Academy Award nominations now in hand, the movies “RBG” and “Vice” provide some faint hope that political stories coming out of Washington aren’t all a drag.
Early on Day 32 of the shutdown, with seemingly no end in sight to that standoff, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its slate of 2019 nominations. Among them were eight, including Best Picture, for the somewhat experimental studio biopic about former Vice President Dick Cheney “Vice,” and two for a documentary feature on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “RBG.”
It was an interesting bit of symmetry: a fictionalized account of the conservative foreign policy hawk Cheney, backed by the star power of writer/director Adam McKay of “Anchorman” fame and A-list actors like Christian Bale, Sam Rockwell and Amy Adams, and a nonfiction account of the groundbreaking but only recently pop-culture-ratified liberal icon Ginsburg.
“RBG” filmmakers Betsy Cohen and Julie West spoke to Roll Call’s Political Theater podcast when the film was released last year, discussing how they used Ginsburg’s late-in-life “Notorious RBG” identity as a hook to delve into her significant accomplishments in the public realm on civil rights.
“We understood that there was so much more to her story than the ‘Notorious RBG,’ but it gave us a way into the story,” Cohen said then.
It’s a testament to the diverse ways cinematic stories can break through. The high-profile “Vice” has a cast filled with former superheroes and Oscar winners (Bale played Batman for three movies, after all, in addition to winning Best Supporting Actor for “The Fighter”). Meanwhile, the documentary version of Ginsburg shut out the fictional movie version of her story, also released last year, “On the Basis of Sex,” which was buoyed by actors Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer.