What would you do if given an opportunity to be a sensation overnight? You have struggled and done what you could to get by in life. From obscurity you are given a chance to change your luck and good fortunes in one night, would you take that chance? Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character found himself in that exact position in the 1976 film Rocky. 

          Rocky tells the story of Rocky Balboa who is a kind-heartened, uneducated, blue-collar working-class Italian that works as a debt collector for a loan shark gangster in the poor streets of Philadelphia. Rocky is a small-time local boxer who has the ultimate rags to riches experience when given an opportunity to face the boxing heavyweight champion Apollo Creed for his championship. When this film was released, it was at a time when Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford to become President of the United States. One of the greatest albums by The Eagles is released titled Hotel California. Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, and Art Carney reunited in an ABC special, The Honeymooners – The Second Honeymoon. Disco is still extremely popular before its demise in 1979. The Apple Computer Company is formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. It was also the same year that the $2 bill was issued. Meanwhile in New York City, the “Son of Sam” begins a series of attacks that terrorized the city for the next year. Lastly, for almost a year and a half the Vietnam War has been over.

          The acting in Rocky comes off extremely loose and relied heavily on improv. The supporting cast of Burt Young (Paulie), Talia Shire (Adriana), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), and Burgess Meredith (Mickey), all have excellent characteristic traits that you can relate to from within. Each character individually is strong in its own respected way without overpowering the focal point of the movie in the main character which is Rocky Balboa.  Lighting throughout the film was low-key with occasional three-point lighting when focusing on actors speaking. In addition to these lighting techniques, natural lighting was also utilized such as the early morning workout scenes Balboa had. When low key lighting was used it always demonstrated deep, and rich high contrast with deep shadows. This low-key lighting technique which was used for majority of the film enhanced the dramatic tone of the movie and created a sense of mystery with all characters involved. Costumes in this film were not flashy as everyone you saw were in casual street wear. At many times, the costumes seemed as if it were from someone’s personal closet. The choice in costume choices for Rocky and his circle of friends was that of a hard, blue collar class in a poor low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia. An area where there are no parks, but plenty of liquor stores and bars around the corner, abandoned and demolished properties, and crime. Meanwhile, you had individuals like Rocky’s boss Mr. Gazzo who is a gangster loan shark, ride around the neighborhood with his personal driver dressing. Both men dressing business-like, coming off upper class yet conservative, not flashy. Apollo Creed and his camp wore the absolute best name brands, tailored suits and outfits with flash and style. This camp was highly educated and ran their business as an organization or empire. The costume choices really helped the viewer differentiate and classify the cast of characters accordingly without needed in-depth backgrounds. The cinematography really set the tone for montages and embracing new technology such as a Steadicam which isolates the camera from the operator’s movement, allowing for a smooth shot, even when the operator moves over an irregular surface. This form of filming has been a standard practice of filmmaking since. The pacing of the movie is not rushed in any way as you are given the opportunity to connect with each character. You are given an opportunity to see the good and bad traits of each cast member. The main plot of the movie does not feel long-winded or dragged out. As the viewer you are given time to process everything happening in each scene without confusion. The musical score for Rocky is very memorable and that is because of composer Bill Conti. Throughout the film you hear these beautiful, soulful and inspiring songs like “Gonna Fly Now”, or something instrumental with an urban-jazz type feel to it. You sometimes would get blue-eyed soul / r&b like with the song “Take You Back”.

          In analyzing Rocky and its impact or connection to other aspects of popular culture, this movie represents a time in the culture where about 25.0 million people were below the poverty line. Unemployment rate back then was somewhat high. Lots of people during this time were hard working, and mainly worked a blue-collar profession. For those not able to work, found assistance from the government, or worse, sell drugs as the drug epidemic was on the rise. People were trying to do everything they could to get by, by any means necessary. Rocky resonated so well particularly with these kinds of people because they understood the struggle, the day-to-day grind, the hustle of getting by in life. They understood and connected well with being an underdog because they too felt like underdogs. This movie served as the ultimate vicarious experience of self-success. I believe ultimately the intent of the filmmaker was to provide to the audience the idea of hope. To never give up on your dreams or aspirations in wanting more for yourself. That no matter how many doors may shut in your face to continue following your passion, and one day you will be successful. Always believe and invest in yourself when no one else will. This resonates with folks of any race, age, sex, creed, and religion. The ultimate lesson in this movie remained unspoken but became verbal in the 2006 film Rocky Balboa as Rocky said, “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

Directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Sylvester Stallone, it truly captures and embodies to dream the impossible dream of self-success while overcoming fears of failure. America has always loved and supported an underdog with likeable and relatable personality, and Rocky checks all those boxes. Add in a great movie soundtrack from composer Bill Conti, a love interest / romance from Adriana (Talia Shire), combined with the sport of boxing, and you have yourself the perfect emotional movie for guys and girls.

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