Best Picture Winners Part 42 (of 88): Midnight Cowboy


Title: Midnight Cowboy
Year: 1969
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, John Voight, Brenda Vaccaro
Runtime: 1 hr 53 mins

What It Is: When Texas “hustler” Joe Buck (Voight) tries his fortune in the big city he comes to realize he may just be in over his head. When he finds a native fellow shady fella in Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman). This partnership ends up as a little more, and molds into something a little different. Just remember when driving your taxicab near Ratso that he’s walking here! The first (and to this date only) X-Rated film to win Best Picture. Ironically just one year after the first G-Rated picture Oliver! took the award. I think this film is one of the parts of the shift in tone, attitude, and content in cinemas in the wake of the 1970’s.

Memorable Quote: Joe Buck: Uh, well, sir, I ain’t a f’real cowboy. But I am one helluva stud! 

Competition: Mixed to say the least. There are two distinctively good films here, and two not so good ones. Let’s start with the not so good. Anne of the Thousand Days is a British “history” flick tells the story of Anne Boleyn and is based on a play by Maxwell Anderson. This is a great example of Academy bribery working. Champagne and filet mignon were served at Academy screenings. Moreover, this film starred French-Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold, who was nominated for an Oscar in her first English speaking role. Next up is Hello, Dolly. Following up her “Funny Girl” success Barabara Streisand stars in a Gene Kelly directed rendition of the play of the same name. In it Babs snagged the lead, but this film is simply not as good as her previous musical adventure. Kelly staggers as a director and his faults are more than apparent here. Next up we have the Algerian-French film Z this political thriller just might be the best piece of cinema among the losers. It was the first film to simultaneously be nominated for Best Picture and Best Foreign Film (which it won). Interesting fact for you this film was actually screened at the Festival de Cannes this year (2015) which speaks to the timeless relevance of it’s subject matter. Lastly, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid In this western classic Paul Newman and Robert Redford kill it as two outlaws trying to escape to Bolivia. Based on facts, sort of, it has an iconic song and ending. If not for the Academy handing out a lifetime achievement Oscar (I say this facetiously) to Best Actor winner John Wayne (for True Grit) either of these 2 leads could have won.

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