The meal was vegan lasagna and garlic bread with a small green salad. Oddly, that wasn’t planned (the whole Italian-American, Italian food, thing).


Eric Says:

ROCKY 1976

I love the Rocky movies. I LOVE them. And I love the first one best of all. I think that people often write off this film because it’s a sports film, and it’s a sports film about boxing. It’s very easy hate boxing, especially if you are an art loving liberal, or an academic. I remember once, years ago in my former life as a college instructor…I was at a conference in Washington DC and after the day’s events we went to the bar. The TV above the bar was showing the fights. I got excited and got a seat at the bar and started watching. All of the people from the conference were confused. “You like that stuff?” These were the same people who were, merely hours before, pontificating on the working class, and looking at literature through that lens, and here they were freaked out because boxing was on the TV…and that I actually liked it.

At any rate, this film is AMAZING and it’s totally worth watching. (Full disclosure, this is probably in my top 5 films of all time. Take that for what it’s worth.) Rocky is basically an art house film masquerading as a sports movie. The imagery that exists in this film is WONDERFUL. The opening shot (during the fight between Spider Rico and Rocky) contains one of my favorite moments on film. The slow pan down from the mural of Christ’s face, past the banner that reads “Resurrection A.D.” to the boxing ring is utterly beautiful. Likewise, the shots of Philadelphia in the mid-1970s are wonderful. It’s so grey, bleak, and filthy. There is no glamour. From the waterfront where Rocky works as a collector for a loan shark (which Mick says isn’t a living, but rather “a WASTE of life”), to his apartment which is a broken down place that, in his own words “STINKS,” the visuals in this are stunningly wonderful.

I also love that it doesn’t have a so-called “Hollywood ending”…like the other films in the franchise tend to have. In this film, Rocky loses the fight. He loses. He gets beaten. Apollo Creed wins the boxing match. That fact alone is enough to make me love this movie. Sure, Rocky “goes the distance” and doesn’t get knocked out, but in the end, he loses the fight. It’s an amazing thing.

This film is an excellent for other reasons as well. There is a lot of heart break going on all over. The description of Adrian and Rocky’s relationship as “gaps” is wonderful. “She’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.” Heartbreaking and beautiful. Likewise, the night before the fight when Rocky goes to the arena and sees that the “poster is wrong” because it shows Rocky with red trucks, rather than white never fails to break my heart. “The poster’s wrong” … Mr. Jergens, the fight promoter replies “It doesn’t really matter, does it?” UGH. Heartbreak. EVERY TIME. I love it so much I can’t stand it.

So yes. Watch this film. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful.


The moment in the film where Bethany blushes

Darcy says:

As our story opens in the words of Marlon Brando, “Never confuse the size of your paycheck with the size of your talent.” We meet Terry, I mean Rocky, thugging for the mob, something we all imagine being good at because we are just soooo angry all the time. “If you want something from an audience, you give blood to their fantasies. It’s the ultimate hustle.” If Rocky gave Terry’s famous On the Waterfront speech who would he be talking to?

“It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money. … You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.”

Until comparing the two films it hadn’t occurred to me that Rocky has no Charlie character. No one seems responsible for his downtrodden condition. The film looks at Rocky’s life without the sense that he is a victim of greater social forces. In an era when incompetence is a defense against charges amounting to treason the attitude of Rocky seems to have become the new America. And the one time fate steps in taking the form of a black man who is a boxing god you see the only hope a person has. Some supernatural force has to drop in because nobody down in Palukaville, I mean Philadelphia, can act to change the situation.

It makes good narrative sense to have Rocky challenged and see him rising to the challenge, but we have no idea what motivates the other people around him. So many seem to want their shot, their chance, as if waiting around for someone else to rescue us is natural to humans. “Nature,” said Katharine Hepburn to Humphrey Bogart in African Queen, “is what we are put on this earth to rise above.”

American movies have a habit of treating Americans as so much scenery for the hero to chew. They have taught us to wait among the townspeople for a Lone Ranger to sweep us into glory which we will then turn into crap needing rescued in the next movie. The idea that Terry is rescued by the townspeople acting together for their own best interest makes On the Waterfront somehow un-American for Hollywood. Rocky, on the other hand, is a virtually empty city.

Paulie is portrayed as someone weak wanting rescued but, how is he different from Rocky who only did something self-affirming after divine intervention? From 1954, “Edie: Isn’t everybody a part of everybody else? Terry: Boy, what a fruitcake you are!” Not every movie needs to be concerned with larger social issues but the success of Rocky in framing an American story has tapped into something we should be worried about.

It bothers me when people speak of institutions doing or saying something. When the White House speaks I want to be there and see it breathing and the front door moving to frame words. People speak. Individuals are responsible for every word that comes out of the mouth of Exxon. If we don’t own our actions we are pushed around by others. That delicate balance is missing from Rocky, but it was central to On the Waterfront, do we accept the change?

That said, I did enjoy some witty repartee from a character who really is smarter than he seems,

Adrian: Why do you wanna fight?

Rocky Balboa: ‘Cause I can’t sing or dance.

