The once-great John Avildsen has departed this realm at age 81. Hugs, regrets & condolences to family, friends, fans. Avildsen’s peak achievement years happened in the early to mid ’70sJoe (’70), Save The Tiger (’73) and the original Rocky (’76). That was his glory period, tapping into the zeitgeist, as good as it got.

Joe was his rawest and most explosive — a low-budgeter that caught the hardhat vs. hippies thing at exactly the right moment. I re-watched Rocky in high-def last year and found it even better than I’d remembered. Save The Tiger probably hasn’t aged as well but it has its moments. Avildsen directed three others that were at least decent — The Formula (’80), Neighbors (’81) and Lean On Me (’89).

Very few directors can point to a respectable roster of grade-A films made over two decades; fewer still can say “I made three…okay, two that really rocked the culture.” Avildsen can say that.