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Episode 141 - Midnight Cowboy vs. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


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Poll: Episode 141 - Midnight Cowboy vs. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (w/ Russ Fischer) (28 member(s) have cast votes)

Which 1970 Best Picture nominee should enter The Canon?

  1. Midnight Cowboy (18 votes [64.29%])

    Percentage of vote: 64.29%

  2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (10 votes [35.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 35.71%

Vote Guests cannot vote

#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 10:55 PM

Film critic Russ Fischer joins Amy for the second week of Oscars Month with a showdown from the 1970 Academy Awards: “Midnight Cowboy” vs. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” First, they discuss the Texas cowboy identity, X-rating, and treatment of homosexuality in “Midnight Cowboy.” Then they tackle “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” noting what it pulls from Greek myth, its combined star power of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and how it set the blockbuster paradigm.

#2 ActualButt

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 11:42 AM

Midnight Cowboy is just plainly more emotionally resonant and creatively endearing. It's also more real and iconic. I'm sure both belong in the Canon, and I think Butch and Sundance should get another crack at entry down the line, but Midnight Cowboy is indelible.

#3 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 04:17 PM

I don't have a strong preference, but upon this most recent rewatch of Midnight Cowboy, I was bugged by some of the filmmaking strategies that are hopelessly stuck in the 1960s (the Warhol party sequence especially), though of course the movie has other strengths enough to overcome that.

Butch Cassidy is also dated in its way, but the framing of the story, using sepia tones and deliberately drawing attention to the fact that this is taking on old-fashioned myth-making, helps everything go down more smoothly. I'd also argue that this is the more influential film, with the quippy, buddy-cop relationship between the two heroes having been repeated across so many popular action movies in its wake. So I throw my vote to Butch & Sundance.

#4 phred2321

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 05:42 PM

Both of these are great but Everybody's Talkin' > Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head so my vote goes to Midnight Cowboy

#5 SilverShade

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 06:44 PM

Very tough call but I think Butch and Sundance win it for me and it all comes down to influence. Midnight Cowboy is very unique and a harsh time capsule of New York in the 1960's and I can't think of another film quite like it. Butch and Sundance influenced so many writers like Aaron Sorkin, Shane Black and Joss Whedon. Not to mention: no Sundance Kid, no Sundance Festival. So many great works can be traced back to this one movie, and because it's a period piece I feel like it's aged better.

#6 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 08:25 PM

I think I had somehow only ever seen MIDNIGHT COWBOY once or twice, and that was several years ago. I had a detailed memory of several key scenes, and remembered the film just about scene for scene, but I had completely forgotten what a surreal, dreamlike tone the film had. I remembered the events of Joe's past and the fantasies Joe and Rico have being much more literal, like Amy claims the book is. I was so surprised to be reminded of how strange and wonderful this film was, even if sometimes its bizarre nature goes a bit too far. I had always compared MIDNIGHT COWBOY to other films about luckless lowlifes, such as SCARECROW or STRAIGHT TIME, but watching it again, I think the film it reminds me of the most is BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, only featuring a nightmarish move to New York instead of Los Angeles. Jon Voight is just outstanding in this film. Easily my favorite performance of his. Where did that guy go? Hoffman, who I often will regard as the greatest actor of his generation, has some truly heartbreaking and vulnerable moments, but every once in a while will drift into a zone that comes across a bit cartoony. Perhaps he still had some growing to do as an actor. Get those rocks out of your shoes, dude! I see why this film won Best Picture in 1970. It was the beginning of a new decade. More films were starting to look like this and they were bold and different. Perhaps it should have won for its pure innovation and unique voice. But is it the superior film?

We don't have nearly enough westerns in The Canon. A too often maligned genre, it has so much to offer us. So many of the westerns that we celebrate are ones like BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, which stands outside of the genre with a kind of self awareness that becomes somewhat more about commentary on the time it was made than the time in which it takes place. This particular film, about a world with a fast encroaching future and two legends in the making resisting its changes, is an undeniable classic that has lasted for generations and appeals to even people who think that they hate westerns. I was surpised to hear that both Amy and Russ thought that the freeze-frame ending was a cop out. I always thought it was an intentional denial of giving Butch and Sundance the hail of bullets they both desperately craved in order to become mythic legends. They would earn that title regardless, but by ending the film just before it happens, it almost punishes the heroes by leaving their story unfinished. I adore this movie and can watch it over and over. I'll concede that MIDNIGHT COWBOY is the more explosive of the two films, but just because BCATSK remains a crowd pleaser, I don't think its impact is at all diminished. It would certainly seem downright revolutionary if you put it aside the other western of the year, TRUE GRIT, a film I also have much affection for. Frankly, I really would love to see more "honest westerns" be submitted for The Canon. Films like STAGECOACH, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, FORT APACHE, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, THE OX-BOW INCIDENT, RED RIVER, RIO BRAVO, or HIGH NOON. They have just as much to teach us as the films that try to subvert the genre in some ways, such as this one, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, UNFORGIVEN, MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER, LITTLE BIG MAN, and JOHNNY GUITAR. Have I shown my hand as an unabashed fan of the genre? Yes, I think I'm going to have to cast a somewhat biased vote for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, but not without remarking what a fantastic year 1970 was for film and that this was a much more difficult decision than I had expected it to be. I just think we need a few more westerns in The Canon, so this would fit well beside THE WILD BUNCH, THE SEARCHERS, and BLAZING SADDLES. Also, won't it be fun to see just how many Paul Newman movies we can admit into The Canon in one year? This will already be two. Let's go for a hat trick! Coming this March... a versus battle between THE VERDICT and SLAP SHOT. Tough call.

