Best Picture: Rocky

rockyThe third entry (it has been a while) into my Best Picture Oscar series is finally here with 1976’s ‘Rocky’. The first film in what has become a seven film series over the course of forty years, ‘Rocky’ has become known as one of the greatest boxing and sports films of all time and perhaps even one of the best “American dream” films that we have ever seen as well.

Written by and starring a young  Sylvester Stallone as the Italian Stallion Rocky Balboa, the film brought Stallone to worldwide prominence in a role that has gone on to shape his career and also become a cultural phenomenon.

Earning a total of ten nominations at the 49th Academy Awards, ‘Rocky’ collected three Oscar’s, not only for Best Picture, but also Best Director for John G. Avildsen and also for Best Film Editing. It also won the Award for Outstanding Directing from the Directors Guild of America as well. To say that ‘Rocky’ is iconic would be an understatement.

Telling the story of a debt collector for a loan shark who moonlights as a middling boxer who has never seriously trained for the fights, ‘Rocky’ is a film that could never get made in this day and age. From a slower pace, to the love story between Stallone’s Balboa and Talia Shire’s Adrian Pennino, audiences today would never flock to a film like this. And I feel this is a shame, because not all films have to work at a breakneck speed of feature explosions every twenty seconds.

‘Rocky’ shifts back and forth between three clear storylines, the love story between Rocky and Adrian, the arc of Rocky embracing of his boxing ability, and the story that brings all of this together, the desire of earning a big paycheque from Rocky’s opponent in the ring, Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed.

The story between Rocky and Adrian is what really sets this film apart, and both Stallone and Shire received well earned Best Actor and Best Actress nominations. While neither won, the fact that the film had such great performances, and from a film that was shot in only a 28 day time period, really just highlights how good they were.

Weathers’ performance as the film’s counterpoint to Stallone’s Rocky is actually a very understated performance. Playing an analogy to Muhammad Ali, Weathers steps up as a brash, loud self promoter who fails to take his self appointed challenger seriously, resulting in the climactic fifteen round fight that closes out the film.

While it took me into my 37th year to see the entirety of ‘Rocky’, especially considering that growing up it would be on television a couple of times a year, I am glad that I waited to be a bit older to give a full first viewing to fully understand the scope and wonder of this film.

While not all previous Best Picture winners have aged well, and while you can clearly tell that this film was shot during the 1970’s, ‘Rocky’ does truly stand the test of time to tell a great story of an underdog reaching up and grabbing a hold of the chance that we all dream of when it is presented and making the best of it.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and watch for some other Best Picture reviews soon.

Gravity

gravityThe big breakout film from 2012 , that no one knew what to expect from, was Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’.  What was considered unfilmable ended up with Lee winning his second Best Director award at the 85th Academy Awards earlier this year.  I mention ‘Life of Pi’ as it seems to be a good correlation to this year’s surprise hit, ‘Gravity’, from Alfonso Cuaron.

If you are looking for what is more than likely the best visuals you can find in a film this year, than ‘Gravity’ is definitely the film for you.  Simply put, there have been very few films that have been must see in the 3D format since James Cameron revolutionized the format with ‘Avatar’, but Cuaron has added a definite must see film to that list.

The downside to all of this talk about the visuals and the 3D is that the acting is actually a tad sub-par in this film, and that is mainly due to writing that manages to take away from the film, instead of adding to it.

‘Gravity’ will more than likely go down as another ‘Avatar’ in the end.  A stunning film visually that covers up for writing and acting holes that are small enough to miss at times.  For the imaginative and risk-taking notion of setting the film almost entirely in the weightlessness of space, and pulling it off in a manner that sets the film apart as a must-see in theatres, Cuaron will most definitely be a nominee for the Best Director Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards next year, and should be one of the two favourites at the end of the day.

As for the rest of the film, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney feature as the only two actors present in ‘Gravity’.  This is another risky element of the film but one that works in tandem with the setting.  By limiting the number of people seen on screen, Cuaron really is able to set the scene and setup the thriller aspect of the film.

Many are lauding the acting job of Sandra Bullock and proclaiming her as a possible nominee for Best Actress, and depending on what other films produce for possible nominees, I can definitely see Bullock earning a nomination, based solely on the fact that she is the only person on screen for almost the entirety of the film.

George Clooney, very much in the same position as Bullock, could be a possible nominee for Best Supporting Actor as he really sets the stage in the film as the retiring, experienced astronaut and a major plot device as well.  This is a definite possible award winning role for the former ER star.

That being said, I do believe that the best lock for ‘Gravity’ at the Academy Awards will be in the Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects categories.  Not bad for a film that was post-converted to 3D.

In the end, ‘Gravity’ should become the poster film for post-converting in 3D, as it is truly the first film to nail down that approach to 3D and is on par with ‘Avatar’ for taking your breath away.

Once again, ‘Gravity’ is the type of film that cinema is made for and to do this film justice is to see it on the biggest screen you can find and in the best 3D you can find as well.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.