Rocky II 1979 A Movie a Day Day 14

This time I want to start with a story about the movie going experience instead of the movie itself. This is one of the few things in my life that I am ashamed of, rather than just embarrassed. I went to see this movie twice on opening day. The first time was with Dan and Art, and we went in the afternoon and had a great time. Here is the part I don’t like to admit, we then picked up Dolores and Kathy, and took them out for the evening, and we did not tell them we had already seen the movie. I’m not sure why we did this, except that we suspected they would not be interested in going if we had already gone, and we wanted to experience their reaction to the movie. It was a lousy thing to do, to keep this from them. On the way out of the movie, one of us finally announced that we had gone that afternoon, and all hell broke loose. It was some kind of violation that in retrospect seems obvious, but at the time probably appeared to be inoffensive. I’m not sure if Kathy ever recovered from this, and we had weird episodes at the movies with her on many subsequent occasions.

I know I apologized to Dee, and I have never done anything like this since. I have done plenty of other stupid things related to movie going, including seeing a movie or two that she wanted to go to without her. That was usually a result of my not realizing her goal in the situation, it has never been a deliberate deception. By the way, Dolores, once again I am sorry.

Now to the movie itself. I have read other comments suggesting that the Rocky sequels are all unnecessary. I would have been perfectly fine if they had not happened because I agree, there was nothing to fix in the original. The first Rocky is perfection. It was the little movie that could and did win us over. There were no big stars or expectations, just the strength of the story and the passion of the writer/creator of the character. Over the years, Stallone probably got a bad rap for many of the choices he made. Some of the acting roles he took just did not work, and some of the films he directed, although successful, were not very good. That having been said, Rocky 2 represents the qualities of the underdog he was and it is true to the character he created. After the success of the original Rocky, Stallone made a couple of duds and it looked like his career might flame out. He had enough cache left however to leverage himself the directors role on this movie as well as star and writer.I think he acquitted himself very well.

My memory of the original LA Times review was that they thought it did not seem true to his character, some of the things he does in the movie. I think that is exactly the point. Rocky needs to figure out who he is. That he created a name for himself in the first fight with Apollo Creed, doesn’t mean he knows how to handle his life and new notoriety. In a contemporary version of this story there would have to be a couple of violent confrontations and cruel teasing to get him back in the ring. There is a bit of psychological manipulation, but most of the motivation to fight comes from the fact that this is how he finally defined himself. He does not get back into the ring with Creed because he has been called chicken, but because he defined himself as a man by being a fighter and taking care of Adrian. When he no longer fights, he has a hard time doing the one other thing that defined him.

The movie starts off by repeating the last few minutes of the previous film. There is a lot of positive emotion in that, and it is dangerous, because you remind the audience of their high expectations. The final outcome however is earned because what goes on during the middle part of the film is a reminder of why we loved these characters in the first place. It is manipulative, but guess what, that is what a good director does. He finds the right buttons to push so that you will care about the story and be satisfied that you took the trip. There is not a betrayal of the first film by the second. It is a different story,with a different outcome but with the same honest circumstance we began with in the first movie. The biggest theft of a movies well earned love with characters, came in the opening of Alien 3. That movie flushed the preceding movie down the toilet and said,”let’s start it over by kicking the audience in the teeth.” Rocky 2 doesn’t make that mistake. Of course it can’t live up to the first time, that movie came out of nowhere. Just as a second kiss or date is an extension of the relationship you started, it will not have the same electricity. Does that render it worthless? I’ll tell you what, I’ve kissed my wife a thousand times since the first electric touch of our lips. It has not always been the same, but they are all worth something and they don’t make the first time meaningless. The slogan in the trailer captures the true nature of the movie; “His whole life was a million to one shot” (the original tagline for Rocky), “Now he shows he’s one in a million.” It fits but yet it is different. Just like the movie itself.

