LOS ANGELES – The James Agee Cinema Circle has announced its fourth annual “Progie” Award nominees, for 2010’s best progressive films, actors and filmmakers. Nominees include films like Oliver Stone’s “South of the Border,” John Sayles’ “Amigo,” and the British feminist strike drama “Made In Dagenham,” and actors Naomi Watts for “Fair Game,” Kevin Spacey for “Casino Jack,” and Geoffrey Rush for “The King’s Speech.”
The film group says the Progies are the “un-Oscar,” the people’s “alternative Academy Awards.” They honor movies and talents of conscience and consciousness in a variety of categories named after artists and films that are pro-people, pro-working class, pro-women, pro-gay, pro-environment, pro-human rights, anti-war, anti-racist and anti-fascist.
The James Agee Cinema Circle is an international group of left film critics and historians dedicated to advancing progressive cinema and filmmakers. One of its members, screenwriter and playwright Christopher Trumbo, died Jan. 9. Circle members include Ed Rampell, author of “Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States” and editor of HollywoodProgressive.com, and Bill Meyer, film critic for the People’s World and HollywoodProgressive.com.
The Progie Trumbo 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 on others. Trumbo helped break the blacklist when he received screen credit for “Spartacus” and “Exodus” in 1960. The 2010 nominees are “Made In Dagenham,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” “Even The Rain,” “Casino Jack” and “Route Irish.”
The Garfield award for best male actor in a progressive picture is named after John Garfield, who rose from the proletarian theater to star in progressive pictures such as “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “Force of Evil,” only to run afoul of the Hollywood blacklist. The 2010 nominees are Kevin Spacey (“Casino Jack”), Edgar Ramirez (“Carlos”), Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter”), Geoffrey Rush (“The King’s Speech”) and James Franco (“Howl”).
The Karen Morley award for best actress in a progressive film portraying women is named for Karen Morley, co-star of 1932’s “Scarface” and 1934’s “Our Daily Bread.” Morley was driven out of Hollywood in the 1930s for her leftist views, but maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for New York lieutenant governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She died in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93. The 2010 nominees are Sally Hawkins (“Made In Dagenham”) and Naomi Watts (“Fair Game”).
Other awards include the Renoir for best antiwar film, named after the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir, who directed the 1937 anti-militarism masterpiece “Grand Illusion,” and the Gillo Award for best progressive foreign film, named after Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, who lensed the 1960s classics “The Battle of Algiers” and “Burn!”
The Dziga award for best progressive documentary is named after 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 Our Daily Bread award honors the most positive and inspiring working-class screen image. And the Robeson award, for best portrayal of people of color that shatters cinema stereotypes, 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.”
These and other 2010 Progie awards will be announced in February, shortly before the Academy Awards ceremony.
Films nominated for Progies this year cover a wide range, with titles like “Miral,” “The Green Zone,” “Night Catches Us,” “The Kids are All Right,” “Film Socialisme,” “Cleveland Versus Wall Street,” “I Love You Philip Morris,” “Frankie and Alice,” and many more.
Previous Progie winners have included Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters,” Michael Moore, “Che,” British director Ken Loach, “Waltz With Bashir,” James Cameron’s “Avatar,” Sean Penn and “Milk.”