Thursday, June 23, 2011

Battle of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1969

Julia Roberts may have revolutionized "the hooker with the heart of gold"-strutting her stuff with Richard Gere at the "Reg. Bev. Wil"-but John Voight was the original. Over forty years ago, Voight played a man with aspirations even higher than Vivian Wards' leather boots-Joe Buck dreamed of making the big bucks hustling the rich broads of NYC.

The Pretty Woman comparison had to be done, if not just to lighten up a discussion on an intense movie, like the Best Picture winner of 1969- Midnight Cowboy.

Not to say that Cowboy doesn't have its moments, as it often strikes gold with the outrageous situations that Voight and Dustin Hoffman have themselves in-but, isn't that life? No matter how hard it gets, something will always happen that will let you have a glimpse at happiness.

Joe Buck (Voight), leaves his troubled existence in Texas behind, and in a New York City bar discovers a decrepit man, continually cursed by society, who turns out to be his closest friend; Ratso (Hoffman) and Buck become partners in their attempt to survive by working the streets.

From one minute, cleaning dishes at a diner, to the next, beaming wide-eyed at Andy Warhol's factory, Buck is majorly naive in his dreams. Although, it is not Ratso's first time around the big-city block. He remains resilient even if it entails being conniving and utilizing a five-finger discount, here and there. The transformation within only a couple years, from Hoffman playing the maudlin, pool-lounging, Graduate, to an utterly tragic vagrant, is astonishing.  

(Perfect movie opening made classic with some Harry Nillson)

An intriguing story, and can't miss performances, will not be enough praise for those who are scared off by the fact that Midnight Cowboy is still notoriously plagued as the only film, rated "X", to win the Best Picture.

That cultural factoid is all my ears had ever heard about the movie. I had no idea it involved "hustlers" (should have guessed from the rating), but, even if you didn't know it came from this movie, we all know the classic line, "Hey, I'm Walkin' HERE!" as delivered by Hoffman with a strong Brooklyn accent.

Nothing was edited from the original version, and now, in modern times, has received an "R" rating. So, why the doomed rating back in the day? There are some intense images (even by today's standards), but nothing that adults wouldn't be able to handle.

Even with that kind of reputation, instantly, it is clear that Midnight Cowboy is genius, and a re-watch is already in order.

The story pushed the limits on social norms, and film buffs will appreciate how it is also daring and unique stylistically. Many of the memories of Buck's youth (which is where the intense moments arise. Showing where he gets his low self worth?), are told in inter-cut flashes, appearing like channel surfing on a television.

Nothing is revealed completely, and although frustrating at first, these scrambled images (arising out of his mind as he reflects on the past), reveal more about Joe Buck as a character than any literal confirmation on his seemingly tragic upbringing.

Lovers of the classics? Move this to the top of your must-see list as soon as possible.

Finishing off another decade of Best Pictures with Midnight Cowboy, simply confirms that the 1960's produced a large number of the greatest films in history. Why do I have to leave you now, when we are just getting more acquainted?

Watch out 1970s.

...Now I have to sit and watch 2 1/2 hours of Patton? Blerg.

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