Icons: Sylvester Stallone
Some people will say Hollywood has changed and it has. Social media is a huge part of that. The silver and golden age of Hollywood existed because they were an elite group of beautiful, rich extravagance, like American royalty that you only saw on the big screen when they released their films or attended the Oscars and you got a glimpse into the real them. Now you can log onto any social media platform or google and get everything from what they had for breakfast to what "scrubs" they wore to go out grocery shopping. Much of that magic is gone now from modern day Hollywood. The benefit to this is that I think we've transitioned to a place of wide-eyed worshipping to being impressed by solid acting talent. You could say it made actors like Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz and even Dwayne Johnson so important to us. Raw talent. And the blockbuster films rely on spectacle because we don't care so much about the person behind the spectacle. It's the reason that massive actors try other films and the films bomb. The perfect example could be seen this weekend with a release of yet another iteration of "Robin Hood." It stars two actors who have been part of several "spectacles." Robin Hood will come out losing money because it doesn't have the spectacle and we're not enamoured with Jamie Fox or Taron Egerton because we practically know them.
So I will put forth a bold statement that the last golden era of Hollywood heroes we had was the 1980's and early 1990's. No one did spectacle like the 1980's action films. Budgets suddenly ballooned 30, 40, 50 million dollars (a paltry sum nowadays but for the time was massive.) . The 1980's was a decade of greed in a sense, a materialistic joy ride of a booming economy and we wanted gratuitous everything. We had broken free of the restraints of "the man" from the 1960's and crawled out of the dark "exploitation" periods of the 1970's and now we were free to be us! Sex, drugs, rock and roll, explosions, machismo, and success and we wanted to watch it all.
Me? I was just a kid. A "sweet" (yes I used quotation marks) 10-15 year old kid, impressionable, looking for heroes and guidance and someone to teach me how to be a man. I moved to a small town with very little to do and I didn't have many friends, if any if we're being honest and one fine day (I don't remember it so this is added for dramatic twist) , I discovered our tiny little town had not one, not two, but THREE video stores!! It was the 80's for crying out loud!! Video stores would NEVER DIE!!! I don't have great long term memory but I could describe for you every inch of those video stores. Rows and rows of book ended VHS of movies I had never seen. I began renting movies by the 5's and 6's and bingeing them at home in my room all hours of the day and night. If I liked it or loved it, it went right back in when I was done the 5 or 6. Then I'd trudge off to return them and get more.
One of those movie stores was called Hyphax Video which was a chain. The owner was so friendly and we would talk endlessly about movies when I went in. She passed away a few years ago and I had some moments of mourning because she meant so much to youth and to my pop culture upbringing which has made me who I am today. She also broke some heavy rules. She would sneak in some PG-13 and eventually R-Rated flicks so it opened a new doorway to hundreds of thousands of movies. She even caught the wrath of my Mom who wrote a stern letter telling her not to rent those to me anymore! I get it. I'd be the same way with my daughter now. I'm horrified thinking of her watching some of that content. However, at some point it introduced me to a few men in particular who became icons and idols to me. I don't remember the exact day or how or when or who recommended it but at some point I know I was searching for entire film franchises to binge (yes that's right I created binge watching.) . The Rocky franchise had a tidy little 5 entries at the time and that fit right into the 5 for ... however much it was deal.
Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone changed my life. People laugh, people make fun of my Stallone obsession and I get it, it is amusing. He's not technically known as the Rock Hudson of his day. Sylvester Stallone was an underdog. He created two of the most underdog heroes in cinematic history and he was a true underdog. He wasn't classically handsome with his misshapen mouth (caused by forceps during birth) and he wrote, starred and directed most of the entire Rocky Franchise. I would hazard to guess the Rocky franchise incurred some late fees. I think I sat in my room and watched the first one 100 times. Rocky is sweet, defeated, not the brightest, modest, loving and tough as all living hell. The champion of the world, the flamboyant and over the top Apollo Creed wails on this kid until he withstands every round and wins over Creed's respect but not the match. If I could take one film with me to eternity it would be Rocky.
So imagine my sheer ecstatic energy when I found out he had other films including a whole other franchise with Rambo. If you are one of these people that don't get how Stallone is a star and says he "can't act" I defy you to watch this scene and tell me the same:
This film and this scene embodied Vietnam and what vets were met with when they came back. First Blood jump started an action franchise but was far more dramatic than people realize. It isn't until First Blood: Part 2 that it became balls the wall action. Once again Stallone created this misunderstood, washed up, ignored, lonely hero who tougher than anyone could handle. He takes on his bullies and his enemies with pure principle and style. Nighthawks, Cobra, Tango and Cash, Over The Top (Stallone is said to dislike this movie the most and it's one of my favorites. Brings me to tears every time,) Lock Up, Stop, or my Mom will shoot, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, The Specialist, Assassins, Daylight ... these films changed my life. These films raised me. The hero Stallone played was always an everyman. They were quite often modest, quiet, driven men with incredible talents in one speciality or another. This man raised me to understand that everyone was good at something and you fought for what you believed in especially when it was yourself. Okay, Stop or My Mom Will Shoot didn't teach me any of that, it's just $%#& hilarious.
I've never met Sylvester Stallone, it's a dream I have. And what I would tell is thank you. Thank you for taking and making these roles, thank you for being a good man in real life (he's known for being a loving, decent family man who adores his fans and his work.) .
Years later when I was getting healthy and losing weight, I hit a bit of a wall in my journey and I discovered someone was releasing a weight loss and health book and I nearly fell off my chair. Sylvester Stallone - Sly Moves is an incredible book about overcoming adversity and the lessons he learned about health and his body during the decades of his career.
I'm not an affiliate of this and make no money whatsoever, I just adore this book and it helped me overcome my barrier and lose the rest of my weight. His wife also writes a large portion of it for women too. He tells stories of what he did to get in shape for various roles right and wrong.
So two days ago I sat in the theatre, waiting for the lights to go down, waiting for Creed II to start. The Creed franchise defined reboot by taking a 40 year old franchise and making it fresh and new again. Stallone returns as that quiet, humble, lonely underdog who will still fight for what he believes in. When I see him on the big screen I am constantly lifted up and reminded that he taught me in a pop culture way important lessons of what it was to be a man and to stand up for myself and be whomever I wanted to be. He is my icon.