Oscar Watch: Creed

For younger moviegoers, the thought of Rocky Balboa and Oscar buzz being in the same sentence may seem somewhat comical. Not so. The original Rocky was released nearly forty years ago in 1976 and it punched out some serious competition to win Best Picture. And when I say serious competition, I’m talking about Taxi Driver, Network, and All the President’s Men. Sylvester Stallone earned himself a Best Actor nod, though lost to Network‘s Peter Finch.

As we all know, a number of sequels followed that varied in quality. Stallone did not direct the original as John G. Avildsen was behind the camera (he would win the Director Academy Award for his efforts). Avildsen returned to direct 1990’s Rocky V, which is justifiably and ironically considered the worst of the follow-ups. Yet Stallone would direct the four other sequels (parts II, III, IV, and 2006’s Rocky Balboa).

Stallone has relinquished his directorial duties for next week’s Creed, turning the camera over to Ryan Coogler, who made 2013’s critically lauded Fruitvale Station. The pic focuses on the boxing career of the late Apollo Creed’s son and he’s played by Michael B. Jordan, who starred in Station. Stallone is back for the seventh time as Philadelphia’s favorite fighter and his role here finds him more in the Mickey role as Creed’s trainer.

It may have taken nearly four (or in Rocky speak – IV) decades, but it seems like legitimate Oscar buzz for the franchise is back. The initial reviews were released today and it currently stands at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Entertainment Weekly calling it easily the best of the series since the original.

Creed has been praised for Jordan’s lead performance, though it seems unlikely he would find himself in the mix for Best Actor. Additionally, even with the strong notices, I don’t foresee it being recognized for Picture or Director. So where could voters decide to recognize it?

Back to Stallone. The Academy loves a good story and how about one in which an iconic actor is nominated in Supporting Actor for his most famed role 40 years after he was nominated in lead Actor for that same part? Sounds like a heckuva story to me!

When my third round of Oscar predictions comes later this month, don’t be surprised to find Sly in the mix for Supporting Actor whereas I hadn’t even listed him as a possibility before. Today’s tale of the tape on Creed makes it clear: Stallone could be a contender.

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