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Nonpolitical D.C.: 13 Movies to Check Out

Courtesy Warner Bros.
The dark tone of “The Exorcist” is well-suited to Georgetown’s shadowy nighttime feel.

5. Good to Go (1986): Art Garfunkel, of all people, plays a reporter framed for murder who tries to clear his name. He does so amid D.C.’s go-go scene. An almost-impossible-to-find movie that features the holy trinity of go-go: Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Trouble Funk and E.U.

6. Houseboat (1958): A romantic comedy with two of the most suave actors of the post-World War II era: Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.

7. How Do You Know (2010): A movie that’s a kind of coming out for the Washington Nationals, who only arrived in 2005 but quickly became a part of the fabric of the city. Owen Wilson is a relief pitcher Lothario who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Reese Witherspoon. Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson play a father-son business team.

8. The Last Detail (1973): Not a Washington movie per se, but a road movie with a stop-over in a gritty, wintry D.C. Two Navy lifers, Jack Nicholson and Otis Young, have to escort Randy Quaid to a Naval prison. They show him a good time en route, and their odyssey takes them into the seedy underbelly of the Northeast Corridor.

9. St. Elmo’s Fire (1985): Georgetown’s party side gets the Brat Pack treatment, as Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez and other 1980s young stars play recent Hoya grads adjusting to post-college life. A pre-“Big Chill” for Generation X.

10. Shattered Glass (2003): This covers a dark chapter of Washington journalism, the plagiarism episode perpetuated at “The New Republic” by Stephen Glass. It’s a film, ultimately, about fact-checking, but the script, direction and acting deftly demonstrate how D.C.’s low-wage young strivers can have their idealism drowned in a pressure-filled cubicle. The movie’s portrayal of TNR editors Michael Kelly and Charles Lane, played by Hank Azaria and Peter Sarsgaard, respectively, was spot on. Kelly was killed in Iraq a few months before the release, lending an outside poignancy to the film for his colleagues.

11. Slam (1998): A low-level criminal gets busted but finds solace in expressing himself through hip-hop and poetry. Raw settings in the D.C. jail and its surrounding neighborhoods show a world that, while only a couple of miles from the Capitol complex, is culturally far, far away.

12. Talk to Me (2007): Local D.C. news and affairs get a close-up in the story of ex-con-turned-talk show host Petey Greene, played by Don Cheadle, and his beleaguered producer, Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor.) The 1960s and 1970s backdrop shows the rise of D.C. political activism and the birth of Chocolate City.

13. The Walker (2007): Woody Harrelson plays Carter Page III, a platonic escort to older, socialite women, all the wives of powerful men. The man paid to be good company finds himself in a bind when he lies for one of the women who finds herself in a compromised position. An interesting look at the salons of Washington, and a rare treatment of D.C.’s gay community.

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