I noticed that Midnight Cowboy was on my Cinemax "on demand’ channel and it occurred to me that I had never seen it. Being a highly rated flick and over 40 years old you’d think I’d have seen it by now, but no.
So I watched it last night.
WTF made this movie so great? It’s rated at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and 4 stars out of 4 everywhere else.
I never much cared for it, either, and I saw it when it first came out. It was rated X, which tells you a lot about the rating system as it existed then and how it changed. Not long after that, X rated movies were prohibited from advertising in many newspapers, and a mainstream movie would never want that rating.
Good acting by Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, though. It showed a seamier side of life than most seamy-side movies did at the time, I guess. The critics were desperate for something to talk about.
Almost forgot – “Everybody’s Talkin’” was a great song.
Well, watching the hustler get hustled by his mark was pretty funny.
Also, the film was rated X, and still managed to win the Best Picture Oscar. The story was way over the top for it’s time (and still would be today, if remade, IMO) and is actually a bittersweet character study. Brokeback Mountain owed quite a bit to this film, I thought.
The soundtrack was also excellent, with songs from Warren Zevon and Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman.
The bittersweet character study (as Snowboard Bo said); the acting by the leads; the soundtrack. Those aspects stand the test of time, the rest not so much.
Sometimes as broke college students (I saw it when it first came out & I was in high school) we would live on crackers and ketchup packets and think of this movie.
And, “I’m walking here” yelled at a car as you cross the street like Ratso will always be funny.
The acting was superb. But the plot was all but non-existent: dumb ass hick from Texas thinks he’s a stud, goes to New York and learns life ain’t a bowl of cherries.
I kept waiting for some significant plot development or twist, or “moral of the story”, or something. It never came.
Yeah. But I didn’t need to hear it a zillion times in 2 hours.
If you weren’t around then, you have no idea just how taboo homosexuality was as a topic in those days. For Hollywood to release a film that showed plausible scenarios of something most Americans preferred to regard as a not-to-be-discussed myth wasn’t merely ground-breaking, it was epochal. That it now seems like no big deal is evidence of how successful it was.
The grittiness and naturalism was also pretty new and groundbreaking at the time. That quasi-documentary look and feel of really walking around in the city with no Hollywood polish or gloss. The movies hadn’t really shown a character like Ratso before - a completely unglamorous, seedy, unwashed street person, and not a “movie” street person, but someone who seemed real. Not important or noticeable, just real. It was like picking one of the thousands of random, shabby nobodies off the streets of New York and making him a central character. That was a new idea at the time, and it didn’t hurt that the character was acted so well by Hoffman.
Tastes change, storytelling styles change. Scenes that to one generation are vital for “establishing tone” are considered pointless and boring by another.
When *2001: A Space Odyssey *came out in 1968, audiences were hypnotized by the Dawn of Man scene that opened the movie. Twenty-five years later I watched it with my daughter and we were both screaming “MAKE IT STOP!” after the first five minutes.
As for Midnight Cowboy, great acting, gritty, daring for its time.
I would like to second your comments about 2001. I’ve tried to watch it several times over the last 25 years, and have been bored to tears every time. I obviously enjoyed the amazing soundtrack but the movie is just so lame. I thought Midnight Cowboy was okay, but also vastly overrated. As far as standing the test of time is concerned, some movies do. Many times time I pick up the Godfather (or Part II) in the middle, and I get sucked in by its greatness. Great art is truly timeless.
I like it because it’s a good portrait of the sort of isolation that comes from living in a big city, even when you’re literally surrounded by people. It’s sort of what it would be like if Edward Hopper made a movie.
And in case you’re wondering, yes my username is derived from the movie, but that’s just because I liked the way it sounded and it seemed easy to remember - not because I have any aspirations of, you know, becoming a gigolo.
This is a good point but it doesn’t explain why there are people in 2011 that just saw this movie recently that think it’s great. I have no idea what I would have thought had I been 50 years old in 1969 and saw it then. But @ 50 in 2011 I found it boring and unimpressive.
I was okay with Midnight Cowboy. It had a couple of neat parts like when cowboy stud Voight is trying to get payment from his first customer who is at first completely oblivious as she talks on the phone (and I think it was to her husband!) and then is highly insulted when she finally realizes he wants money for services rendered.
I also liked Ratso’s “I’m walkin’ here! I’m walkin’ here!” and the never ending debate about whether that was a real car crashing into the movie.
But now, see, I liked The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie a lot. Especially the scene when she realizes that the idealised fascist bullshit she’s been spouting off in class has killed one of her students. Brilliant.
And I did NOT care for The Last Picture Show. It had all sorts of little touches of mysogyny. The nude pool scene where the girls are all full frontal, but the boys’ penises are all artfully hidden, that kind of stuff pisses me off no end. Also, there’s a scene where an attempted child sexual assault is played almost for laughs. You could not possibly do that kind of thing today.
I saw “Midnight Cowboy” when it came out. It’s one of those movies that might be okay if it weren’t for everyone saying how wonderful it was, but after the buildup I thought it was a big disappointment. I can’t fault the acting, though.
I’ve seen a zillion movies, and I’ve always gone out of my way to see old movies that I didn’t see, even those going back to the 1920’s or older.
Most of those old movies live up to their hype. It’s when one like this doesn’t that just bogs it down.
I still want to know, however, why did people in 1969 think this movie was so great, why do they still think it’s so great, and why does anyone who has first seen the movie recently think it’s great? What was/is/still is the appeal?