Oscars season is upon us, let the free advertising campaigns commence

In exchange for glamour, TV gives Hollywood carte blanche to market itself mercilessly

Share
Related Topics

I woke this morning to find that American Hustle, a film which, from what I can gather, appears to be mainly about kipper ties and big glasses, has won some awards.

These awards weren't Oscars, which aren't handed out until March. Nor were they the Golden Globes, which are in the gift of the Hollywood Foreign Press Corps. Those were doled out last week. You probably heard about it. If you didn't I can't imagine how far off the grid you must be living.

No, these were the Screen Actors Guild Awards. You might assume that the fact that I know anything about the distribution of these arcane gongs means I was combing a deep-end film-buff site curated by some movie anorak in the Hollywood Hills. But you'd be wrong. This little item of information came from Radio 4. And not in the course of some programme covering the crazy goings on in Hollywood. This was in the middle of the 9am bulletin on Radio 4.

I've got nothing against awards. I understand awards and heartily approve of them, particularly when applied to such allegedly unjudgeable areas as the creative arts. I know how they work. If you win it's a long overdue recognition of your genius. If you don't it's a farce which nobody takes any notice of anyway, and anybody know a club that would let us in at this hour?

What I have difficulty with is the mainstream media - and here I'm looking at everyone from BBC News to Sky to Capital Radio to the World Service to all sections of the press - increasingly falling over itself to cooperate in the pretence that the question of whether one film gets slightly more votes from the retired Best Boys of Palm Springs than another one matters to anyone other than the bloke whose job it is to put bums on the seats of the world's multiplexes.

Furthermore, since most of what you pay for your eye wateringly expensive ticket goes to cover the costs of the film, the real fiscal endgame here is the selling of sugary drinks in large buckets. Keep that in mind when some actor is suggesting in his thank-you speech that the sum of the world's misery has been significantly altered by the fact that it’s him who’s fondling the statuette and not that no-talent over there. Pop.

Hats off then to the people who pull the strings of the motion picture business. They have perpetrated one of the greatest cons in modern commercial history, one which has proved far beyond the modest capabilities of the music, sport or food industries. They have managed to persuade everyone from the New York Times to Newsnight to Al Jazeera that their annual prizegiving is to do with something purer, finer and more profound than the volume of glutinous pop to be shifted from Milton Keynes to Moose Droppings, Ohio or the extra noughts it will add on the next cheque banked by the agent of the woman who wins Best Actress.

It's advertising. It's the best kind of advertising. You don't have to pay for it. Actually, it's one better than that, because it's the kind of advertising people will pay you for the privilege of running. Only 25 years ago, when I was involved in launching the film magazine Empire, the Golden Globes were recognised by people in the industry as a predictor of Oscars success and you wouldn't have known about the Screen Actors Guild unless you happened to read Screen International. Then Bafta got in on the act, realising that if it positioned itself at the right place in the calendar it could get some big Hollywood names to turn up. Now we have Oscars Season.

All these events have their own TV shows. Where there are TV shows there will be red carpets. Where there are red carpets there will be frocks. Where there are frocks there will be actresses paid to wear them and interviewers thrusting microphones at them and asking who they're wearing. More advertising. I find all this quite entertaining but what I cannot abide is the pretence of the media that it is anything other than sales promotion.

In exchange for its glamour, TV has given the film industry a free pass that it doesn't give to anyone else. If you're the marketing director of a widget company and the BBC want to interview you on camera, why not tell them you will only be interviewed in front of a display of your latest products? They'll refuse on the ground that this would be a naked commercial plug. But they'll happily extend that favour to anyone plugging a film.

Most film coverage isn't about films. It's about money and power and career and frocks. The media has flattered Hollywood that its inner workings are any more elevated than those of any other business. In return Hollywood has persuaded the media to accept tiny glimmers of access, glimmers for which it's pathetically grateful. The world's media will descend on Hollywood on 2 March, promising their editors “back-stage gossip” and “exclusive pictures”, both of which they'll be denied by the clipboard people who run the show. No matter. They'll keep coming back year after year and they won't be honest about the true reason why.

They've got stars in their eyes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine