Daily Archives: 26 Apr 2017

Creed: the Best Swan Song for the Rocky Franchise

Creed Would Be the Best Song Song for the Rocky FranchiseOver the weekend, I watched the 2015 hit Creed. This is not surprising. Since I saw the first Rocky in early 1977, I’ve been a fan of it. That first film remains a great cinematic accomplishment. Although utterly genre, John Avildsen’s direction makes the film seem almost cinéma vérité. It was the first film to make major use of the steadicam — but primarily for financial reasons. Thus, it adds to the film rather than distracting as it did in many films to follow, most notably Goodfellas. The acting was exceptional, and the script establish Sylvester Stallone as one of the best genre writers in Hollywood.

I was almost as happy with Rocky II. Although Stallone directed it, he did his best to imitate Avildsen. I remember going to see Rocky III on opening day and being crushed. It was clear at that point that any art in the Rocky franchise was gone and that it was now commodity. Rocky IV was an offense of epic proportions. Even without getting into the politics of it, the casting of Dolph Lundgren was rediculous. Rocky V is an odd film. It is Stallone’s weakest script, but it manages to succeed more than it deserves with the return of Avildsen as director. Finally, Rocky Balboa managed to charm, but the boxing was ancillary and even more unbelievable than usual.

Creed Is a Reboot

I just don’t think Creed could have been a hit four decades ago, which is all the more reason it makes a fine bookend to the Rocky franchise.

Creed is distinct in many ways. Primarily, it is a reboot — essentially a remake of the first film. It is the only one in the Rocky universe in which the title character does no boxing. Unlike all the other films that you could say were Stallone’s, this one is writer-director Ryan Coogler’s. (It was co-written with Aaron Covington.) And there is much to like about him. I think he has a fine career ahead of him. But Creed is hardly a great film, even though only the original Rocky is clearly superior.

The biggest problem with the film is that it tries to do far too much in what is, after all, a simple genre picture. The film is based on the same “give a nobody the chance of a lifetime” plot that the original was based on. I have no problem with that. But I’m not sure how a writer could create a story based on that kernel and then expect us to take seriously the chemotherapy treatments of the trainer. But more than that, this is a film that is cluttered with too many subplots and a lead character that doesn’t have much in the way of a personality.

Creed Washes Racist Tint of Original

Still, I’m very glad the film was made, because it makes up from what I always saw as a problem with the first film: its implicit racism. By this, I’m not talking about the film itself. Rather, I’m talking about what I discussed in Zulu and the Racism We Bring to It. I simply don’t think that Rocky would have been a hit had the races of the fighters been swapped. That’s just a fact of American life. Maybe its more accurate to say that the problem is ethnocentrism: whites want to see a white man win — especially in the mid-1970s — when whites in the US were still in their migration from the cities to the suburbs to escape the “horrors” of busing.

Creed does manage to reverse the races of the characters. And it does it effectively and affectingly. Just the same, Tony Bellew as the “bad” British boxer Ricky Conlan isn’t quite the threat that Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) was. Creed was a stand-in for the ultimate white terror: an intelligent and powerful black man. In fact, that’s one of the high points of the original movie where Creed is working on his various business dealings while we watch Rocky punching raw frozen beef on the television.

Let Creed Be the Franchise’s End

I find it impossible not to see Creed in political terms — and very positives ones at that. The first was a huge hit, and I just don’t think Creed could have been a hit four decades ago. And it makes a fine bookend to the Rocky franchise. Unfortunately, a sequel was in development and may become a film. I doubt that Coogler would be much involved, given he is finishing Black Panther and seems generally of a mind to make films of some substance.

My hope is that Creed is the end of the franchise. It is the way to go out. What would a sequel offer us anyway? It would almost certainly be a combination of Rocky II and Rocky III. Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan) would marry Bianca (Tessa Thompson). And Rocky would die — but probably much later in the film than Mickey (Burgess Meredith) did in Rocky III. And Creed would become the champion. I just can’t see it being anything but filmmaking by the numbers.

Creed would be the best swan song for this very uneven franchise. I dearly hope that it is.

Corporate Tax Cut Would Destroy Government

George CallasI want to pick up on… the constraints of reconciliation rules as well as [the possibility that] the White House might come out with a plan that has no offsets. It is a very, very important point here. A plan of business tax cuts that has no offsets… is not a thing. It’s not a real thing and people can come up with whatever plans they want. Not only can that not pass Congress, it cannot even begin to move through Congress day one.

There are political reasons for that. Number one, members wouldn’t vote for it. But there are also statutory procedural legal reasons why that can’t happen… There is this magic unicorn running around, and I think one of the biggest threats to the timeline on tax reform is the continued survival of magic unicorns — people saying “Why don’t we do this instead?” when this is actually something that cannot be done. And as long as that exists, it’s hard to move forward by getting people to go through what the Speaker refers to as the stages of grief for tax reform where you have to come to the realization that there are tough choices that have to be made. And you cannot escape those tough choices.

[The reconciliation rules] don’t say that tax cuts have to sunset in 10 years. They say that you cannot have the deficit increase beyond the 10 year window… If your permanent tax reform that is fully offset with the base broadening forever, you are fine. You don’t have to make anything sunset under the reconciliation rules. You can have permanent tax cuts that are paid for in the out years. You have legislation that has no offsets, no base broadening, so it’s just tax cuts. You either have to get Democrats to support it, which they will not. Or you have to do it through reconciliation so you can do it on a partisan basis with only Republican votes.

Again, reconciliation says you cannot increase the deficit after 10 years… Here is a data point for folks. A corporate rate cut that is sunset after three years will increase the deficit in the second decade. We know this. Not 10 years. Three years. You could not do a straight-up offset three-year corporate rate cut in reconciliation. The rules prohibit it.

You might be able to do two years. A two year corporate rate cut would have virtually no growth effect. It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would not stop any inversions or acquisitions of US companies by foreign companies. It would not cause anyone to restructure their supply chain. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters on corporate headquarters for a couple of years.

–George Callas
Institute of International Finance Policy Summit, Tax Policy