Instead of a traditional fall movie preview, I have identified four movies that will appeal to Republicans and five that will appeal to Democrats. Here are those five movies:
Branded (September 7)
With echoes of “The Matrix,” “Branded” paints a portrait of a dystopian society (we’ve seen a lot of those this year) in which people’s minds are controlled by powerful global corporations and one man (Ed Stoppard) has the ability to expose the truth. The plot taps into Democrats’ frustration with a presidential campaign in which the Republican candidate has access to unprecedented corporate contributions. This movie is being released with minimal marketing and no big names attached – usually a bad sign – but due to its timely subject matter and impressive production values, “Branded” could be a surprise hit.
Lincoln (limited: November 9, expands: Nov. 16)
Yes, our sixteen president was a Republican, but the film’s director, Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg, sure isn’t. And listen to how Spielberg described his portrayal of the famous emancipator:
“Our movie is really about a working leader who must make tough decisions and get things done in the face of overwhelming opposition…”
Sound like anyone we know? Expect an ostensibly non-partisan affair from the crowd-pleasing Spielberg, but it will be impossible to view this film outside of the context of an Obama presidency. Released just days after election day, however, its tone of reverence for presidential success in difficult times may be perceived by Democrats as either triumphant or bittersweet – depending on whether Obama is suiting up for a second term or finishing up his presidency.
Hyde Park on Hudson (December 7)
The mystery of Bill Murray’s politics continue. After shocking hipsters and Democrats with his libertarianish comments on television last year, he will now appear as the Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who constructed modern-day liberalism in the form of the New Deal. The trailer raises a lot of questions. Can Murray, who despite his forays into drama has never really been able to transform himself for a role, pull off such an iconic role? (My guess? No.) Will Olivia Williams win an Oscar for her portrayal of Eleanor? (Yes.) Will Jason Schwartzman show up as Max Fisher? (God, I hope so.) I’m more interested in how the film handles its politics. The story is set on the weekend that the King and Queen of England visit the Roosevelts to convince the U.S. to join the war effort against Germany. Considering that the U.S. would not do so for two more years (despite the slaughter of millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses), it would seem hard for the movie to maintain the light tone that the preview suggests. We shall see, but I know this: no one, Democrat or Republican, wants to see Bill Murray fail at this.
Les Miserables (December 14)
The themes of inter-class resentment and social revolution have permeated Hollywood this year. “The Hunger Games” and “The Dark Knight Returns” (currently #2 and #3 in box office for the year) both addressed these issues head on, although they drew different conclusions about the ethics of revolution. Many have suggested that these films drew inspiration from Occupy Wall Street, but, at least when it comes to “The Dark Knight Rises,” the French Revolution is the more likely source material. Given the box office success of movies that have advanced these themes this year, “Les Miserables” stands to be a hit. A musical that sets the dogged pursuit of a small-time criminal by a ruthless inspector against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the film is certain to resonate with left-wingers who voted for Obama in 2008 because they believed he could change the culture of corruption in Washington – but are now disillusioned by his friendliness towards corporations and big banks and are now planning the revolution.
Zero Dark Thirty (December 19)
Director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) claims that her film, an account of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, is not a political film. Yeah, right. It helps that she moved the release date until after the election, but the rumors that the Obama team cooperated by sharing potentially sensitive details on the raid with Bigelow do not. It’s hard to know whether this is true, or if it is just election-year politics (noted Obama critic and Chair of the House Department on Homeland Security Rep. Peter King raised the allegations), but it should not matter either way. Both Democratic and Republican administrations routinely cooperate with filmmakers to promote the American military. This does not seem much different to me.
As for the film, Bigelow has proven that she can capture the rhythms of war and the minds of the soldier, so “Zero Dark Thirty” should not disappoint. It is doubtful, though, that the film promotes Obama’s role in pursuing the mission, but it will serve as a powerful reminder of one of the most praised decisions of his presidency.