TO SEPT. 19

The upcoming presidential election notwithstanding, the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center has a very good reason for screening the films of the 2004 Political Comedy Festival sooner rather than later: Given the censorial tendencies of our current Republican administration, I’d have to say that the genre’s days are severely numbered. Of course, Dubya and his warmongering, corporate-interest-controlled cronies are as ripe for the picking as Florida oranges—if anything, there’s indeed more fodder for Hollywood humorists now than during the final sex-stained months of the Clinton campaign, which inspired Mike Nichols’ Primary Colors (at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17). But with Michael Moore’s recent financial success proving that documentaries can make you just as much money, if not more, why go to all the trouble of paying for a feature-length fiction film? Had director Alexander Payne known that the unprecedented farce that was the 2000 presidential election would occur just a year after the release of his 1999 comedy, Election (pictured, at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18), perhaps he would have torn up Matthew Broderick’s and Reese Witherspoon’s contracts, waited it out, then simply gone to the Sunshine State with a digital video camera for the equally captivating results. And Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog (at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19)—in which Robert DeNiro orchestrates a fake war against a foreign country in order to draw media attention away from a domestic scandal—is the stuff of today’s daily news, easily rewatched on your TiVo. The series runs to Saturday, Sept. 19, at AFI’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50 (per film). (301) 495-6720. (Matthew Borlik)