‘Midnight Cowboy’

This film holds an Oscar record that will never be touched. It

was the first and only movie to win Best Picture that was rated X.

It was rated X in 1969; it is now R (X then did not mean what it

does now). At the time, though, the movie was rebelious, banned for

being too sexual, too artsy.

Warning: strong adult themes, not for kids under 17

This film holds an Oscar record that will never be touched. It was the first and only movie to win Best Picture that was rated X.

It was rated X in 1969; it is now R (X then did not mean what it does now). At the time, though, the movie was rebelious, banned for being too sexual, too artsy.

But it struck a chord of truth with the people and the times. When you stand it alongside other Oscar-winning films, it is just as deserving, if not more of the top prize.

 It’s a gritty, scary, humbling ride through the tough streets of New York. The film launched John Voight (Angelina Jolie’s dad, Oscar winner for “Coming Home”) and was the second movie to star Dustin Hoffman (“Meet the Fockers”).

This was Dustin Hoffman at the top of his game, because all he had done in film was “The Graduate.” In “The Graduate” he played the son of wealthy suburban parents who has an affair with his parents’ friend; he was squeaky clean. In “Midnight Cowboy,” he’s a disabled, grungy street hustler.

It’s night-and-day different and the films were only made one year apart. Originally, Hoffman was going to do ‘Midnight Cowboy,” but chose the “The Graduate” and the producers held off on making “Cowboy.” The films came out two years apart.

It was the true arrival of Dustin Hoffman. I can only think of three actors that can get completely lost in totally different genres. Jack Lemmon if you compare “Mr. Roberts” (1954) and “Save the Tiger” (1973); Lemmon knabbed oscars for both. Of course the other is Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain” and “Dark Knight”). It is why people say Hoffman was the Lemmon of his generation and Ledger was the next Hoffman or Pacino of his generation.

“Midnight Cowboy” was a tour de force and pushed every cinematic envelope to date (except violence, which was taken to new heights the same year in the “Wild Bunch”). The editing of “Midnight Cowboy” was unheard of, the simplicity of the score, the performances of Voight and Hoffman — comparable to two jazz giants losing their mind in a dark Kansas city club in the ‘50s.

Hoffman’s portrayal of Rico “Ratzo” Rizzo and Voight’s naive, Texas Joe Buck make for top-notch characters. They give us insight into two lost souls in a city, where everyone feels lost. Even normal people are lost.

The screenplay is air-tight (why it got the Oscar) and tells a simple story about people. I can see why this film made the establishment flip out. It was pure art.

It held nothing back in the dialogue, portrayal of the city, sex scenes or what it is to be homeless. It also boasted the most controversial scene in cinema history — I don’t want to spoil it and can’t put it in print. Compared to today though, it’s nothing.

So everytime you enjoy a great R-rated movie, a cool action scene, nudity, adult themes, remember we owe it to “Midnight Cowboy.” The year 1969 is the biggest change in cinema we’ve seen to date. Numerous films pushed envelopes about subjects, but this was the first movie to say here I am and well (expletives) if you don’t like it.

Year: 1969

Director: John Schlesinger

Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay

“Yojimbo” (Japan)

7 p.m., Saturday, June 18

Lihu‘e Library Conference Room

Free to the public

For more info call: 241-3222

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