Adrian: I’ll be here waiting for you.

Rocky Balboa: How ’bout I stay here and you fight?

Rocky Balboa: I should’ve broke your thumb!





The Sting

The lunch was vegan 3 bean and soyrizo chili & tortilla chips. The Movie was The Sting from 1973.


Darcy says:

Unsung Heroes – The Sting

Best Picture 1973

Oh those loveable rogues! Not since Elliot Ness rounded up Al Capone – hey, wait a minute – how come there was only one Italian American character in the Sting? Are we to believe Chicago was run by the Irish? I thought the Irish were the crooked cops. Is this non-PC enough yet? The Sting beat out Viskningar och rop by Ingmar Bergman to take top honors. I am outraged on behalf of the Muppet Chef who might have said, “inge furdi gurti vishni singe hurde Svedish meatbole,” which means, “There’s something rotten in Denmark.” American Graffiti was in the running but it decided to spawn Happy Days instead.

The minute you walked in the joint,

I could see you were a man of distinction,

A real big spender,

Good looking, so refined.

Say, wouldn’t you like to know

What’s going on in my mind?

Cy Coleman / Dorothy Fields

Newman and Redford were the cat’s pajamas in 73 and Eileen Brennan was channeling the sultry Tallulah Bankhead to make a period piece that was nothing like the period, but who cares – it was fun and we all sported large lapels and Fedoras for a few months after the Sting was released.

Dimitra Arliss, of Greek parentage, played the only person with an Italian last name and her dark character was notably threatening in such a lighthearted film, but a waitress’s lot is not a happy one..

On The Good Ship Lollipop.

It’s a sweet trip to a candy shop

Where bon-bons play

On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.

Richard  A. Whiting, Sidney Clare

The least they could have done was have Shirley Temple singing on the radio as the contract killer prepared to shoot Robert Redford.

Overall it was nice to see it once again and a bit of fun still best pictah? Go figure. Out of 10 maybe 6.


Eric says:

I love a con movie. I’ve been fairly obsessed with con-artists for years. Going into this movie, I didn’t realize that it was about a con. With the name, I thought it was a cop drama or something. It was slightly confusing to think about it being set in the Depression, but I was willing to go along with it. As soon as I realized what the scope of the film was I got much more excited about watching it!

Redford as the young, handsome upstart grifter, and Newman as the old, washed up, handsome former grifter works really well.

The overarching conceit of the film, of having to essentially avenge the death of the older grifter that Redford’s character was a partner to, works pretty well, too. There are some interesting moments that call into question the value of revenge, and if it’s good for anything. The story seemed to hinge more on the idea that the mob boss responsible for Redford’s former partner’s death had some kind of punishment coming, and the grifters who pulled this scam on him were the only ones who could have. The idea of “living well as the best revenge” kept playing through my head, and I suppose that grifting a killer is living well, if you’re a grifter. They continued to live their best lives and make a score more to remember their friend, punish his killer and teach him a lesson, as opposed to doing so to get rich. When put into context of the Great Depression, that was a pretty interesting way to frame it.

Sound in this movie is really interesting. From the song (played over and over again in different ways), to the opening scene and the footsteps that seem to echo and draw the viewer in, to the sound of water when we meet Henry (Paul Newman).

The costumes were pretty great. Menswear in the 1930s done well. Fullard ties and patterned shirts – always looks legit. Indeed it inspired some sartorial choices of my own for the following week.

There were some really striking shots (especially dealing with the use of reflections) that made this a pretty fantastic thing to watch. It wasn’t overly artsy, but there was enough good film making to count, if that makes sense.

This movie felt quickly paced but not rushed. It didn’t seem just over 2 hours. I was entertained and enjoyed myself. A bit of film-making seemed to creep into this as well.

Watching this movie resulted in a rather interesting and hard to describe discussion about the passage of time and of perception that I won’t attempt to get into here for all of our sakes. That said, this film succeeded on many levels, including that often difficult to describe level of making you have a great conversation afterward.

Was this film a 10? No, but it was good. Really good, actually. I’d probably watch this again and be very happy about it. Rating: 8.5

Wings – 1927


The movie was Wings. Dinner was vegan chili and cornbread.


Composition of many ground shots blew me away – reminiscent of Millet and Barbizon School.  Air flight screens of planes in flames ballet like – oddly serene. Can’t imagine what this must have been like for audiences of the times. Too many bubbles, not enough Gary Cooper – well it was very early but indicates why he became such an icon.  This deserves to have been the first Oscar winning movie.  Highly recommend.  I’d give it a 9 or 10 if only for the historic place it holds in American film, but really for so much else.  This is a must see.





Wings (1927) – the FIRST winner of the Best Picture Academy Award

Things I liked:

Loosely based on a midsummer night’s dream

Clara Bow as Mary (meow!) also it is awesome that she helps dummy head Jack work on his car. According to Wikipedia it was rewritten to accommodate Clara Bow, as she was Paramount’s biggest star, but wasn’t happy about her part: “Wings is…a man’s picture and I’m just the whipped cream on top of the pie”.

