Monday, August 3, 2015
WELCOME TO THE SYLVESTER SEMESTER!
Back in March, I devoted nearly an entire month to the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the greatest action hero of all time and one of my all-time favorite movie stars. During that time, another name occasionally came up. That person was Arnold’s most popular rival, his former business partner, and occasional latter day co-star: Sylvester Stallone. If Arnold was king of eighties blockbusters, then Sly was the prince or something. Should someone carve a Mount Rushmore devoted to action cinema, Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s face would be side by side.
To be totally honest, I’ve never been as big of a fan of Stallone as I am of Arnold. During the nineties of my childhood, Arnold was still an immediately recognizable pop icon. Stallone, on the other hand, was washed up. Each one of his new movies would become either jokes or bombs. I remember seeing the poster for “Get Carter” in the window of my local video rental place and wondering why such a critical punchline was given such a prominent place of honor. By the end of the decade, he would be appearing in direct-to-video films. It wasn’t until the new millennia, when Sly would revisit his most famous characters for successful revivals, that any of the star’s box office clout would be restored. These days, Sly is still kind of a joke but he’s aware of that status, communicates with it, and seems determined to keep working well into his old age.
There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, Stallone has had a much longer career then Arnold. Sly has been a star since the mid-seventies. His days of eighties action stardom was actually the second or third stage of his career. When his nineties low years happened, it was the natural side-effect of being on-screen for three decades. Secondly, Stallone wasn’t just an action hero, once upon a time. The original “Rocky” was a low-key character drama, after all. There was even a time when he wasn’t a ‘roid-infused mountain of muscle on-screen. He looks like a totally normal human being in his early movies! After becoming a cinematic murder machine, he hasn’t returned often to his dramatic roots. His stabs at comedy have been even more awkward then Arnold’s. Stallone seems content to focus on his action movie stardom these days, if the upcoming new entry in the “Rocky” series is any indication.
It’s also important to remember Stallone is an honest-to-god auteur. He has written, directed, and starred in several of his own films. “Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Sylvester Stallone” is not something that appears in the trailers often but it’s still a fact. Rocky and Cobra, just to name two, leaped directly from his own mind. Even characters he didn’t technically create, like Rambo or Tango, have a tendency to become Sly’s possessions. He’s all too often characterized as a mumbling, slurring meat head but Stallone is obviously a smart, creative, incredibly driven person. That his movies frequently reflect his own career seems to support this.
So welcome to THE SYLVESTER SEMESTER! I’ll be taking a different approach to Sly’s oeuvre then I did Arnold’s. I won’t be discussing either the “Rocky” or “Rambo” series during the next seventeen days. I intend to get to these iconic series eventually, I promise you. However, during this project, I want to focus on the one-offs and weird digressions. Reviewing the two R series would lead to them dominating the semester. Instead, I’ll be tracing all the stages of Stallone – the early days of success, the eighties super stardom, the embarrassing nineties, and the eventual comeback – through his other works.
As I did with my James Bond Series Report Card and Schwarzenegger Sweeps, I must acknowledge my friends at AllOuttaBubbleGum. None of this would be happening without them, as the site has hastened my love and interest in action cinema. As with the previously mentioned projects, the website also has a checklist devoted to the cinema of Sylvester Stallone. Called “The Stallownage of Sly,” the list is far quirkier and represents Stallone’s more eccentric career. Each review will be followed by the check list, each corresponding item checked off. The list is as follows:
[THE STALLOWNAGE OF SLY]
 Frank Stallone or Frank Stallone-esque Inspirational Music
 Incapacitates or Kills Someone With His Body
 Shows Off Buffness
 Social Outcast [Underdog, Has Been, etc]
 Sweaty, Veiny Yelling
Let’s journey into the eighties and beyond as we explore the career of action cinema’s meanest mumbler. This isn’t your worst nightmare, this is Film Thoughts. Boredom is the disease and watching a bunch of Sylvester Stallone movies is the cure.