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Movies as political puppets

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Why now? Simply, this is an election year in a highly polarized America, and people with access to the media want to have their say.

As for the impact such films may have, if any, the jury is out.

"It's impossible to know," says Susan Zeig, a film professor at Long Island University, "especially since it depends on what a person thinks before seeing a film."

A few directors, though, certainly would like to believe that the timing of their movies will provide some sort of impact. Other than the Tim Robbins satire "Bob Roberts," released at the height of election season in 1992, when was the last time we saw a deluge of movies pointedly aimed at a particular election day?

Michael Moore has been quite blunt in stating that intent of his nonfiction film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," is to galvanize voters to oust Bush - one reason why the movie is being rushed to DVD one month prior to the elections. A slew of other left-leaning political documentaries have found big-screen distribution, among them "Bush's Brain," "Uncovered: The War on Iraq," and the imminent "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry."

Blending politics and entertainment

But it's Moore's film that has had the largest cultural impact. Could it be the presence of a strong political message that has made Moore's movie such a hit, playing to large crowds in middle America as well as the supposedly sophisticated coasts?

People who share Moore's ideology might like to think that, but others suspect it's only part of the reason for his movie's popularity. Agree with it or not, "Fahrenheit 9/11" is entertaining, sometimes in funny ways - as when Moore scoots around Washington declaiming the Patriot Act from a sound truck - and sometimes in sentimental ways, as when he interviews the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq.

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