After failing to win all but one* of its Oscar nominations, Zero Dark Thirty's filmmakers got some good news on Monday, when the Senate Intelligence Committee dropped its investigation into the movie. It's been six weeks since a panel of senators lead by Diane Feinstein and John McCain opened the probe after previously describing the film as "grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Osama bin Laden" and condemning "particularly graphic scenes of CIA officers torturing detainees." The investigation closed with much less bombast. A congressional aide confirmed to Reuters on Monday that the senators had indeed abandoned the inquiry and didn't offer any hints of their findings.
Now about that bad Oscars night. It was also Reuters that was quick to the trigger with the headline "Zero Dark Thirty fails at Oscars amid political fallout," after the film came up almost empty handed at the Academy Awards. Everybody's been wondering if the scrutiny from the Senate, not to mention the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, would hurt Zero Dark Thirty's chances at the industry's highest honor. Some critics thought that Zero Dark Thirty was already screwed when the nominations were announced. "Chalk up this year's nominations as a victory for the bullying power of the United States Senate and an undeserved loss for Kathryn Bigelow," wrote Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Tura, who called the film an "undeserved victim of politics" in January. Boal himself accused the politicians of using his movie as a "publicity platform."
It's tough not to read into the timing of the Senate's decision to drop the Zero Dark Thirty investigation. Let's just call it a coincidence, for now, and remember that the kids on Capitol Hill have much more important things to do this week than scold filmmakers for not making films right.
* Paul N. J. Ottosson tied with Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall) for Best Sound Editing.