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Awards Race: Politics Re-Enters Campaigns for Oscar Films

It’s started already.

Every few years, awards strategists offer some innovations to the campaign formula. In the late 1980s, it was screeners. Then it was Q&A’s and “in honor of” receptions. Last year, politics became a campaign tool, and that appears to be happening again, but earlier in the season than last year.

The Weinstein Co. today announced that President Obama will be screening “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” at the White House Nov. 7, with the list of attendees to include stars Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, as well as Nelson Mandela’s daughters Zindzi and Zenani Mandela. The press release included praise for the film from Zindzi M. and Nelson Mandela’s former wife Winnie.

Earlier this year, the pinnacle of politics-as-showbiz was Bill Clinton’s appearance at the Golden Globes to introduce a film clip from “Lincoln.” Not even presenting an award, but presenting a CLIP!

The nadir was when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for an investigation into connections between the CIA and “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. There was talk they  might be called before a Senate hearing. The film got a bum rap; right after the Oscar ceremony, Feinstein announced that there would be no investigation. Was that whole thing (and the silly pro-torture claims) instigated by rivals of the excellent film? We’ll never be able to prove it, but…

Last year, “Argo” and “Silver Linings Playbook” also got endorsements from politicians — a reversal of the usual procedure where candidates seek backing from Hollywood.

This year, there are plenty of issue-oriented films that can tap into D.C. connections. I’m not saying they should, I’m just saying they will.

And speaking of campaigning: Is it my imagination or are the Q&A’s and receptions proliferating? They’re growing like kudzu. It’s either a sign that the economy is rebounding… or that it’s a competitive year and the campaigning is aggressive.

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