Midnight Cowboy (1969) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Midnight Cowboy won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1969. It was the first, and I think still the only movie ever to win with a rating of "x" or "nc-17". (The same version is now rated R)

In its time it was considered extremely daring and risque for a mainstream film, and while there is no shock value left in watching it through today's prism, the content is still more sexual, the themes more negative, and the nudity more prolific, than in the typical Oscar nominee today. I think it is still eminently watchable, despite the absence of the shock which made it such a topic of conversation in its time. The basic themes and the basic backdrop haven't changed.

This is one whose lionized reputation has always somewhat mystified me. I didn't think it was great genius when I saw it in 1969, and I still find it just a good movie, not an unforgettable treasure. Whether the movie is great or not, the fact remains that it is archetypal. Any film buff can view virtually any frame from the film and identify it immediately. It has soaked into the culture of film, and even into the subconscious of mainstream life, ala Deliverance. Thirty years later, Jay Leno could make a joke about Ratso Rizzo or the movie, and it would be generally understood.

The set-up is that Joe Buck, a dumb but handsome young cowboy, thinks he can escape the dreary life he has in small-town Texas by going to New York and hiring out his sexual services to rich women who need a touch of rumpy-pumpy. His rate is a whopping twenty bucks! After he arrives, he discovers that there are almost no women willing to pay for sex, and if he wants to make a life as a hustler, he'll have to find some better method than propositioning people on the street. Eventually he discovers he'll have to do it with men. But no matter what he tries, the city eats him alive.

Along the way to disillusionment, he meets a crippled street person named Ratso Rizzo, played by Dustin Hoffman in one of his most memorable roles, and the two of them end up working as a team, and living together in an abandoned building in winter. Ultimately, the story is really about the odd friendship and love formed between these two social pariahs who need each other.

When Ratso appears to be freezing and dying of exposure, Joe Buck has to find a way to get them both a bus ticket to Florida, Ratso's dream of warm paradise ....

Tom Dirks wrote one of his thorough and analytical summaries at filmsite.org.

Brenda Vaccaro showed a nipple in a sex scene of long duration and minimal exposure. Jennifer Salt was seen naked in flashbacks of Joe's youth. Sylvia Miles showed her buns in the role of an ancient New Yorker, possibly a hooker herself.

General consensus: It is considered a screen classic.

IMDB summary: 7.9 out of 10. In the top 200 of all time.

DVD info from Amazon. Not recommended. It was released as a two-sided DVD way back in the infancy of DVD. (August 1997). It has two versions of the film (1.33 and 1.85), but pretty much nothing else except minor features. This would be another good candidate for a special edition.

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