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PCR #323. (Vol. 7, No. 22) This edition is for the week of May 29--June 3, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! A short one this week. Shall we begin??

You Must Be This Many Inches Tall...
...To Enter Prison  by Nolan B. Canova
A Botany SuperStar  by William Moriaty
"The Break Up"  by Mike Smith
"X-Men: The Last Stand"....52  by John Lewis
Passing On .... My Favorite Films -- Part 22: "Rocky"  by Mike Smith
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Sad to hear of the death of actor Paul Gleason, who died this week at the age of 67 due to a rare form of lung cancer known as masothelioma. Gleason began his career in the early 1960s, appearing on such television shows as "The Green Hornet," "The FBI" and "Mission Impossible." He probably earned his fanboy wings when he played Major "Long Tom" Roberts in "Doc Savage - the Man of Bronze." I remember him in "Arthur" (he is the executive that John Gielgud tells to "go screw yourself," Most fans remember him for three distinct roles: Clarence Beeks, the crooked insider in "Trading Places;" Mr. Vernon, who oversaw Saturday detention in "The Breakfast Club" and the self pronounced DEPUTY Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in "Die Hard."

Academy award winning production designer Henry Bumstead, who won Oscars for his work on "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Sting," also passed this week. He was 91. A long time collaborator of Clint Eastwood, he has done 13 films with Eastwood, including the Oscar winning "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby. His final films will be "Flags Of Our Fathers" and "Red Sun/Black Sea," with director Eastwood showing the true tale of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, with one film telling the story through the eyes of the American's and the other through the eyes of the Japanese.

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young and Burgess Meredith as Mickey
Directed by: John G. Avildsen

FIRST SEEN: Tampa Bay Center Cinema, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE LINE: "Yeah, I got heart but I ain't got no locker, do I Mick?"
FAVORITE SCENE: After the fight.

  • Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing. Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Stallone), Actress (Shire), Best Supporting Actor (Young and Meredith), Original Song ("Gonna Fly Now"), Sound and Original Screenplay (Stallone).
  • BAFTA Nominations for Best Film, Director, Actor (Stallone), Screenplay and Editing.
  • Director's Guild of America (DGA) Award for Best Director.
  • Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Nominations for Best Director, Actor (Stallone), Actress (Shire) Original Score and Screenplay (Stallone).
  • Grammy Award nomination for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture or Television Program.
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Picture and Best Actor (Stallone)

    "His whole life was a million to one shot." So reads the tag line of 1976's Best Picture winner, "Rocky." And while the line described the character on film, the story of how "Rocky" came to be is almost as exciting. With $103.00 in his checking account, struggling actor Sylvester Stallone attended a closed circuit of a fighter known as the Bayonne Bleeder, Chuck Wepner, versus the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali. Not really taking the fight seriously, Ali did little training and it showed. During the fight Wepner knocked the champ down (Ali would later claim that he tripped over his feet) and, against all odds, Wepner went the distance. With the fight still in his head, Stallone sat down and in three days wrote what would become the script for "Rocky." Shopping his script was hard, as part of Stallone's deal included the chance for him to play Rocky. The studios wanted Ryan O'Neal, and raised their offer to over $100,000. Sticking to his guns, Stallone said no. Eventually United Artists bought the script, assigning a budget of $1 million and not a penny more.

    Stallone played Rocky as a loveable loser. A guy who works for a loan shark but also has a crush on the local girl at the pet store. As his manager/trainer, Mickey Goldmill, Meredith created one of the most indelible characters in film history. Add Bill Conti's rousing score (which I cannot believe was not Oscar nominated) and you have a film that had audiences on their feet cheering.

    Several years ago I had the opportunity to meet John Avildsen. We spoke for almost an hour and I asked him why the poster for "Rocky" shows Stallone and Shire walking out after the fight though the film ends in the ring. Mr. Avildsen told me that the scene in question was the original planned ending. However, once Bill Conti delivered his score, both Avildsen and Stallone agreed that it was best to let the film end in a flourish in the ring rather then quietly outside of it. I'd like to add that I told Mr. Avildsen that I greatly enjoyed his follow up film to "Rocky" entitled "Slow Dancing in the Big City" and lamented that it wasn't available on home video. Imagine my delight and genuine surprise when, a few weeks after our meeting, a package arrived containing a VHS copy of "Slow Dancing" with a note from Mr. Avildsen telling me to "enjoy it."

    Next week we go back to the '50s with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in "Grease".

    Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.