Monday, June 19, 2017

John G. Avildsen 1935 - 2017

Oscar winning director John G. Avildsen, the man behind the camera for two of the most popular films in pop-culture, has passed away at 81.

John Guilbert Avildsen was born in Illinois and educated at New York State University. He began his film career as an assistant director on films by Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger. His first bit of success came in 1970 with his first low budget film, JOE; in which actor Peter Boyle received critical acclaim. His next successful film would be SAVE THE TIGER in 1973, which was nominated for three Oscars, and would win Best Actor for Jack Lemmon.

His biggest film would come in 1976, when he took a script written by then-unknown Sylvester Stallone about a down-and-out boxer with a never-say-die attitude and turn it into the definitive sports film of all time; ROCKY. With an earnest and on-the-street approach, ROCKY endeared itself to everyone and not just sports and boxing fans. ROCKY would be the highest grossing film of 1976 and earn ten Oscar nominations; including Best Picture and Best Director for Avildsen.

In 1984 he would take a few pages out of Stallone’s spirited script and make THE KARATE KID; starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Another underdog film which audiences instantly related to, THE KARATE KID would be a quick entry into pop culture, and that year would earn Morita a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Avildsen’s later films would include NEIGHBORS (1981), THE KARATE KID PART II (1986), LEAN ON ME (1989), THE KARATE KID PART III (1989), ROCKY V (1990), 8 SECONDS (1994), and INFERNO (1999).


As a wee-lad, there were a handful of films that this Blogger and his brother would latch onto; often quoting and re-enacting fight scenes (often with bad results), and those two of those films were ROCKY and THE KARATE KID. The spirit behind both of those films, which had more to do with character than the actual fighting, was something that we as kids, and now as adults can truly appreciate. Avildsen took two simple concepts and made them speak to us all, to keep on fighting when the odds were not in our favor, and to get back up no matter how many times knocked down; two qualities that could take adults and kids a very long way.

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