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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.
Week three of no theatrical releases. That will technically change soon — Universal’s premium VOD-opening “Trolls World Tour” has a handful of still-open drive-ins to play don’t expect any grosses reported. But it was a week full of important stories, with particular interest in a series of release date adjustments. However, no date can be realized if theaters aren’t open, and nobody knows when that will be.
• Exhibitor trade organization NATO held a webinar Friday. President John Fifthian raised hope that some theaters might be open by late May or early June. AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron, who oversees the most screens in North America reiterated his hopes for mid-June.
• With the COVID-19 still in its early stages of national spread, uncertainty about the curve flattening, and signs that in China, which had the earliest outbreaks three months ago, that viral decline doesn’t equal viral defeat, the reality is it could be weeks before anyone can make a reasonable assessment on reopening.
• Countering industry optimism that after weeks indoors, people will flock to theaters is a survey by Performance Research about public attitudes on return to public events. It saw 49 percent of respondents saying feeling safe about returning to theaters ranged from in a few months to never, with 28 percent saying if they do return, it will be less often. That said: This is a snapshot taken nearly two weeks ago, and shouldn’t be considered predictive. It showed similar or worse results for sporting events, concerts, and theme parks.
• Sports league executives spoke with President Trump, who urged resumption as soon as possible. However, Dr. Alan Sills, chief medical officer for the NFL, cautioned it is premature to believe that football can return this fall. Governors in some states that aren’t fully shut down, like Nebraska, encouraged voluntary compliance — with the threat that if the virus isn’t contained, their ardent fans might not have a season. Sports, of course, demand close player and spectator contact, and are more vulnerable even than theaters to the ongoing threat of contagion. But the idea that it is conceivable the country could have a year with no more sports is even more shocking than disruption to theaters.
• The key takeaway from multiple studio release schedule changes is, in re-dating titles, they don’t expect theaters to be fully operational until July at the earliest. Though key June and July titles like Pixar’s “Soul” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” remain in those months, “Mulan” on July 24 is the earliest rescheduled date for any major title. Other date changes act as a diversion while theaters are closed, but the reality is everything is written in pencil, not pen.
Ladj Ly's Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize laureate Les Misérables was the big winner at Friday night's 45th annual César Awards, France's equivalent to the Oscars, including taking the top honor of Best Film. The night unfolded, however, under tumultuous conditions owing to controversy surrounding Roman Polanski, whose An Officer and a Spy was the leading nominee going in with 12 mentions.
The filmmaker was not in attendance, but his film won three prizes including Best Director — an occurrence that caused walkouts from the Salle Pleyel, which earlier in the evening had been the site of protests by feminist organizations.
Polanski on Thursday said he would not attend the local industry's biggest night. “Activists are threatening me with a public lynching. Some have called for demonstrations, others are planning to make it a platform,” he said. “This promises to look more like a symposium than a celebration of cinema designed to reward its greatest talents,” the Oscar winner told AFP.
Earlier today, Officer and a Spy producer Alain Goldman told AFP he and the film's team had decided not to attend amid “an escalation of inappropriate and violent language and behavior.” Star Jean Dujardin on Instagram posted a photo from the film whose French title is J'Accuse, a term adopted by protesters against Polanski and wrote, “I'd just like to remind that J'Accuse is the title of a very famous article by Emile Zola, I hope that doesn't bother anyone? Have a good night!”
The Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma is itself in upheaval with the board of its management, the Association for the Promotion of Cinema, having recently announced its intention to resign en masse. That follows upset within the voting membership which has complained of an “elitist and closed” system in which they have “no voice.” A revamp of the Académie is due to begin soon with Amour producer Margaret Menegoz recently named its interim president.
The rest of the evenings nominees included such titles as Ly's Oscar-nominated Les Misérables, Nicolas Bedos' La Belle Epoque and Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The latter included a Best Actress mention for Adèle Haenel, who has made headlines for accusing French director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her from the age of 12, and has been outspoken with regard to the nominations for Polanski.
Here is tonight's full list of winners:
BEST FILMLes Misérables, dir: Ladj Ly
BEST DIRECTORRoman Polanski — An Officer And A Spy
BEST ACTRESSAnais Demoustier — Alice Et Le Maire
BEST ACTORRoschdy Zem — Roubaix, Une Lumière
BEST SUPPORTING ACTORSwann Arlaud — Grace A Dieu