4 Dec 2015

Widescreen’s best of the web (w/e 4 December)

From Widescreen, 11:56 am on 4 December 2015
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky II

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky II Photo: United Artists

With Rocky follow-up/re-boot Creed in cinemas at the moment, there has been a lot of material to read about its place in the Rocky canon, none more epic than this long but brilliant survey by Brian Doan of all the Rocky films leading up to it – in reverse order of quality (i.e. Rocky IV is at the beginning):

Rocky II provides closure for a large portion of the original film's audience, who (spoiler alert!) finally get to see their hero win the belt. But more intriguingly, it also makes Apollo Creed the film's most complex and tragic character-- he's a man wracked by guilt over not taking the fight seriously the first time, whose insecurity over what might happen next dovetails with his knowledge that the sports press won't hesitate to push a "Great White Hope" narrative more fiercely this time around. Creed was explicitly based on Muhammad Ali (when Ali watched the film in 1979, he gleefully knew this), and it's to Stallone's credit as a writer that he crafts an opponent whose depths and pains are arguably more resonant than the title character's. When Creed tells his wife he has to fight Rocky again because, in the first fight, "I won, but I didn't BEAT him," it carries with it an unspoken American history of race, sports, hype, and the sometimes toxic relationship between all three.  The series would never again go this deep or textured on sports and race (at least not until Creed, which I still have not seen), but I am grateful that, amidst the big, baggy spaces of Rocky II, there is made plenty of room for it.

As an added bonus, 67-year-old Carl Weathers spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about his memories of being the original Creed.


One of the most pointless exercises regularly undertaken by film media – second only to the tedious annual nine month long foot race towards the Oscars – is that of speculation about box office performance. Phil Hoad in the Guardian suggests that we might be near the end of that road. Widescreen hopes so.

David Poland, one of the first online box-office specialists, dates the shift slightly earlier, and says the studios had a direct hand in creating what he describes as a “clusterfuck”. In May 2006, wanting to get publicity for their films on the influential news aggregation site Drudge Report, Sony fed early numbers for The Da Vinci Code to the iconoclastic showbiz reporter Nikki Finke. She made box-office curtain-twitching one of the selling points of her new Deadline Hollywood blog. The Drudge Report, to which Finke had links, brought the stories to a wider audience. This, reckons Poland, was the moment when box office data crossed over from the province of industry insiders to internet parlour gossip. “Now people cover it without much awareness of what it is, or how it works,” Poland says.


One of the great pleasures in modern film writing is the way history is being rediscovered, like this wonderful (and wonderfully illustrated) excerpt from Mollie Gregory’s book Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story (in the New Republic) about Hollywood’s silent era movie trailblazers:

Actress Helen Holmes wanted to race cars competitively, but that career wasn’t open to women. So she took her motoring skills to movie star Mabel Normand and comedy producer Mack Sennett at their Keystone Company in Edendale, California, near Hollywood. There, she was welcomed with open arms. The filmmaking mayhem at Keystone was good training for Helen’s later stunts, including driving her car at top speed off a dock at San Pedro harbor and making a thirty-foot jump onto a barge for an episode of The Railroad Raiders. Fearless, she succeeded on the fourth try, and the press hailed the stunt as a “hair-raising ride.” Helen’s driving skills would become part of all her serials.


[*May not be the actual best. We haven't read the entire internet.]

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