*Midnight Cowboy (1969)*

cowboy

Starring: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Brenda Vaccaro, Sylvia Miles

Director: John Schlesinger

Summary: A would-be-gigolo and a con artist form an unlikely friendship

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Hoffman), Actor (Voight), Supporting Actress (Miles), Adapted Screenplay*, Film Editing

Positives

-What people still remember about this movie is the two leads performances, and you can clearly see why. This was Voight’s breakout role as the naive Texan Joe Buck, and his performance is the heart of the movie-you wouldn’t care that much about his failures and what he is reduced to if he wasn’t as genuinely likeable as he is. Hoffman’s role was equally as significant in his career, as it is something completely different than The Graduate, and you almost can’t believe they are the same person. He plays both the streetwise and sensitive aspects of his role, in addition to the physical parts extremely well.

-I love how it’s a great time capsule of New York as it was in the late 60s, before it was cleaned up in the 80s. Few movies have done a better job of making its location a character, and there’s nowhere you could have picked that would have typified the central theme of “It’s a cruel world and we all need somebody who understands and cares about us” better.

-I thought it was an interesting look at a subject that the production code simply banned outright from films-homosexuality, which was the real reason it got an X rating initially (it has since been re-rated as an R), as its nudity and explicitness about sexuality otherwise wasn’t  that daring. Schlesinger himself was gay, and I think he does a good job tapping into the loneliness of being a “sexual deviant” in an era where homosexuality was not accepted by society at large, where lasting relationships were difficult because of the prospect of being found out and one-night stands were the “safest” way of fulfilling the basic human need for affection.

Negatives

-The movie uses flashbacks and “in the head of the character” fantasy sequences with frequency, and I generally didn’t like them; after the first couple of times with the flashbacks, you get the picture. I also thought that, while the party scene serves a purpose, it didn’t work with the rest of the film, as it feels like a completely different movie and gets too cute trying to replicate the Andy Warhol aesthetic..

Overall

This is very much a film of its time in many ways, some for the better and some for the worse, but it’s primary themes, characters and performances have held up fairly well and it’s still a very good movie.

Rating: B+

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