Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1976, and won just two others, Best Director and Best Film Editing. All the President’s Men and Network both won four. I don’t think (though will check later) that any other Best Picture winner was beaten by two other films in the total number of statuettes it brought home.

All the President’s Men, Network, Bound for Glory and Taxi Driver were also nominated for Best Picture. I have only seen the first of these. I have seen eleven other films released in 1976, which is (so far) a record for me: Carrie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Eagle Has Landed, Bugsy Malone, Silver Streak, At the Earth’s Core, The Shaggy D.A., Treasure of Matecumbe and Don’s Party. The last of these is way down the IMDB ratings, which I think is a real shame; it’s a wee jewel of a film, adapted from a play about a group of friends watching the Australian election results coming in on election night in 1969. One of the leads is played by Ray Barrett, who voiced John Tracy in Thunderbirds and was also Bennett/Koquillion in the Doctor Who story we now call The Rescue (he is credited under a false name in the first episode to avoid revealing that the two characters are in fact the same; sorry if that is a spoiler for a Doctor Who story from 55 years ago). Hugo voters, given the choice of Carrie, Logan’s Run, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Futureworld, incomprehensibly voted for No Award, and there was no Nebula for that year. Anyway back to RockyTaxi Driver on both IMDB ratings (here and here) but ahead of the rest; and, with some reluctance, I think I’d rate Rocky as the best of those that I have seen. Here’s a trailer.

Incidentally, the stall owner who throws Rocky an orange at the beginning of the trailer apparently had no idea that a movie was being filmed and that he would be in it.

Rocky is the story of a part-time boxer and occasional hoodlum who gets the unexpected break of fighting the world heavyweight champion in his home town of Philadelphia, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone; rather like the main character, this provided his . (I think this is the first Oscar-winning film we’ve had in Philadelphia, which is incidentally where my grandmother was born. Compare 14 Oscar winners out of 49, so far, set in and around New York, only 160 km away.) There are a vast number of legends about the film, including the story of the orange mentioned above. Other glorious legends include that the poster showing Rocky wearing the wrong shorts, and his robe being too big, were actual mistakes made by the props department that the film then lampshaded; and that the reason he and Adrian have a solo date at the ice rink is that the 300 extras who had been booked failed to show up, so they had to improvise on the spot. I found it a charming character-driven film, but I still don’t like boxing much, so I’m putting it just about halfway down my table, ahead of Marty (which is quite similar in a lot of ways) but behind Laurence of Arabia.

There are a few returnees from previous Oscar-winning films, most notably Talia Shire, who was in both The Godfather and The Godfather II, films made by her real-life brother, playing the on-screen sister of Al Pacino and the daughter of Marlon Brando and Robert de Niro (surely a marriage made in heaven). Here she is Rocky’s girlfriend Adrian, who becomes sexy when she takes her glasses off. (Try it, girls. Or not, as you please.)

The two others I spotted don’t really merit pictures. Bill Baldwin is the fight announcer on the left during the big fight, and is the unseen TV movie announcer in The Apartment. Al Silvani (credited here as Al Salvani) is the cut man who tends (if that is the word) to Rocky during the big fight, and was an extra in From Here to Eternity.

So, to go through my usual list. Rocky is a film about a white man, and there are three named women characters, two of whom are in only one scene each, and the other is played by Talia Shire. (In her first scene she and her boss, both women, talk to Rocky, which I don’t think passes Bechdel Two.) Talia Shire is a versatile actor and does a lot with not much here.

On race, it’s a different matter: the whole setup of the film is for the culminating fight between Rocky and the champion Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers (currently to be seen in The Mandalorian). Creed is supported by a vibrant black community in and outside Philadelphia, with Joe Frazier turning up as himself at the start of the fight. Creed literally wraps himself in the American flag as he makes his entrance.

The music is good, but not obtrusive, and the theme song ridiculously catchy. And I think the cinematography is really very effective, telling a simple story simply and effectively.

Plus I have to salute Stallone’s acting. This project mattered a great deal to him, but he manages to free Rocky of the burdens of producing and writing the film and portray a not very bright guy who is put in a situation where he has to rise to new challenges, and succeeds in meeting his own expectations, while undergoing heavy physical abuse. I thought the ending of the film was well delivered.

IMDB says that the two pet turtles Cuff and Link actually belonged to Stallone (as did the dog) and were still alive and well as recently as last year. That made me smile.

Well, next year is the year of Annie Hall.

1920s: Wings (1927-28) | The Broadway Melody (1928-29)
1930s: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) | Cimarron (1930-31) | Grand Hotel (1931-32) | Cavalcade (1932-33) | It Happened One Night (1934) | Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and books) | The Great Ziegfeld (1936) | The Life of Emile Zola (1937) | You Can’t Take It with You (1938) | Gone with the Wind (1939, and book)
1940s: Rebecca (1940) | How Green Was My Valley (1941) | Mrs. Miniver (1942) | Casablanca (1943) | Going My Way (1944) | The Lost Weekend (1945) | The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) | Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) | Hamlet (1948) | All the King’s Men (1949)
1950s: All About Eve (1950) | An American in Paris (1951) | The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) | From Here to Eternity (1953) | On The Waterfront (1954, and book) | Marty (1955) | Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) | The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) | Gigi (1958) | Ben-Hur (1959)
1960s: The Apartment (1960) | West Side Story (1961) | Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | Tom Jones (1963) | My Fair Lady (1964) | The Sound of Music (1965) | A Man for All Seasons (1966) | In the Heat of the Night (1967) | Oliver! (1968) | Midnight Cowboy (1969)
1970s: Patton (1970) | The French Connection (1971) | The Godfather (1972) | The Sting (1973) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) | Rocky (1976) | Annie Hall (1977) | The Deer Hunter (1978) | Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
1980s: Ordinary People (1980) | Chariots of Fire (1981) | Gandhi (1982) | Terms of Endearment (1983) | Amadeus (1984) | Out of Africa (1985) | Platoon (1986) | The Last Emperor (1987) | Rain Man (1988) | Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
1990s: Dances With Wolves (1990) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Unforgiven (1992) | Schindler’s List (1993) | Forrest Gump (1994) | Braveheart (1995) | The English Patient (1996) | Titanic (1997) | Shakespeare in Love (1998) | American Beauty (1999)
21st century: Gladiator (2000) | A Beautiful Mind (2001) | Chicago (2002) | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) | Million Dollar Baby (2004, and book) | Crash (2005) | The Departed (2006) | No Country for Old Men (2007) | Slumdog Millionaire (2008) | The Hurt Locker (2009)

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