Demolition Man and Rocky: Comfort food

I watched Demolition Man last night. It is just what it should be, as far as I’m concerned. No more, no less. It’s very funny. Him high-fiving the cop who has no experience with human contact. Stallone saying, as he passes by, “Hey, how ya doin’ …” as everyone stares on horrified. It’s hysterical. Stupid, but hysterical. Satisfying, too, with Stallone as the sort of primitive yet truthful man in the middle of an army of sterile politically correct nitwits.

More Comfort Food:

First scene. Rocky in the corner of the ring – with the corner dude giving him bad advice – and the spectator coming up and asking Rocky when he thinks the fight’ll be over. The sleazy side of the sport. The way this first scene is filmed – the grit – the lack (or seeming lack) of editorial choice – meaning, the camera doesn’t seem to be saying to you: HERE is who this guy is and HERE is how you should feel about him … It has a more documentary feel to it … and Stallone is brilliant. He has no lines, of course, he’s just the boxer in the ring, getting the shit kicked out of him. But he is riveting.

Check out Rocky’s glasses. I just love love that detail – perfect character moment. Not explained … but totally logical. Of COURSE he would have glasses like that.

I love how Rocky is TRYING to complete his joke here – but Adrian is too shy to even look at him – so he is reduced to reaching out and poking her on the shoulder for her attention, like a little kid.

Forgive me, but this small scene in the locker room where Rocky learns that his locker has been given away to someone else – and his stuff has been hung up “on skid row” – is one of my favorite quiet little scenes in the movie. You want to watch an actor truly listening, truly thinking, and having things actually occurring to him … as opposed to acting like he’s thinking? Watch Stallone in this whole scene. The realization that he has been booted out of his locker is slow to come … and his response to it is slow at first, even hurt … but it’s all in the eyes, and all in how he listens. None of it is in the dialogue. Brilliant.

Okay, so here’s the scene where Mr. Gazzo, the loan shark, played by Joe Spinell (who also had a small part in Taxi Driver the same year as the dude who hires Travis Bickle) bitches out Rocky for not breaking the guy’s thumbs. Funny thing – Stallone and Spinell had been extras together on some movie back in New York and Stallone had kind of fell in love with him. Loved his whole THING – how funny he was, how “completely insane” (Stallone’s words), how he could be either dangerous or sweet – very unpredictable – also a great improviser, Stallone loved acting with him because he never knew what would come out of the guy’s mouth – so a couple years later when Stallone had this opportunity with Rocky, he called up Spinell and was like, “So … from one former extra to another … you wanna play Mr. Gazzo??” I love that. And I also love that Spinell gave Mr. Gazzo asthma. I have no idea why – it is not referenced in the script – but there he is – chuffing on the inhaler right before he bitches Rocky out – and I LOVE THAT DETAIL. I love the creativity of people, never fails to just fill me with delight. And he does it in a no big deal way. I know people with asthma, and they don’t make a “bit” out of the inhaler. They freakin’ take a puff when they need one. That’s how he does it. So maybe Spinnell himself had asthma, who knows … but it’s just a great moment. One of the many many reasons why I think actors can be such miraculous awesome creatures. I love to watch inventiveness like that.

The Italian Stallion – in the first scene in the grimy club. Nice shot. Not dwelt on, again, not made into a big deal, not like: OOOOOH, foreshadowing of what that name will mean!!! Nope … it just looks like Rocky’s clinging to some sort of identity, something that will separate him from the pack … and if it only can be the name … then it’ll be the name. He isn’t Rocky Balboa. He is The Italian Stallion. Later in the film it takes on a ring of destiny for him – as Apollo Creed starts to talk about him – THAT’S why he was picked – “It’s the name, man … the media’ll eat it up,” raves Apollo. But in the beginning … all we know is that this guy, this down and out guy, bloody, battered, unsmiling, has a robe with that name on it … and maybe in the beginning of the film it seems a little sad, that name, on that ratty robe, in that ratty place. It’s like the shred of a dream, or a fragment, the only thing left over from who he used to be, a scrap of a dreamt-of glory from years and years ago.

In the words of Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

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