0515: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy

Rating: 5.5/10

In case you were wondering, after the first two on the list, which I only picked because they were so short, I have been rolling dice in order to decide which movies to watch. For specifics on that, keep reading, otherwise skip ahead!

NERDY DICE ROLLING: First, I roll a 100-sided die to determine the year as 0003 on the list came out in 1915 and it only goes up to 2017, so anything 0-14 is 2000-2014, and anything 17+ is 1900s. Then I count how many are in that year and then decide a complicated die roll to roll to make it fair. For example: tonight, I rolled a good ol’ 69 for the year, counted 11 entries, so I rolled a 10d and a 2d, added those together and subtracted 1 for the result. That’s right, we’re using math up in this bitch.

Oh, for 15 and 16 on the year roll, there are 2 movies that came out in 1915 and only one that came out in 1916, so when that roll comes up I’ll do the 1900s ones first. If a year comes up and it’s empty (like 1918 and 1919 already are) I’ll move to the closest available year, whether future or past, and in case of a tie I’ll flip a coin to keep everything completely random. Anyway, enough nerdy stuff, here’s my review.

THE REVIEW STARTS HERE: I saw this movie a long-ass time ago when the universe was still young and the Earth hadn’t formed yet. At the time, I absolutely hated the movie, but not only did humanity not exist but they also hadn’t invented character-driven stories yet and all I had experienced up to that point were movies that had PLOTS that MOVED THE STORY FORWARD. I guess the universe wasn’t really ready for a movie like this, not yet anyway, where it told a story completely dependent on its CHARACTERS and tried to SIMULATE REAL LIFE. Before this grave, cataclysmic event, I never thought you could write a story where everything in it seemed to happen for no reason and nothing the characters did seemed to matter. That would just be a bad story right? And that’s exactly what I thought this was the first time I saw it: Bad. Really. Really. Really. Bad.

But now that the Earth has formed and humanity has shown me that they can create a whole host of bad things, I know better. And I’m glad I finally got around to giving this film a second viewing. I’ve grown to enjoy character-driven films and TV shows a lot more, and I enjoyed the character-driven parts of this movie. So much so that I would argue that the plot only detracts from how great the characters of Rico and Joe are on screen. They feel like real people. The plot, however, doesn’t feel real to me. Joe leaves being a dishwasher suddenly to go be a prostitute in New York, he leaves with no money whatsoever, everyone he’s a whore with stiffs him (no pun intended) on the payment, and things just keep getting worse for him and Rico throughout the movie. I’m not saying we don’t all have runs of bad luck, but this is like a darkness that has no light to come out to. I’m fine with downer endings, really, I am, but having a movie like this with great characters but totally unbelievable character motivation just to show how depressing everything is, it just doesn’t mesh.

This film was revolutionary for its time, but by today’s standards it’s quite tame. And really a movie shouldn’t be made just for shock value alone, there has to be real substance underneath or it isn’t going to hold up. What’s great about this movie is the characters. What isn’t great is the plot, which is so thin it’s almost transparent, and so hopeless it’s practically suicidal. The characters try their best but they are so beaten down by the rest of the world that they can’t go anywhere but further down. There’s nothing they can do to stop it and it all seems to be happening for no reason. Life may seem like that sometimes, but there’s a reason behind everything, and I’m not even talking in some kind of “fate” or whatever, I just mean if you slip on a banana peal, the reason is that someone dropped it there, or it’s environmental terrorists who actually use parts of the environment to terrorize. Anyway, movies have this ability to show you things that the characters themselves can’t see and maybe having more than just a couple of semi-delusional drinking buddies as they try to whore their way into buying groceries to view would have been a nice touch which added to the plot and I would have liked the movie more. As it stands though, I didn’t hate it, but I thought it was only above average as a film. The acting was excellent, but the story not so much.

Why I Think It’s On the List: Truthfully, I think only because of its cultural significance at the time as a movie that pushed the envelope. If I were on the committee that decided what movies people should be watching before they die I might argue that it could safely be taken off the list.  Then I would be immediately voted down because the movie was culturally significant at the time. Oh well.

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3 thoughts on “0515: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

  1. OK, once again no historical perspective and no attention span. Yeah, stimulated real life. In contrast to the Hollywood narratives of the 30s-50s. It’s a character study and not a plot driven film. They were trying different things. Too bleak? Maybe. For the scene of Ratzo yelling at the cabbie (improvised on location), I’d give it an 8.

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  2. I don’t say anything about the pacing in this movie, so I don’t know what you mean about no attention span. I will probably give this a higher rating when I re-review it, as I did really like the picture. I think the part you’re confused by is the paragraph I was trying to be funny in when I talk about seeing the movie the first time. I didn’t like it then but I didn’t understand what a story being wholly character driven was supposed to be like as I’d never, really, experienced one quite like this before. I enjoyed this a lot more when I saw it again and I’ll probably like it more still when I re-review it 🙂

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