Posts Tagged ‘Raging Bull’ Five times the Oscars got ‘Best Picture’ wrong: critics

“Two film critics say past “Best Picture” Oscar winners like “Crash” and “American Beauty” might not have been the most deserving movies to win “Best Picture” at Hollywood’s most prestigious awards show.

“Crouse said “Raging Bull” was overshadowed by “Ordinary People” starring Donald Sutherland, which Crouse called “timely at the time but it’s not part of the conversation in the same way ‘Raging Bull’ is [today]…” Read the whole thing HERE!

GRUDGE MATCH: 2 ½ STARS. “Rocky or Raging Bull, who’ll win in the ring?”

GrudgeMatch-Poster-PhotosSchoolyard game: In a fight between Dracula and Frankenstein, who would win?

Both have advantages. Dracula is a shape shifter and Frank has brute strength.

I think of this game and the raging debates it inspired between me and my eight-year-old friends because a new movie asks a similar question: Rocky or Raging Bull, who would prevail in a boxing match?

Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) are two retired Pittsburgh boxers with a history and a grudge. Thirty years ago they were at the top of their game, both with undefeated records, save for their fights against one another.

The grudge stems from Razor pulling the plug on their third fight, a championship bout that would have made them both superstars. Razor left the ring permanently, working in a steel mill. Kid, the more flamboyant of the pair, became a businessman, opening a car dealership and performing stand up comedy at his own restaurant, The Knocked Out Dinner and Theatre Club.

When the chance to finally step back into the ring, settle their grudge match and make “Kardashian sex tape” kind of money, it opens up thirty-year old wounds.

“Grudge Match” is a new story but with lots of elements that remind us of other movies. Rocky and Jake LaMotta… er, I mean, Razor and The Kid aren’t so much characters so much as they are brands, borrowed from better known movies to headline an old guy empowerment flick.

For every “If one of you gets knocked down, have you fallen and can’t get up?” gag, there is a scene of Stallone, age 67 or De Niro, age 70, punching someone or seducing a much younger woman.

The ghosts of movies past make appearances throughout. There’s a twist on the Rocky “beats the meat” scene in the original, and De Niro is essentially playing a cheerier version of La Motta.

But despite the echoes of classic movies that reverberate throughout, and obvious lines that make critics like me want to write snarky things—like Kevin Hart asking Stallone, “You know what this is?” and Sly replying, “A bad movie?” or a trainer played by L.L. Cool J telling De Niro, “A great performer knows when to get off the stage.”—“Grudge Match” grew on me.

The first hour feels stilted. Director Peter “Get Smart” Segal spends a bit too much time introducing old lovers (Kim Basinger) and illegitimate kids (former “Walking Dead” star Jon Bernthal) but once the exposition has been disposed of and the emotional foundation has been lain, “Grudge Match” becomes something akin to watching old friends on screen. The mushy stuff doesn’t work so well, but as the movie goes on you’ll find yourself rooting for the old guys to do some damage in the ring.

And they do. The big showdown, the Grudgement Day match is a pretty good fight scene (despite being presented by Geritol), except for the cheeseball montage of the fighter’s loved ones grimacing in the crowd, and despite a sentimental ending, closes the movie with a knockout (and NO that’s not a spoiler, just a turn of phrase).

I think “Grudge Match” will likely appeal to an older audience who can really get behind the idea of two old timers stepping up and reliving past glories. It’s occasionally funny—grandson Trey (Camden Gray) is a scene-stealer—and touching by times, just don’t go expecting any big surprises.

Lights, camera, upper cut James Earl Jones played Jack Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight champion in The Great White Hope. In Focus by Richard Crouse IN FOCUS May 08, 2009

Great_White_Hope_TheI’m not a boxing fan but I once paid $25 to watch a pay-per-view Mike Tyson fight. It was the mid 1980s and Iron Mike was one of the most famous and controversial men on the planet; a beast who won 26 of his first 28 matches by knockout — 16 in the first round.

Wondering what all the fuss was about I paid my cover charge and watched as the undisputed champ strut into the ring, sized up his opponent and laid him out, unconscious on the floor in less than thirty seconds.

I know $25 for less than a minute of entertainment may sound pricey, but it was a riveting thirty seconds and even now, more than twenty years later, I can remember the look of devastating determination on his face as he massacred his challenger.

It’s an expression that runs across his (now tattooed) face several times in the fascinating new documentary Tyson. The film is a raw, revealing look at this troubled but fascinating man.

“It’s like a Greek tragedy,” he says of the movie, “only I’m the subject.”

Tyson is just the latest boxer to get the big screen treatment. Audiences can’t seem to get enough of stories about the “sweet science” and the individual struggles of these modern day gladiators.

Everybody knows Rocky, Cinderella Man and Raging Bull but digging a little deeper reveals splendid movies that aren’t as well known.

Somebody Up There Likes Me stars Paul Newman (stepping in for James Dean who died just before filming began) as real life middleweight champion of the world Rocky Graziano. The fighter is portrayed as a tough kid from New York’s “lower East Side where both sides of the tracks were wrong” whose violent and callous ways are changed by the redemptive power of the love of a good woman.

It sounds a like a mushy love story — and in fact, inspired Sylvester Stallone when he was writing the Adrian storyline in Rocky — but the fight scenes are brutal and authentic.

Also worth a rental is The Great White Hope based on Jack Johnson, (played by Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones) the first African-American world heavyweight champ, who ruled the ring from 1908 to 1915. Good fight scenes bolster this powerful look at the racial hostility that plagued Johnson’s career and it’s likely the only boxing movie written in the poetic style of free verse.

There are plenty of others; top of my list are Requiem for A Heavyweight and The Harder They Fall. Both are excellent, and both provide way more than thirty seconds of entertainment for your money.