Summary: Fourth in David Mains’ series on John. Everyone responds to their conversion experience differently. Some lift their arms like Rocky Balboa climbing the stairs to the strains of “Gonna Fly Now!” Others weep like Mary who tearfully went to the tomb loo
In 1976 the news story of the year was the death of China’s leader Mao Zedong. In the Montreal, Olympics that year fourteen year old and 86 pound Nadia Comaneci of Romania scored seven perfect 10’s. Then there was a major uprising in Soweto, South Africa, when police fired on a peaceful march of some 10,000 black school children.
1976 was also the year one of the all-time Cinderella stories in the movie world unfolded. Sylvester Stallone had written a semi-biographical screen play in three and a half days. Then a hack director shot it in 28 days for less than a million dollars. But it ended up winning three Oscars including Best Picture!
Four sequels may have distracted some from the greatness and dignity of the original Rocky. That’s Rocky as in Rocky Balboa, a nobody fighter who lives in a roach infested apartment and barely makes enough money to support himself.
Three Sundays ago I told you that the movies people love feature a good story line that’s built on a conflict of some sort. The conflict in this boxing film is obvious. The world champion Apollo Creed decides he wants to put on a Fourth of July exhibition. So he’ll let a ranked amateur get in the ring with him just for the show. Looking at a list of locals, he picks one nicknamed “The Italian Stallion”. “That’s perfect” says Creed because, “An Italian found America.” If he boxes an Italian-American on the Fourth of July he figures it will be symbolic and will also make him look good as the champion.
Rocky, of course, doesn’t know it’s just for show and he starts to train hard. He’s pushed by his feisty trainer played by Burgess Meredith. You no doubt remember the famous scene where Rocky, during his training, runs up the long flight of outside steps while the music plays “Gonna Fly Now.” It’s become one of filmmaking’s magic moments.
Two Sundays back I said that the movies we love reveal character development. The audience wants to identify with the main character. The film can’t be just all action. One reviewer writes about Rocky that we don’t just look at this guy, we look INTO him. In your memory you can watch innocent Rocky start to come alive not only as a boxer but as a person with his own dreams. That, of course, opens up the romantic relationship with Adrian (played by Talia Shire), an incredibly shy woman who works at a nearby pet store. Another reviewer comments, “It’s the story of a simple guy who gets a chance to do something amazing and he gives it all he’s got.” And who hasn’t gone through that at one time or another?
Last Sunday I pointed out that the movies people love often present us with bigger-than-life heroes. Need I say more? The advertising slogan for this movie was “His whole life was a ‘million-to-one-shot!’” And movie goers everywhere cheered this cinema hero.
Let me add one more element this Sunday to what marks movies people love. They resolve satisfactorily. The audience watches intently to see how a given conflict will end. They may not like the resolution, but they’ll be even more frustrated if there is no resolution.