In a little more than 48 hours, an actor, probably last year’s Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette, will announce the victor of the Best Supporting Actor category at the Academy Awards. Then, ever-so-slowly, Sylvester Stallone will rise from his seat, kiss his wife, embrace a few people who sadly won’t be Carl Weathers, amble to the stage, give Arquette a kiss, grab his Oscar, stare into its golden eyes, furtively making sure it isn’t taller than him, and then bask in the standing ovation that has spontaneously developed, culminating with Sly flashing his patented raised first pump, sending the crowd into even louder roars and Stallone mumbling to his golden award, "I’ve been waiting a long time for you."
It’ll be great theater and, given that we’re probably in for an environmental lecture during Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor speech, perhaps the most enjoyable part of the night. People love when veterans such as Stallone get their comeback Oscar, which will be for his seventh turn as Rocky Balboa, this time in the series reboot Creed. Who won’t be happy for Sly, except for the four poor souls he beat, who have to sit through the rest of the show knowing they lost the most prestigious award in film to the star of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. (Also, did you realize that if Kurt Russell had been nominated forThe Hateful Eight this year, as some predicted, this category would have included both Tango and Cash?)
I’ll be thrilled if it happens. I love Stallone. I once bought Over The Top on DVD, and not from one of those $4.99 Best Buy bargain bins, but for like a legit $10.99. And I did so only slightly ironically. It was fun seeing him pass the torch in Creed. So I’m going to be smiling if and when Stallone wins and not just to hear how many boxing metaphors he attempts to use in his acceptance speech.
But let’s sit down and have some real talk, y’all. Sylvester Stallone, best supporting actor? That’s like giving an Emmy to Screech. Prior winners of this award include Quinn, Sinatra, Lemmon, Matthau, Houseman, Burns, Robards, Gielgud, Nicholson, Caine, Connery, Washington, Pesci, Hackman, Williams, Freeman and Clooney. This year it’ll likely go to a guy whose Oscar sizzle reel will show him properly enunciating the name "Adonis." Shoot, if mumbling incoherently in front of video cameras is the threshold for victory, Ben Carson would win every GOP debate.
I’m not even sure Sly did any acting in the movie. He played a slightly frustrated, lonelier, more disenchanted version of himself, something that anyone can accomplish by going to dinner by yourself and then falling asleep after having eaten two sleeves of Thin Mints while on your couch watching Shark Tank reruns. It’s not hard to work up self-pity is all I’m saying.
Not that I’m getting worked up about the Academy Awards. They’re like the MVP voting in sports — we spend so much time discussing them and then forget about the winners about 48 hours after they’re announced. (Who won this category last year? It was J.K. Simmons from Whiplash, both a man and a movie you probably have never heard of — though anyone with a television will recognize Simmons, a great character actor and a pitchman for one of those insurance companies with incessant advertisements.)
(Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)
But at least the MVP voting can surprise. The Oscars rarely do. Prognosticators are pretty sure they have the winners of eight big awards on lock. (Stallone is getting around 90 percent odds in betting markets.) That makes Sunday’s show like a soccer game with a predetermined outcome. It’s slow enough as it is, but when you throw in the fact that you know what’s coming, it becomes mind-numbing and pointless.
DiCaprio is finally winning his Oscar this year, not because people necessarily think he was the best actor — he’s easily had five better performances in his career — but because of how much effort it took to film The Revenant. (Wait, you get an Oscar for persevering through a miserable, cold and exhausting experience? I saw a 10:40 p.m. showing of Entourage in a theater blasting the A/C too high. Give me an Oscar!)
For Leo, this is a "we’re sorry we didn’t give it to you for The Aviator or Wolf of Wall Street" award. For Sly it’s a — well, let’s let a longtime Academy member (and a quite cantankerous one at that) explain why Stallone got his vote (via The Hollywood Reporter):
You’ll notice the absence of any word referring to acting in the description about why this person will vote Stallone for an acting award. It’d have been like giving the Super Bowl MVP to Peyton Manning and backing it up by saying "well, he just deserved one last award before retiring."
(Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images)
He didn’t. Stallone doesn’t. The slowest parts of Creed are the parts with Rocky. Even the love story, which sometimes feels tacked on in a movie like this, was better than the Sly scenes, thanks to a strongly written role and a great performance from Tessa Thompson. When Creed gets on heavy rotation on TBS or FX, I’ll watch the fight scenes and flip the channel when all the other stuff is happening (like we all do with all the Rocky movies, except IV because IV is all boxing, montages and scenes that solely exist because Brigitte Nielsen begged Sly for more screen time). Stallone’s performance just isn’t captivating.
Creed was good, but a tad overrated at the same time. If you thought the new Star Wars was too much like the original Star Wars, you’re going to think Creed is virtually shot-for-shot remake of Rocky. (Spoiler alert: Michael B. Jordan becomes disenchanted with boxing and almost quits!) But what the film has going for it is a "cool" factor thanks to writer/director Ryan Coogler.
It was Coogler’s involvement that was Stallone’s real accomplishment on this film. Putting his ego aside, Stallone allowed a talented, young auteur to take over his baby. Stallone had written all six previous Rocky films and directed four. With Creed, he handed everything over to Coogler, who wrote the story, co-wrote the screenplay and directed the film. When Stallone wins, it’ll be because he had the good sense to get out of his own way.
So if not Sly, who? Anyone. Literally anyone else. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Tom Hardy (Mad Max), Ice Cube’s son, Ice Cube, an actual ice cube — who or whatever. If you want to give Comeback awards or awards for years of great work, then give them. Hollywood loves patting itself on the back. You think they’d honestly care if the Oscars went from four interminable hours to five?
(Barry King/Getty Images)
Again, we don’t want to make it seem like we’re bashing Stallone. He’s Rambo! He’s Lincoln Hawk! But the point is you don’t give Kobe the MVP this year because he’s old and was good once.
Then again, when it comes to on-screen boxing performances in 2015, at least Stallone was better than Mayweather-Pacquiao.