2017 Blind Spot Series: Midnight Cowboy


What I knew going in: That it's the only Best Picture winner with an X rating. And apparently John Wayne bitched about it.

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is so cowboy even his suitcase is cow print. He naively thinks he can just move from Texas to New York City and automatically make it as a hustler based on his good looks alone. When that falls through, he forms an unlikely friendship with a different kind of hustler, Ratso. (Dustin Hoffman) They become partners in crime. 

Hoffman and Voight are excellent in this. I don't often associate Voight with stellar performances, but this one is worthy of that praise. I really liked the story and the reality checks served, but I wasn't wowed by this. While most of this film is really well done, there's one aspect of it that I found almost egregious; and that would be Joe's flashbacks to a traumatic event with a former love. I don't know if they were going for an exploitation vibe but it was just very poorly done and didn't fit with the rest of the film. It was jarring to switch between the two.

Those flashbacks aren't enough to ruin the film but overall I just felt it was okay. I can see why it was probably a big hit back - oh man, I always try to avoid saying this in my Blind Spots - in the day. It was a good enough watch for a quiet weeknight evening.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I'm falling apart here!" - Ratso (Dustin Hoffman)


8 comments:

  1. I do think this is a great film as it is about male identity and how someone is trying to fit in to the world as this idea of being a man yet has to accept that it's much more complicated than that. I do love Jon Voight in this film. It's a shame that he tends to make shitty films such as Pearl Harbor and.... Bratz. Plus, I think he needs to get his ass kicked for being a moron.

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    1. Yeah this is really the only film I can think of that he's actually good in. Everything else is just meh.

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  2. Ohhh I don't think "back in the day" should be avoided at all! I think context is very important when reviewing older films like this. I completely understand why this movie wasn't fully for you, but yeah, in 1969, this thing would've been a hurricane. No mainstream American film had ever been made like it!

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    1. That's a good way of looking at it, I just felt bad typing "back in the day" for some reason. You're 100% right about no film ever being like it at the time. That helps.

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  3. It has been so long since I've seen this my memory of the specifics is vague but I remember Dustin Hoffman more than Voight. Voight was good in a tricky part and Dusty had the flashier role but I still think he was better because he found more in Ratso.

    I wouldn't say that Voight was never extraordinary or even good. Many of his early performances-Deliverance, Conrack, Coming Home even The End of the Game, are observant and moving but his weird whiplash from active liberal to extremist conservative douchebag appears to have affected his ability to portray the human condition leaving him with the slick surface rather repellent villain roles he has played unimaginatively for years now.

    I was around in '69 but so young I don't know what the movie landscape was like at the time but looking at the nominees this was up against (and what was up the year before) you can see a sea change and not be surprised this took the prize.

    Though honestly my vote would have gone to Z among the nominees and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? in an open field.

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    1. I didn't see either of those films either. I tend to think a lot of the older best pic winners can be head scratchers nowadays when you see what's out there, but I think acting just got better with age. Most of the time anyways.

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  4. Well first of all I urge you to see both Z and They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, brilliant films. Though I warn you that TSHDT is one of the most grindingly nihilistic films you'll ever see.

    I don't know if I agree that acting got better as the years went by. Acting styles changed as film making techniques were refined and to modern eyes some who were minimalistic in their approach like Edward G. Robinson or Jean Simmons have aged better than highly theatrical performers such as Norma Shearer or Greer Garson but their films are no less enjoyable because of it. I mean who doesn't love a good Bette Davis movie and she is unquestionably a BIG performer.

    As far as BP winners it can be confounding what came out ahead of other better films but just like this year's upset Moonlight victory their wins often depended on the tenor and backstage politics of the time. How else to explain a bloated disaster like Around the World in 80 Days triumphing over Giant while the rightful winner, The Searchers went unnominated?

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    1. That's kind of what I was getting at regarding acting. Older movies are so theatrical at times and it looks goofy when you grew up in the 90's and are used to the way performances look from then on. Performers like Bette, or Katharine, Gregory Peck, etc, they were never theatrical to me so they don't seem out of place.I find that theatrics can get a bit distracting at times.

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