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Art or activism? The Oscars’ identity crisis

This year’s awards will be a battle between political propriety and cinematic excellence. But will medium or message finally triumph?

What is the point of cinema? For most people: entertainment; for some: art. And for a few: a means of shaping attitudes. Such purposes are not mutually exclusive – just ask Ken Loach (or even, perhaps, the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl).

Proudly political engagement isn’t new. The movies fought the cold war, decried Vietnam and took sides on many grand issues of the past.

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