Category Archives: midnight cowboy

Marathon Man

Marathon Man ~ This is actually, just by weird coincidence, my second John Schlesinger and Dustin Hoffman movie this week. Like Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man is an interesting time capsule that maybe doesn’t hold up as well. Midnight Cowboy still holds its own as representative of its era while Marathon Man comes off lacking its initial impact and in fact feeling dated. It’s the 1970s, but it’s not as timeless and is showing its creaks and groans.

Based on the book by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay, this tale of runaway Nazi dentists, smuggled diamonds, and the slacker graduate student caught in the middle just isn’t as hard hitting as it was in 1976. Roy Scheider, the king of the seventies, has little to do, while Hoffman does a bad naive Benjamin Braddock imitation throughout, and William DeVane’s best bit is when he recites the plot aloud in super speed. Scheider is wasted because the screen feels so empty when he’s not there, and it similarly feels that that is the only times the direction appears skilled and careful.

The grueling scenes of torture between Hoffman and Laurence Olivier, what the film is remembered chiefly for these days, are all that still stand up. These scenes are horrifying. I often have conversations with folks who won’t watch horror but do watch things like this. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Olivier as a Nazi scares the crap outta me, yet I laugh at Freddy Krueger. And the Nazis were/are real. It’s the real monsters that scare me. The scariest movie I ever saw was The Incident, about two hoods terrorizing a subway car full of innocents. No boogieman there. I just don’t get it.

Marathon Man is a good thriller for its time, just don’t see it before a dentist appointment.

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Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy ~ This is the movie that changed the way people thought about movies, and it was also the first and only X-rated film to win the Academy Award for best picture, although the X rating meant something a little different back then than it did later on. It cemented Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight as the stars of the 1970s, and it forever placed the song “Everybody’s Talkin'” in people’s heads when walking in crowds in New York City. It also features two of film’s most memorable characters, and one of its most quoted lines, “I’m walkin’ here.”

Based on the 1965 novel by James Leo Herlihy, written for the screen by Waldo Salt, and brilliantly director by the legendary John Schlesinger, Hoffman and Voight lead an all star ensemble cast through a tour of the seedier side of New York, a Time Square that no longer exists, and the darker side of life that still haunts us. At its core, it’s a tale of friendship and desperation.

The real feat of Midnight Cowboy is bringing life, thanks to the expert direction and the performances of the actors, to two almost cartoon-like characters – naïve hustler Joe Buck and the infamous Rico ‘Ratso’ Rizzo – amazing. You actually grow to love them and their relationship so much that the ending may bring you to tears. This is truly one of the best films of its era, and a definite game changer. Recommended.

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