steps outside.

For the most part, I enjoyed this film. The characters felt like real people, though I had a little trouble figuring out the deal with Adrian. First she’s mousy and silent, and then suddenly she takes off her glasses and is a babe? And I don’t remember a single thing she said, except at the end when she declares her love for Rocky. That’s the real victory, of course – love conquers all.

Boxing used to be a national sport. Now it’s relegated to a few pay-per-view matches for the big-name heavyweights, overshadowed by even bloodier sport, like MMA fighting. In 1976, though, I suppose it was still clinging to the American consciousness, just as Rocky held out hope that he might eventually get his shot. And still it lingers, because some of us still like a good fight.

Of course, even Rocky is still going. There is, after all, a new movie out, Creed. Maybe I’ll watch it at some point, but then, I’ll first have to work my way through Rocky II-V (and beyond?).

A few years ago, I took some boxing classes at a local gym. It wasn’t really fighting, only the workout that a boxer would go through in training: jumping rope, heavy bag, speed bag, combination drills, burpees, ab work. I liked it, but I never really got fit enough to be any good at it, and after a few months, my knee couldn’t handle all the stairs and stresses. I wasn’t cut out to be a boxer, even as a hobby. There’s still a part of me that would like to go back to it, shed some pounds, build some muscle, and maybe I will if I can protect the parts that hurt.

But boxing requires endurance. Persistence. The belief that you are a conqueror. Or at the very least, that no matter how much of a beating you take, you can still stay on your feet.

Theme:  Boxing

First Time Watching?  Yup.

Loved it/Liked it/Hated it:  Yo!