Sunday, May 25, 2008

Campaign trailers

It was just a matter of time until Hollywood checked into Campaign 2008 with something more than celebrity endorsements. The political movies are arriving — now it’s getting serious.

The year’s first campaign-related movie isn’t related to this election year, but maybe there’s a cautionary tale in its recall of the 2000 presidential race. “Recount,” airing on HBO on Sunday night and again Monday, stars Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Bob Balaban, Laura Dern, John Hurt and Tom Wilkinson in a look back at the 2000 election debacle in Florida, complete with Supreme Court intervention, butterfly ballots and, of course, our very good friend Hanging Chad.

And in “Swing Vote,” a comedy that opens in August, the nearly impossible happens when an election comes down to — literally — one man’s vote. Kevin Costner is Bud Johnson, beer-guzzling ne’er-do-well and reluctant participant in American democracy, who (by virtue of a glitch in electronic vote tallies) finds himself much sought after by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Paula Patton, Nathan Lane, Willie Nelson, George Lopez and Mare Winningham star in what we can only hope isn’t a look into the near future. Nearly impossible? After Florida 2000, it’s impossible to dismiss the “Swing Vote” scenario completely.

This may be the first wave of these films, or the last. With the comedic institution "Saturday Night Live" continuing its role as hecklers and satirists of politics and culture, the growth of maverick campaign video producers like Jib Jab, and the presence of the new 800-pound gorilla on the block, YouTube, maybe campaign movies at the multiplex have gone out of style.

Or maybe nothing trumps real life. With the twists and turns we've witnessed and experienced already, Campaign 2008 is probably the campaign movie we've been waiting for.

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