Monday, 11 July 2011

Best Actor 1969: Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy

Jon Voight received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy.

Midnight Cowboy tells of the story of naive Texan who dreams of being a hustler in New York City and fins it far harder than he expected, and befriends a street dweller in the city.

Jon Voight plays the hustler Joe Buck who wants to make it big in New York. Voight whole creation of Joe is absolutely brilliant. His accent, and his whole native way about himself just fits the part perfectly. New York really is way over his head, and Voight portrays this perfectly through  a realistic naivety and a little pompousness that sets up Joe's fall in New York without fault. Joe is a fish out of water in New York and Voight is again excellent because he shows this incredible boyish earnestness that prevails through Joe as he goes around the city thinking women will just jump to the chance to use his services. Voight is great because he is not afraid to show that Joe has no idea what he is doing whatsoever, there is not a hidden intelligence about Joe, rather Voight correctly portrays all of these ideas coming from his very skewed sense of masculinity.

Throughout the film there are many instances of flashbacks that show Joe's life in Texas, and Voight basically without words indicates how the events in his life, as well as the way he was raised created Joe into the way he was. In both his naivety, and optimism of sorts that Voight suggests in a subtle fashion that does mask the pain of his life that came before he came to New York. Voight also as well carefully establishes how Joe developed his particular masculine beliefs, being in basically being an old western cowboy like basically John Wayne in True Grit really. Voight and the film portrays these concepts as a folly of sort on Joe's part, and that also it is not who Joe is completely. It is not a facade that Voight portrays but rather just that became embedded into him due to his long time in Texas.

Joe's handling of his who transition of his beliefs is carefully, and expertly handled by Voight. It is interesting because Voight really just does not show that he simply lose his ideas, no instead Voight shows how he adjusts his ideas and finds he really cannot use them with women, but interestingly near the end of the film, he almost is the cowboy he wants to be in the scene with the elderly businessman. That entire scene is a masterful moment for Voight, because the hero of his cowboy ideal comes out in the scene, still hardly the real deal considering the twisted nature of the scene as well as the fact that he practices being the hero in the mirror before he confronts the man. It is a fascinating performance by Voight as he portrays Joe finally attempting to act the way he thinks he can and he must to save his friend, even it leads to a dark place and a dark end.

Voight is amazing because after that scene he does eventually lose the cowboy act, but it does not come from the realization of just that it does not really work with the women. It is better handled by Voight as he portrays these ideas deeper than that to Joe, and it takes the disturbing scene with the old man to finally cause him to shed his view of masculinity. Voight properly shows that this ideal which Joe has gained throughout his life did not take one denial of it for him to be able to shed it but rather something far dramatic was required. Voight individual performance as Joe is amazing, but the best moments of the film and his performance do come from his interactions with Hoffman's Ratso Rizzo. It incredible how heartfelt of a friendship that the two actors develop together, despite it most certainly being a harsh one, after all it starts out with Ratso conning Joe out of money. 

Their scenes together are outstanding because of they together create a real authentic friendship between two very lonely men. Their friendship is not repeatedly stated by the film, and it frankly seems harsh at time, but because of the understated way both actors portray the friendship it is one of the most deeply moving friendships ever in all of cinema. Jon Voight's performance is a tremendous piece of acting. He never overdoes a single aspect of his performance, and Joe could have been easily played all wrong. Jon Voight though instead gets ever aspect of the performance completely on the mark. Everything works about the performance, not a single scene or moment is off. His entire performance is an incredible portrayal of an unforgettable character.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Easily my win. I hope he gets your vote

RatedRStar said...

Voight has given some bad performances in his career, but here he is legendary I think =)

Sage Slowdive said...

Agree with the person above.

dinasztie said...

Yes, he's incredible here. If I think more, Hoffman is not that better. Still, for me it's Hoffman.