Politics are the daily grind at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But when in comes to award season politics, the White House wanted to play no part, having been accused of altering the Oscar race for movies like Lincoln. The Obama administration iissued a moratorium on East Wing screenings back in November. But that ban was lifted on Monday, when officials announced The Monuments Men would screen for the President on Tuesday evening.
THR reports the cast and crew of the George Clooney-directed docudrama was invited to attend the presidential exhibition of the film. Aside from the prestigious setting, this Monuments Men screening was reportedly intended as a low-key affair with no press in attendance. You know, just Clooney and the Obamas kicking back. Do you think they played basketball?
As the press wasn't invited, we don't know who precisely turned out for this cozy home screening. Clooney is essentially a given, not only because he co-wrote/directed/produced and starred in the film, but also because he and the president have become friends over the course of Clooney's fundraising for Obama's re-election campaign. Other potential attendees include Clooney's Monuments Men co-stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban and Grant Heslov, who is one of the film's producers and co-writer.
Clooney connection aside, it's easy to understand why The Monuments Men might pique the president's interest. Set in World War II, it centers on the struggles of the war's most unlikely platoon, made up of a motley crew tasked with saving priceless art from the destructive hands of thieving Nazi forces.
The aforementioned moratorium was reportedly put in place so that the White House and the President could not be used as a pawn in the Oscar race. Memorably, the First Lady, Michelle Obama, served as a presenter of Best Picture last year, a move that polarized some Oscar watchers. But the bigger issue came earlier, when Steven Spielberg's Lincoln screened for the president last awards season.
While an average American's renting of an acclaimed movie doesn't mean much in the Oscar race, a screening at the White House became a coveted asset. So the White House was flooded with offers from this year's slate of Oscar contenders. Rather than accepting any or all, the office of the president opted to shut down the screenings until an opportunity arose that couldn't impact the Academy Awards. As The Monuments Men doesn't qualify for the 2014 awards (and likely won't get much notice next Oscar season), this screening is free from that conflict.
Docudramas about American history aren't President Obama's only pop culture love though. We recently learned he's a fan of a string of acclaimed TV dramas, including HBO's True Detective and Game of Thrones, as well as Netflix's House of Cards.