Missing from Sunday’s night of glamour and gold was one well-subsidized filmreleased a bit too late for awards voters — “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” a 28-minute attack documentary funded by a Super PAC in support of Newt Gingrich.
The film focuses on Romney’s time at Bain Capital and paints the likely GOP presidential candidate as a ruthless, greedy capitalist intent on cannibalizing other companies and eliminating jobs for his own profit.
But despite the explicitly political nature of the film, or rather as a result of it, the New York Times’ David Carr noticed something else about the documentary – it feels very Hollywood.
That it came from an overtly Republican group – their preferred candidate, Gingrich, considers himself a “Reaganite” – tickled the Grey Lady’s media columnist.
“But there is something deeply funny about watching Republicans, who routinely invoke the film industry as an epicenter of all that is wrong with this country, brazenly aping the techniques of Hollywood to influence how primary voters see the frontrunner.”
So what about it is so brazenly Hollywood?
It takes an approach to the documentary popularized in the past decade or so — using raw footage to correct a supposed falsehood – Romney's success as a venture capitalist prepared him to aid the middle class as president – and replace it with a "truth" – he is the ultimate one-percenter.
As part of his quest for understanding, Carr interviewed directors who have made similar films, like Michael Moore and Alex Gibney, the latter of whom made documentaries about Enron and former New York governor Eliot Spitzer.
After joking that the Republicans paid him to make the documentary, Gibney expressed concern that this would inhibit his own filmmaking because viewers would view it as a similarly transparent piece of propaganda.
“He is concerned that the line between hard-hitting point-of-view documentaries and paid agitprop could become a fuzzy one,” Carr wrote.
But the more narrative-inclined Hollywood types were impressed.
Judd Apatow compared it to “The Daily Show” while Bill Condon, who made the “Twilight” movies praised the film’s title, the filmmakers’ camera work and editing, and even the use of imagery.
Carr linked the film to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case, and wrote that it "might look like a breathtaking reminder of the law of unintended consequences."
But even if Romney doesn’t take a hit until the general election, there could be a reward in this for Gingrich’s supporters.
Since the former Speaker of the House is unlikely to be in the White House when next year’s Oscars roll around, he should hope Carr’s column counts as a review.
If it does, under the new documentary rules, “When Mitt Romney Came to Town" is eligible for a spot on the ballot.