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As someone born in the eighties, my first exposure to Midnight Cowboy was as a joke on Seinfeld that I didn't get. Jerry and Kramer were on a bus, Kramer slipped into a weird accent and started acting pathetic and all of a sudden some music kicked in and my dad was laughing much harder than I was. “They're doing Midnight Cowboy!” he said, as if this was something a teenager should just know.
Amazing how jokes you didn't get will stick with you like that. Yet in the 20-odd years since that Seinfeld episode, I still hadn't ever seen the 1969 Best Picture winner the only X-rated film ever to do so and number 43 on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of best American films. What can I say, we didn't have streaming services back then. But now Midnight Cowboy is available free on Amazon Prime and all the movie theaters are closed and so here we are.
One great thing about watching old movies in the age of streaming is that they look fantastic. Watching on any decent modern TV, you get a sense of how it must've felt to see them during their original run in a way VHS or even relatively recent DVDs never allowed. Digital technology has only barely caught up with what film projected in its original format could accomplish in the 1930s. I can't say the same for flat screen sound, but that unmistakable Midnight Cowboy song “Everybody's Talkin,” by Harry Nilsson kicks in right away. Jangling guitars, lyrics that you can kind of understand that trick you into singing along — definitely don't watch if you're not prepared to have it stuck in your head for a week. Midnight Cowboy is almost more song than movie.
We open in small-town Texas, following a jarringly handsome Jon Voight at least compared to the present-day MAGA incarnation as Joe Buck, a cosplay cowboy who has quit his dishwashing job to set out for the Big Apple. He tells everyone who asks or doesn't and mostly they don't that he's going to become a “hustler,” which apparently means pleasuring older ladies for money. Joe Buck is either a lovable idiot or working hard to give the impression of one. His plan is plainly quixotic but he does have two things going for him: irrational optimism and total commitment to a look. He apes wholesome TV cowboys and assumes panties will simply melt away for him, something that makes perfect sense in his mind.
Directed by John Schlesinger who went on to direct Marathon Man and Pacific Heights, among others and written by multiple Academy Award winner Waldo Salt from the novel by James Herlihy, Midnight Cowboy's most obvious contribution to pop culture was this oddball lead, whose echo I recognized for years without knowing it, from Seinfeld to Don Cheadle's cowboy phase as “Buck” in Boogie Nights. Even Woody in Toy Story feels like he has a little Joe Buck in...
The 92nd Academy Awards hit an all-time ratings low last night. The Academy decided against a host again this year and saw their ratings continue to fall from last year. The show contained some pretty shocking moments, along with some hilarious moments too. Bong Joon-ho's Parasite was the clear winner of the night and the director was clearly taken aback by all of the awards he won last night. Elsewhere, Joaquin Phoenix took home Best Actor for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck in Joker, while Renee Zellweger took home Best actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy.
Roughly 23.6 million viewers tuned into the Oscars last night, according to ABC from Nielsen numbers. These kind of ratings are fine for some of ABC's sitcoms, but for Hollywood's biggest night, it was pretty bad. It now holds the record for the lowest-rated in its televised history. The night saw a further 20% drop from last year, which boasted 29.6 million viewers. 6 million viewers less than last year is a pretty huge drop. The show has seen a steady decline since 1998 which was 55.2 million viewers, though there have been some ups and downs over the past 20+ years.
It's important to note that this year's Academy Awards was able to be streamed online too. Official online streaming numbers could come in and balance things out, though it's not clear if ABC will reveal its streaming numbers at this time. The emergence of streaming and alternate ways of viewing live events has taken its toll on the annual event, which might see ABC looking for a way to shake things up. Going with no host cut the time down, but not in any real considerable way. So, it will more than likely be back to the drawing board for next year's show.As for going without a host again this year, it's possible that the Academy Awards producers took the ratings spike from last year as an indicator. 2018's show featured host Jimmy Kimmel and only had 26.5 million, so going up over 3 million viewers seemed like a positive. However, there was controversy surrounding last year's show because of the whole deal with Kevin Hart hosting. Whatever the case may be, something will have to be done in order to get more people watching the broadcast next year.
Even with all the big Oscars 2020 winners, the Academy Awards didn't fair too well on live TV. But the annual event saw a 19% spike on social media. If people weren't watching the show, they were certainly still interested enough to know what everybody was wearing and who won what. Depending on what happens before next year, the social media component of the show might be something that ABC tries to capitalize on for the future, though it's unclear what that could look like. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to announce the Academy Awards ratings for this year.
The 2006 Oscars will forever be remembered as the infamous ceremony where “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture. Ang Lee’s groundbreaking gay romance was the critical favorite and it won three of the eight Oscars it was nominated for that year: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Headlining actors Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal both earned Oscar nominations for their performances. The actors were asked to present during the 2007 Oscars telecast, but Gyllenhaal revealed in a recent interview with Another Man magazine via NME that Ledger turned down the opportunity because it would mean making jokes at the expense of the gay “Brokeback” love story.
“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it,” Gyllenhaal said. “And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, 'Oh, okay... whatever.' I'm always like, ‘It's all in good fun.’ And Heath said, 'It's not a joke to me — I don't want to make any jokes about it.’”
Gyllenhaal, “That's the thing I loved about Heath. He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, 'No. This is about love. Like, that's it, man. Like, no.'”
Ledger was nominated in the Best Actor category but lost to “Capote” star Philip Seymour Hoffman. Gyllenhaal lost to George Clooney in “Syriana” for Best Supporting Actor. “Brokeback Mountain” marked the first Oscar nominations for both actors. Ledger would go on to be nominated and win his Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor race for his role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” Ledger received the Academy Award posthumously. “Brokeback” remains Gyllenhaal’s sole Oscar nomination to date.
Gyllenhaal has previously spoken about Ledger’s disdain for “Brokeback Mountain” jokes, but this is the first time the actor has revealed his late co-star turned down the Oscars. Gyllenhaal told “Today” in July 2019 that “Brokeback” marked a pivotal moment in his career. “It opened tons of doors,” he said. “It was crazy. It was amazing. It's defined my career in different ways. [But the film] is bigger than me...It has become not ours anymore. It's the world's.”
Read Gyllenhaal’s latest interview in its entirety on the Another Man website.