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Movies as political puppets

As Election Day looms, several popular releases are boldly mixing entertainment with pointed political commentary.

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There's no way Dicky Pilager, a central character of the forthcoming movie "Silver City," bears any resemblance to George W. Bush.

Apart from the fact that he's a reelection candidate, and his dad is a famous senior politician. And then there are his syntactically challenged speech patterns. And he hails from Colorado, which isn't exactly Texas but isn't a coastal state, either. And then there are his policies, conservative to the core....

All right, let's face it, Dicky's character has been written and directed by John Sayles, and acted by Chris Cooper, to resemble Mr. Bush in almost every way you can imagine.

Could it be Mr. Sayles has an agenda here?

You bet. And it's not a hidden one. Sayles has been exploring public issues from a liberal perspective for some 25 years.

Nor is "Silver City" the only imminent fiction film with a political twist. "Team America: World Police" uses marionette figures in what's described as a satirical story of superhero-type adventurers fighting terrorism. Other recent releases have also been pointed in their political targets. Jonathan Demme's remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" features a corporation with great political influence - shades of Haliburton, perhaps? - while "The Day After Tomorrow," a movie that advocates government action to curb global warming, includes a fictional vice president who clearly resembles Dick Cheney.

Past political movies have tended to be broader in aim. "Bulworth," for example, is a satire about politics in general rather than a specific person. Or they focused on past events ("All the President's Men," for instance) or on issues that are evergreens. By contrast, this year's crop of movies act as the movie equivalent of political cartoons, aimed to make a political point even as they entertain.

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