The worlds have become so entwined in recent weeks that one lawmaker, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), appears to have unwittingly created a perception problem for a filmmaker ally, Ben Affleck.
Courtney says he was just standing up for Connecticut's reputation. But some saw a more shadowy motivation to knock "Lincoln": Affleck, the director of "Argo," had campaigned for Courtney in 2006, a race Courtney won by just 83 votes.
In an interview, Courtney credited his win to a rally Affleck held on the University of Connecticut campus, but maintained that he had no contact with Affleck before writing about "Lincoln."
"It's hilarious, that conspiracy theory," Courtney said and laughed. "I'm not smart enough to know when Oscar voting begins." A spokeswoman for "Argo" said that "there was no involvement with the Courtney letter" and said she felt "dismay that anyone would suggest otherwise."
Still, such scrutiny and perception questions have some awards campaign strategists emphasizing that they're merely passive recipients of Washington interest. Consultants for "Lincoln," for instance, made a point of saying that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) approached them to screen the film on Capitol Hill, not the other way around.
Russell's D.C. visit was overseen by the Weinstein Co., which financed and distributed "Silver Linings Playbook." The company's co-founder Bob Weinstein is friendly with Stabenow, but both sides say this was not a matter of politically connected studio chiefs using their influence with Washington.
A Weinstein Co. representative said the appearances happened "organically," and Stabenow said that "the Weinsteins reached out to me at the same time I was reaching out to them," adding that the D.C. tie-ins were the result of the pictures themselves. "I think it's the nature of the films this year — they are powerful movies that offer very important messages," she said.