High Plains Drifter 1973 A Movie a Day Day13

We just got back from the Yenny’s where we had a great visit with our friends and a wonderful meal. Rick and Mary were on their way to Ontario to pick up Jimmy, so they stopped and had dinner with us as well. I reminded them about this blog and if they don’t bother to bookmark it and read it on a regular basis, the next entries will be less friendly. All of this fits in with the theme of today’s movie “High Plains Drifter”. A vengeful spirit finds cruel ways to extract justice from a town that ignored the desperate pleas of their last lawman. Ok, I’m not a Marshall and no one is whipping me to death, but I am flogging this blog so give it some attention or I will haunt you.

Clint Eastwood is the star of at least a half dozen films on my summer blog list, this is the first one that he is featured in that I got to. I was a little annoyed to hear that Sam and Nate had not seen “Dirty Harry”, and Ellie came in after the Rollino’s left and did not even know what “Dirty Harry” was. Now let’s get this straight, Clint Eastwood has been a movie star for twice as long as any of these kids have been alive, and It is just Un-American not to have seen Clint in his most iconic role. However, since it was not available at Blockbuster at a price the young Yenny boys could afford, I will give them some credit if they see this movie this summer. Other than Harry Callahan, Clint is best known for his westerns. “High Plains Drifter” was Clint’s third directorial effort and it is a western that is substantially different from the Italian films he made in the 1960s. Although it might at first appear that the character of a nameless gunfighter is not too far from the Sergio Leone epics, the truth is this movie is a lot more twisted and the protagonist, a lot less sympathetic or heroic. In fact, this is actually a ghost story masquerading as a western. As the movie goes on, it gets creepier and crueler, and most of us would hope not to have a vengeful wraith like this after us.

A town is deeply afraid of three violent criminals that are set to be freed from the penitentiary. Their hired gunslingers are killed and they turn to the man responsible for leaving them in this situation. It turn out that this is not a remake of High Noon, with Clint in the Gary Cooper role. Instead, this movie is more like “The Haunting”, where the innocent are few and the guilty are punished. The town of course has a secret, and none of the townsfolk are blameless in the back-story. Clint’s character gets away with mentally torturing the towns people, stealing from them in the most obnoxious ways, and even getting away with rape. Still as the history of the story is told you don’t take much pity on the residents of Lago. When the town gets relabeled “HELL”, it is literally true. I may have already given away more of the story than I should, but you oldtimers who have seen it won’t care and if any one has yet to see it, there are still a lot of key things I have left out. The trailer at the top of the page is actually pretty effective at setting up the movie and not giving anything away. The supernatural twist is left out entirely, but I think you will enjoy the movie more if you are spooked a little from the beginning.

There are a bunch of familiar faces in the cast. Anthony James appears as one of the merciless outlaws, his is a face you will recognize from a dozen places. He usually plays a sniveling heavy,he has a gaunt, greasy look that filled that bill in most of his movies. Early in his career, he played the killer in “In the Heat of the Night”, and his last movie before retiring from acting was “Unforgiven” where he played “Skinny” the owner of the billiards parlor that makes the mistake of decorating his saloon with the body of Clint’s friend. Not a bad pair of films to bookend your career. Geoffrey Lewis plays another of the killers, and he must have been in every movie Clint made in the 1970s. His daughter is the actress Juliette Lewis. There are several other faces that will pop up in Clint films over the next twenty years. Everyone one in the movie is just fine, and the whole town plays chicken quite convincingly. The only brave souls are the little person that becomes sheriff/mayor of the town and the current sheriff.They might be considered brave because they parade around a target for the rest of the town’s men to practice shooting at, and none of these guys could hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun. The two sheriffs could have been drilled during target practice.

For at least a year, Dan Hasegawa, Art Franz and I would accuse anyone who couldn’t hear us of having “pigshit” in their ears because of a line in this movie. When you are fifteen, saying “pigshit” seemed cool. Clearly it was not and that might explain why none of us had a date to take to the prom in high school. Well, live and learn.