Tuesday, January 1, 2008
How Hard You Can Get Hit
It’s now a year since the release of ROCKY BALBOA, the final chapter in the Rocky franchise. I saw the film at a screening several weeks before it was released and as the film played, I found myself getting both surprised and delighted at what I was seeing. A genuinely emotional character arc about letting go of the past and moving on? The return of Paulie? The return of Duke? The return of Spider Rico? The return of Little Marie, even if it was played by a different actress? The overall effect I got from the film was that Sylvester Stallone looked at himself in the mirror, splashed his face with some cold water and realized that this was his last chance to show a little of what he gave us in the original ROCKY, to not make a movie which contained a lot of plot bullshit like brain damage, bankruptcy and Tommy Gunn. Then, when Tony Burton returns to say the immortal line “Now, let’s start building some hurtin’ bombs,” then suddenly out of nowhere the horns kick in with the beginning of “Gonna Fly Now,” it immediately became my favorite screen micro-second of 2006. As this one final training montage continued, I thought, “Don’t tell me you’re going to bring in the voices,” and then came those voices. Then, I thought, “Don’t tell me you’re going to run up the steps,” we saw him running up the steps. I actually found it a little moving. Even in that tiny screening room you could feel a surge going through the audience. He showed, after all these years, that he still we remembered why we still loved this character. Why we still loved him.
Several weeks later, the movie had stuck with me. On New Year’s Day 2007, I went to the Grove to see it a second time. It was the beginning of the New Year, with all of the emotion that comes with that, all the hopes that one has for the coming twelve months. Listening to Rocky talk about how he still has “stuff in the basement”, telling his son that “it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward,” struck this little chord in me about what wanted to get done in the coming year. When that training montage started up again, I felt the tears come, thinking about how long I’d been watching this character and how this was going to be the last time such a scene would occur. And by the time we get to the end, even if Stallone does pilfer the final shot from UNFORGIVEN, I truly responded to the emotion of everything the movie was trying to get across. It’s a genuinely sweet, heartfelt picture, something you don’t often get with a Part Six and that fact alone makes ROCKY BALBOA a tiny little accomplishment.
Now, here it is, one year later and I’m watching these scenes again. I feel proud of some of what I’ve accomplished, but there’s a lot more to do. I have to push myself harder. I know what I want to do next, but it’s going to take some work and I’m the only person who can do it. I’m not faced with the ghosts of my past very much—thoughts of Scarsdale don’t float through my head all that often. But Rocky also says, “If you stay in one place long enough, you become that place.” I don’t know what that says about who I am and where I live, but I know that this is the time to be who I am. I’m a writer. I have to keep writing. After all, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Happy New Year to all.