Thursday, February 2, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 9: Midnight Cowboy

Movie: Midnight Cowboy
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director - John Schlesinger, Best Actor - Dustin Hoffman, Best Actor - Jon Voight, Best Supporting Actress - Sylvia Miles, Best Adapted Screenplay,  Editing
Wins/Snubs: The first X-rated picture to win Best Picture.  It also won Best Director and Adapted Screenplay.  I'm guessing Hoffman and Voight split the vote since they were both nominated for Leading Man, though perhaps no one stood a chance against John Wayne in True Grit.  Goldie Hawn in Cactus Flower took the Supporting Actress award, though Miles' role in Midnight Cowboy is so small I honestly can't figure out the part she played.  I think if they'd put Hoffman up for Best Supporting Actor, which its easy to argue his role was more supporting to Voight's, I bet he would have won as I've never heard of Gig Young in They Shoot Horses, Don't They who won that year.  

I knew 2 things about Midnight Cowboy going into this viewing - 1: "I'm walkin' here." from Hoffman when he's nearly hit by a cab.  And 2: It had an X-rating.  If you too know nothing about this film, perhaps you should stop here because I have a feeling I'll include some spoilers.  

Joe Buck (Voight) is leaving Texas for New York City.  He wanders around hitting on a few women until one takes him home.  It turns out he's come to NYC to try to be a gigolo - but his first "Jane" makes him pay HER.  His career never really manifests, but he does befriend Rico "Ratzo" Rizzo (Hoffman) and small time con man who seems to want to be his friend, after messing with him a bit. Rizzo has a limp from polio, and is more Buck's sidekick more than anything. Things don't go well in the gigolo career attempt, and they make a play for Florida - assuming Rizzo will be better off there - he's been falling and the winter in a condemned building in NYC isn't a picnic.  Buck gets some money - he keeps not getting paid after he has sex, so he beats up a guy and steals his money.  They get on the bus to Florida and sort of ride off into the sunset together.  

The X-rating really wouldn't come from anything I've described.  Any of the sex that happens in NYC is tame by today's standards.  We get a few naked butt shots of Voight, but that's it.  What probably caused the X-rating are Voight's flashbacks to Texas.  He was raised by a overly affectionate and still neglectful grandmother.  He falls for a girl named Annie.  One night, they're having sex in his car and a huge group of men drag them out of the car and violently rape both of them.  It's nearly as upsetting as The Accused was a few days ago.  It seems that the movie is trying to say that Buck is screwed up because of all these things.  Voight doesn't play him screwed up - he's almost Happy-go-lucky wanting to have sex with anyone - man or woman.  

The character I really liked, and I'm not sure you're supposed to, was Ratzo Rizzo.  Hoffman has a loud, fairly obnoxious accent.  He's really weaselly - being so much shorter than Voight to start with, he was smart to go with a more obsequious nature.  When he starts to obviously be getting sicker and not better, you really do feel bad for him.  Life hasn't been easy, but he's tried hard.  I didn't like the money overall, and definitely would have given the Oscar to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and lead actor to either Butch or Sundance, so I'm pretty surprised this movie won, but sometimes the Oscars do embrace controversy a bit.  


Ryan McNeil said...

Everybody's talkin' at me,
I don't hear a word they're sayin'...

Sam Fragoso said...

Thought I'd comment on here.

You're doing a great job over at the LAMB covering the Oscars and posting on your site.

Keep up the great work Jess.

Jess said...

Ryan - I cannot get that damn song out of my head!

Sam - Thanks. Just coincidence that my post went up today - just a participant. Rachel's running LAMB devours the Oscars this year. But thanks for the encouragement.

Ryan McNeil said...

@ Jess... The best part? It'll get back into your head every Friday when I reference it as my Friday links round-up

James said...

I think you're supposed to like Rizzo, the film certainly makes him a sympathetic character by the end.

I liked this film quite a bit. It's not afraid to go to some strange places and there are a couple of unforgettable sequences for me.

Also, I just think there's something fascinating about a character who's so naive pursuing this career, especially given his past. Kept me interested throughout the film