A Progressive Answer to the Oscars

Martina Gedeck in "The Baader-Meinhoff Complex"

The James Agee Cinema Circle is announcing the third annual “Progie” Awards for Best Progressive Films and Filmmakers of 2009.

The James Agee Cinema Circle is a new international, independent umbrella group of lefty film critics, reviewers, scholars and historians dedicated to raising public awareness about films dealing with political, social and cultural issues such as: Human rights, workers’ struggles, women’s rights, environmentalism, ethnic rights, free speech, gay rights, civil liberties, immigrant rights, people’s activism and peace. The JACC annually presents the Progies to the year’s Best Progressive studio features, indies, documentaries and artists. The Progies are the “un-Oscar”, the “people’s alternative Academy Awards,” honoring movies and talents of conscience and consciousness.

The 2009 Progie Award winners include: Michael Moore’s anti-corporate documentary Capitalism, A Love Story; the Palestinian immigrant drama Amreeka; the German urban guerrilla feature The Baader-Meinhoff Complex; the psychic military unit satire The Men Who Stare At Goats and British director Ken Loach, all completely overlooked by this year’s Oscars. The pro-gay, anti-abuse inner city drama Precious and James Cameron’s pro-indigenous, anti-colonial sci fi epic Avatar are also among the Progie Award winners.

Each Progie is awarded in a category named after a great cinema artist or film that made a contribution to movies that enlighten, as well as entertain audiences. The Elia Kazan Hall of Shame category has multiple entries submitted by J.A.C.C. voters.

Ed Rampell, author of Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States, and other members of the James Agee Cinema Circle are available for comment and interviews.


THE TRUMBO: The Progie Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE PICTURE is named after Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a member of the Hollywood Ten, who was imprisoned for his beliefs and refusing to inform. Trumbo helped break the Blacklist when he received screen credit for “Spartacus” and “Exodus” in 1960.

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THE GARFIELD: The Progie Award for BEST ACTOR in a progressive picture is named after John Garfield, who rose from the proletarian theatre to star in progressive pictures such as “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “Force of Evil,” only to run afoul of the Hollywood Blacklist.

  • Colin Firth, A Single Man

KAREN MORLEY AWARD: The Progie Award for BEST ACTRESS in a progressive picture is named for Karen Morley, co-star of 1932’s “Scarface” and 1934’s “Our Daily Bread.”

  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

THE RENOIR: The Progie Award for BEST ANTI-WAR FILM is named after the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir, who directed the 1937 anti-militarism masterpiece “Grand Illusion.”

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THE GILLO: The Progie Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE FOREIGN FILM is named after the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, who lensed the 1960s classics “The Battle of Algiers” and “Burn!”

  • The Baader-Meinhoff Complex

THE DZIGA: The Progie Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE DOCUMENTARY is named after the Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, who directed 1920s nonfiction films such as the “Kino Pravda” (“Film Truth”) series and “The Man With the Movie Camera.”

  • The Cove

LA PASSIONARA AWARD: The Progie Award for MOST POSITIVE FEMALE SCREEN IMAGE is named after Dolores Ibarruri, the fiery leader of the Spanish Republic who appeared in documentaries such as Joris Ivens’ “The Spanish Earth.”

  • Amreeka


  • Capitalism, A Love Story
  • Amreeka
  • Sunshine Cleaning

THE ROBESON: The Progie Award for the BEST PORTRAYAL OF PEOPLE OF COLOR that shatters cinema stereotypes, in light of their historically demeaning depictions onscreen. It is named after courageous performing legend, Paul Robeson, who starred in 1936’s “Song of Freedom” and 1940’s “The Proud Valley,” and narrated 1942’s “Native Land.”

  • Precious

THE SERGEI: The Progie Award for LIFETIME PROGRESSIVE ACHIEVEMENT ON- OR OFFSCREEN is named after Sergei Eisenstein, the Soviet director of masterpieces such as “Potemkin” and “10 Days That Shook the World.”

  • Ken Loach

THE TOMAS GUTIERREZ ALEA AWARD: The Progie Award for BEST DEPICTION OF A MASS POPULAR UPRISING OR REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATION is named after the legendary Cuban filmmaker who directed 1968’s “Memories of Underdevelopment” and 1994’s “Strawberry and Chocolate.”

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THE BUNUEL: The Progie Award for the MOST SLYLY SUBVERSIVE SATIRICAL CINEMATIC FILM in terms of form, style and content is named after Luis Bunuel, the Spanish surrealist who directed 1929’s “The Andalusian Dog,” 1967’s “Belle de Jour” and 1972’s “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.”

  • The Men Who Stare At Goats

THE PASOLINI: The Progie Award for BEST PRO-GAY RIGHTS film is named after Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who directed 1964’s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” and “The Decameron” and “The Canterbury Tales” in the 1970s.

  • A Single Man

THE LAWSON: The Progie Award for BEST ANTI-FASCIST FILM is named after John Howard Lawson, screenwriter of 1938’s anti-Franco “Blockade” and the 1940s anti-Nazi films “Four Sons,” “Action in the North Atlantic,” “Sahara” and “Counter-Attack,” and one of the Hollywood Ten.

  • White Ribbon

ELIA KAZAN HALL OF SHAME 2009: Citations for the worst anti-working class and right wing movies of the year is named after director Elia Kazan, who was Hollywood’s “King Rat.” Kazan not only informed on alleged radicals to the House Un-American Activities Committee, he took out a New York Times ad justifying his self-serving treachery. J.A.C.C. voters submitted these entries:

  • Jon Voight for participating in Tea Bagger anti-healthcare reform rallies. He should return his Oscar for Coming Home!
  • Sherlock Holmes for what appears to be disgraceful anti-Semitism and ripping off the brand name previously created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds – Turning the Holocaust into an obscene ahistoric movie-geek action film, with his testosterone-driven murderous Jews.

Website: http://politicalfilmcritics.blogspot.com/

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based freelance writer and author of Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States.

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