Brief but wonderful appearance by Gary Cooper

Amazing aerial shots that are still fantastic even by today’s standards

At one of tables in a Paris Café there appears to be a lesbian couple

Fantastic Catholic imagery during David’s death scene

Because this is a silent film it’s fun to read the dialogue in your best ‘old timey newscaster’s voice’

Parts of this film seemed very homoerotic & according to Wikipedia “Wings was one of the first to show two men kissing: when several aviators are presented medals by a French general and are ceremonially pecked on their necks, and a fraternal moment between Rogers and Arlen during the deathbed finale. Marcel Danesi remarks that the Rogers-Arlen kiss was “really not a romantic kiss, reverberating more with the desperate love between two dear friends who are about to be separated by death”, but speculates that the “lingering” aspect of the kiss may have “unconsciously started the process of opening up America’s rigid moral attitudes at the time.”

Things I did NOT like:

At 2h 24min this is a long film.  Fortunately, the copy we watched included a brief intermission & it was very much needed.

Jack gets drunk in Paris & begins to see bubbles everywhere.  Whereas this was some impressive special effects for the time I kept wishing this scene would be over.  Plus what the hell was in that Champagne?

It was hard to believe that both of these men (David & Jack) preferred Sylvia over Mary.

Because once again: Clara Freaking Bow

The character of Jack is just really annoying.  He seems like such an idiot. I guess if I think of him as a teenager is makes more sense, but the actor playing him was about 23 at the time.

Rating: 5 out of 10.  It wasn’t great.  It wasn’t terrible.  I’m glad I watched it, but I probably will not watch it again


Charles “Buddy” Rogers


Well I’m not braggin’ babe so don’t put me down

But I’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town

When something comes up to me he don’t even try

Cause if I had a set of wings man I know she could fly

She’s my little deuce coupe

You don’t know what I got


Clara Bow


War, huh, good god

What is it good for

Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise

‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives

War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes

When their sons go to fight

And lose their lives


Gary Cooper


Suddenly I’m not half the man I used to be.

There’s a shadow hanging over me.

Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.

I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday.


Richard Arlen


Because I want it all

It started out with a kiss

How did it end up like this

It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss

Now I’m falling asleep

The world is on my side


The Flying Circus


I have no reason to run

So will someone come and carry me home tonight

The angels never arrived

But I can hear the choir

So will someone come and carry me home

Tonight, we are young

So let’s set the world on fire

We can burn brighter than the sun


Arlette Marchal


Oh yeah, all right

Are you going to be in my dreams



2hr 24 minutes later


And in the end

The love you take

Is equal to the love you make.


It was a whopping good yarn and technically brilliant for any time but especially 1927.




Wings – 1927.

Where better to start than at the beginning?

Generally, I like pre-film code stuff. I find the films interesting and engaging. I also like silent films a lot, but I tend to get fantastically sleepy while watching them. This was no different. I almost nodded off twice. That is no indictment of the film itself, just my personal inability to keep it together for long silent pictures.

Plusses: There are beautiful shots, amazing composition, and some overall amazing film-making that seems far ahead of its time. I love how the film starts off with Jack and Mary on the ground and progresses into the sky as the story progresses. There is some interesting thematic visual narrative there, for sure. And, I mean, Clara Bow is just amazing. Other plusses include a scene stolen by a young Gary Cooper, the shot of two women clearly on a date at the bar in Paris, and David’s death scene. As Bethany mentions, the Catholic imagery is amazing and over the top. The aerial shots are AMAZING. The dogfights are impressive by todays flying and filming standards! I kept saying out loud that I couldn’t believe this was made in the 1920s.

I wasn’t crazy about the length. YIKES. This thing is long. Clear the calendar if you take the plunge. The bubbles scene is too long. Jack is a jagoff. The story itself is not my cup of tea. I feel like Jack is given a pass for being a prat, and I’m supposed to be super sad about David, and I really wasn’t. That said, it’s a great piece of film making.

Overall, this film was great. I’m glad I watched it. I most likely won’t watch it again, but if you’re into classic cinema, you probably should.

Rating: 7/10



Like any good adventure, we felt it was only fitting to include our origin story.

A while back, after hanging out one evening, the four of us got to talking about how we should watch the Oscar-Winning Best Picture films from the earliest winners on.  Quite a bit of time passed and we were no closer to doing it.

Then, starting in the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017, the four of us started getting together pretty regularly on Sunday afternoons and evenings for a family dinner (mostly to assuage Eric’s freaking about about finishing up school. A nice Sunday dinner with the family was always welcome!). Occasionally these Sundays would also include a movie. This re-started the discussion about watching the Oscar-winners. Then we decided that if we had this blog, we’d have a nice structure to watch and review the films! We printed a list of all the winning films and talked about what we had seen and hadn’t. 4ThumbsUp4ThumbsDown was born.

And that brings us to this point. 4ThumsUp4ThumbsDown is a family film review blog. We hope you find some of this interesting, entertaining, or at least a bit fun. Remember, we’re out here watching stuff like The Broadway Melody so you don’t have to!