#7 raz

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 04:30 AM

Maybe I'm heartless but Midnight Cowboy just did not hit me. While the performances were individually good I didn't see Joe and Rico have a true connection.

On the other hand the relationship between Butch and Sundance seems seamless. The dialogue never seems to get old for me, and for some reason the bicycle scene works. Easy vote for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

#8 dancingmarine

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 04:49 PM

I've always thought BUTCH CASSIDY was entertaining but unmemorable (save for the ending and the jump off the cliff) and got a HUGE boost from its considerable star power. I much preferred the later pairing of Newman and Redford, THE STING (though one could argue it's not as good as fellow Best Picture nominees CRIES AND WHISPERS and THE EXORCIST -- could we have a STING V EXORCIST episode..?)

I didn't see MIDNIGHT COWBOY until it was re-released in the 90s, but didn't feel it dated very badly. I find it very moving and affecting, and it's filled with many terrific little moments: "I'm walkin' here!", Voight and Hoffman shuffling in the cold to the orange juice commercial jingle, Hoffman's bizarre daydream of hitting the big time in Florida. But my favorite moment in the film -- one that has stuck with me over the years and that I think of often -- is when Voight is walking by the coffee shop, spies Hoffman through the window, and these two desperately lonely souls share a brief, warm smile. Quickly followed by Voight's smile fading as he demands his money and Hoffman digging through his pockets for change, comically pleading "I want you to have it!" Delicious moment in a terrific movie.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY hands down.

#9 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 04:56 PM

Midnight Cowboy might have been really edgy for its time, but it lacks the capacity to shock now. What remains is the story of a very stupid person continually failing, which is somewhat unusual but doesn't make for that great a film (even with all the fancy cutting). Butch Cassidy is an all-timer though. Someone who hasn't seen it has an incomplete film knowledge, but I'd heartily recommend it to anyone simply because it's so enjoyable.

#10 bleary

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 07:21 PM

Even more than most versus matchups, this seems to just be a matter of taste. Both of these films are well-made, and both were ahead of their times in different ways. Midnight Cowboy ushered in a new cinematic era in terms of story and direction, while Butch Cassidy influenced screenwriters for decades. This has always seemed like one of the most interesting years in film history to me, with these game-changing films being joined by Easy Rider and Z and The Wild Bunch and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? among others. Meanwhile, although their era was coming to a close, the nominees were still riddled with musicals, with Hello, Dolly! getting 3 wins in 7 nominations and the score category including Paint Your Wagon, Sweet Charity, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. And as mentioned in the episode, westerns galore.

In this context, I love how Midnight Cowboy directly addresses the relevance of westerns in modern times by having Joe's cowboy persona seem so out of touch, even in Texas. (I also love the irony of Voight's portrayal of this character going head-to-head against lifelong fake cowboy John Wayne, who somehow managed to win the lone Oscar of his career here.) I see Midnight Cowboy (and Easy Rider, which I feel is a great complement to Midnight Cowboy) as confronting the changing times by juxtaposing past with present while simultaneously developing a new cinematic language.

What I'm really getting at is that, as good as Butch Cassidy is, it could have been made in 1959 or 1979 and it wouldn't make any difference; it wouldn't be any better or worse of a film. I'm sure some would argue that this is a point in its favor, and I could understand that argument. But I'm partial to what Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider say about the time they were made. Plus, (and this goes back to my original statement about taste), I get bored in the second act of Butch Cassidy. These are both remarkable films, and I think both are Canon-worthy, but I'm going with Midnight Cowboy.

#11 BostonBrand

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 04:54 AM

I love both movies, but I think Amy and Russ called this one exactly right. Midnight Cowboy is intensely moving in its portrayal of two damaged men at the fringes of society who come to love each other. I like Butch and Sundance, and I'm sad at their death; but I'm not devastated the way I am when Ratso dies.

#12 Cronopio

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 05:27 PM

I love both films. Butch and Sundance is a perfect entertainment - maybe too perfect, like a studio's well-oiled attempt at cashing in on the cultural moment, being both anti-establishment and establishment at the same time, its tongue-in-cheek rebelliousness masking its conventional heart, almost like a Marvel movie of today. And Midnight Cowboy is the standard bearer for the humanist realist, European influenced films of that era - Panic in Needle Park, The King of Marvin Gardens, Five Easy Pieces, etc. I appreciate how all those movies are very reflective of the social strife of the era, like Weimar Republic silent films, or Italian neorrealist movies. It was a tough choice, but in the end I went with Midnight Cowboy, because it feels more sincere.

#13 rickyssofake

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 01:27 PM

I'd say about half of Butch Cassidy consists of montages.