Mike Fleming

I cannot remember a year where so many Best Picture Oscar candidates reverberated so much on Capitol Hill. First, there was the Lincoln screening for Congress, and we know how Zero Dark Thirty has shaken things up amidst its D.C. premiere. Now it’s Silver Linings Playbook‘s turn, for its message of hope toward those who’ve suffered silently with mental challenges.

Bradley Cooper, Oscar nominated for his role as the film’s bipolar protagonist, will join former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy in a press conference Friday at the Center for American Progress to discuss how the film has helped make progress toward removing the stigma of mental illness. This comes after Cooper and Robert De Niro taped an appearance with Katie Couric to talk about the movie and its mental health message. In that appearance, I’m told that De Niro actually broke down when he discussed a personal connection to the subject matter.

There are 5.7 million Americans who are bipolar to varying degrees, including some of the architects of the movie. Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick struggles with depression, and director/writer David O Russell made the movie as a statement of hope for his son, who has struggled with some of these issues. Russell, who has had his own issues in the past, has said the big reward of the movie is that his son knows that “he is part of this world” and not an outsider who’s all alone. I can’t tell you at this point which of the nine nominated films will win Best Picture–right now it seems that Argo has the momentum even though Ben Affleck was inexplicably omitted from a Best Director nomination–but it will likely be a long time before we have another year when there were so many worthy candidates about serious subjects that have done so well at the box office and resonated with audiences in so many ways. What chance would last year’s Best Picture winner, the black and white, silent film The Artist, have had in this ferociously competitive race?

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