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The art of politics

December 22, 2011

It may come as a surprise to learn only one film revolving around politics has ever won the Academy Award for best picture: 1949's "All the King's Men." Based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren, the Robert Rossen-directed drama (unsuccessfully remade in 2006) followed the rise and fall of a Southern U.S. politician, said to have been inspired by 1930s Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long. It also won that year's Oscars for lead actor (Broderick Crawford) and supporting actress (Mercedes McCambridge).

And, although political themes may have infused — subliminally or otherwise — such best picture Oscar-winning war movies as "All Quiet on the Western Front," "Patton," "The Deer Hunter" and "Platoon," in addition to such socially relevant top academy picks as "Gentleman's Agreement," "In the Heat of the Night" and "Crash," they could hardly be classified as political films.

Politics, however, did play a lead role in a number of best picture nominees. So, in honor of this year's Oscar hopeful "The Ides of March," here's a partial list of those previous candidates:

"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939) — Frank Capra directed James Stewart as an idealistic young junior senator who finds corruption in our nation's capital. Written by Sidney Buchman.

"Z" (1969) — Costa-Gavras' mystery-thriller followed the aftermath of a political assassination in Greece. Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Irene Papas starred.

"All the President's Men" (1976) — Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman played real-life journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they investigated the infamous Watergate break-in. Alan J. Pakula directed William Goldman's script, based on the Woodward-Bernstein book.

"JFK" (1991) — Oliver Stone's controversial examination of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy featured an all-star cast, including Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Kevin Bacon and Jack Lemmon.

"Good Night, and Good Luck" (2005) — George Clooney directed and acted in this 1950s snapshot of TV newsman Edward R. Murrow's showdown with anti-Communist U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, from a script Clooney wrote with "Ides of March" collaborator Grant Heslov.

"Frost/Nixon" (2008) — Ron Howard directed this look back at a series of 1977 interviews that TV host David Frost (played by Michael Sheen) held with disgraced former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). Written by Peter Morgan, based on his stage play.

—Gary Goldstein

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