A Trade Show

Take note of how much attention newspapers and television devote to the Academy Awards. Then remember that the Academy Awards is simply a trade show for the movie industry.

It’s no different from any other industrial or commercial association that meets and hands out awards to its top performers. To people outside the industry, it is absolutely meaningless. It does not make one iota’s difference in the lives of anyone outside the business who wins an Academy Award.

At one time, the news business treated the Academy Awards for what it is, a trade show. At best, newspapers might have run a wire story about the results on an inside page. Today, even the nominations make the front page on many newspapers and become the top talking point for the television chatterers.

There are a couple of things this change in emphasis tells us. One is that the American people and the news business have become more superficial. I will leave it to you as to which is the chicken and which is the egg. My own professional opinion is that people judge the importance of most events by the amount of media coverage the events receive.

Second, it demonstrates how the news and entertainment industries have blended together. In part, that’s because of the corporate mergers. Many conglomerates today have news outlets and interests in entertainment businesses. You’ve probably noticed that newspapers get interviews and TV talk shows get guests when they have a movie or a book to promote. To paraphrase an old song, there is a whole lot of cross-promotion going on.

It used to be that those in their early teens and subteens would join fan clubs and go gaga about entertainers. Now it seems that adults do the same. Look at the attention given to the private lives of celebrities. I noticed, for example, that the crowds waiting to get a glimpse of Donald Trump and his celebrity wedding guests were all adults.

Personally, I can’t imagine why anyone who doesn’t know the people would care anything at all about the personal lives of show-business people or other celebrities. These people are the same as the rest of us except for the business they’re in. In my reporting days, I interviewed a number of movie stars, but the only one who impressed me enough to remember fondly was Roy Rogers, a very fine and unpretentious man.

I say all of this as someone who loved the movies when he was a kid. In my small town, they were a window to the world. I’m less of a moviegoer today because I think the quality has deteriorated, but there is nothing wrong with the movie business per se. It is commercial entertainment. We watch a movie to escape reality for 90 minutes or so. That’s much better than booze or dope.

The motion picture, when everything falls into place, can be a work of art. It incorporates words, music, pictures and movement. Good examples of movies as high art are Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront and Federico Fellini’s La Strada. If you’ve never seen them, they are well worth a trip to the video store.

I merely suggest that the movie business be kept in its proper perspective and you recognize that the attention given to the entertainment industry by the media is what it is — plain, pure commercial hype. A sales pitch. It used to be called press-agentry. There was even a time when anything that was brought by a press agent into most newspaper city rooms went straight into the trash can. Press agents, I think, now occupy a higher social status than newspaper people. Incidentally, I’ve occupied both positions, though the job titles were "political aide," "advertising copywriter" and "public-relations counselor." Those are all euphemisms for "flack."

Lastly, if you are interested in with whom Brad Pitt or Jennifer Lopez is sleeping or what Hilary Swank will wear to the Academy Awards, please, get a life. Sleep with somebody. Go shopping. Be the star in your own life.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.