The James Agee Cinema Circle of film critics, historians, and scholars has announced its nominations for the eighth annual Progie Awards, recognizing 2014’s best progressive films and filmmakers.
The Progies highlight features, documentaries, and the artists who made and appear in them, evaluating their political, social, economic content and form. The nominations and awards are given in a variety of categories named after great lefty filmmakers and films of conscience, consciousness, and creativity. Up to five nominees can be selected per category, except in case of a tie, when more than five nominees can be entered in a category.
Some of the themes revealed by the 2014 nominations include the ongoing rise of films by and about people of color, with the Chicano/labor union biopic Cesar Chavez, the Civil Rights movement/Martin Luther King saga Selma, and the anti-racist satire Dear White People each receiving multiple nominations. The same is true of pro-LGBTQ films, with Pride, The Imitation Game, and The Circle likewise multi-nominated. In fact, due to ties, both the Robeson (Best Portrayal of People of Color) and Pasolini (Best Pro-LGBTQ Picture) categories have more than five nominees.
The 2014 Best Actress Progie nominations also highlight the trend of roles for courageous women, including America Ferrera as union organizer Helen Chavez in Cesar Chavez, Tessa Thompson as an activist in Dear White People and Marion Cotillard as a working class woman fighting to keep her factory job in Two Days, One Night.
The Best Actor category is dominated by depictions of actual historical figures, including David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Benedict Cumberbatch as antifascist computer pioneer Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, Eddie Redmayne as physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, Edgar Ramirez as South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar in The Liberator, and Jeremy Renner as anti-CIA investigative reporter Gary Webb in Kill the Messenger.
Swiss/French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard remains a perennial favorite, with his 3D Goodbye to Language nominated for the Trumbo (Best Progressive Picture) and the Gillo (Best Progressive Foreign Film). Nonfiction cinema also remains a vital force; Laura Poitras’s Edward Snowden film Citizenfour is up for the Dziga (Best Progressive Documentary) in an overflowing category featuring (due to a tie) seven nominees, including biopics about author Gore Vidal, Internet activist Aaron Swartz, and actor/activist George Takei.
The James Agee Cinema Circle, an international organization of left-leaning film scholars and critics, has determined Progie nominees and award winners by vote since the awards premiered in 2007.
2014 Progie Nominations fro Best Progressive Films and Artists
THE TRUMBO AWARD: 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 refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee during its investigations of Communism in film. Trumbo helped break the blacklist when he received screen credit for Spartacus and Exodus in 1960.
GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE
THE GARFIELD AWARD: 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.
DAVID OYELOWO, SELMA
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, THE IMITATION GAME
EDDIE REDMAYNE, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
HARVEY KEITEL, CONGRESS
EDGAR RAMIREZ, THE LIBERATOR
JEREMY RENNER, KILL THE MESSENGER
CHANNING TATUM, FOXCATCHER
MICHAEL KEATON, BIRDMAN
THE 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. 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’s Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.
TESSA THOMPSON, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE
TILDA SWINTON, SNOWPIERCER
MARION COTILLARD, TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT
AMERICA FERRARA, CESAR CHAVEZ
JULIANNE MOORE, STILL ALICE
THE RENOIR AWARD: 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.
THE IMITATION GAME
THE GILLO AWARD: The Progie Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE FOREIGN FILM is named after the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, who spearheaded the 1960s classics The Battle of Algiers and Burn!
GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
THE DZIGA AWARD: 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 UNKNOWN KNOWN
THE 'OUR DAILY BREAD' AWARD: The Progie Award for the Most Positive and Inspiring Working Class Screen Image is named for the Depression-era film by the same name.
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
THE ROBESON AWARD: The Progie Award for the 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.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE
THE SERGEI AWARD: The Progie Award for Lifetime Progressive Achievement is named after Sergei Eisenstein, the Soviet director of masterpieces such as Potemkin and 10 Days That Shook the World.
THE BUNUEL AWARD: The Progie Award for the Most Slyly Subversive Satirical Film 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 PASOLINI AWARD: The Progie Award for Best Pro-LGBTQ 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.
THE IMITATION GAME
TO BE TAKEI
THE LAWSON AWARD: 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.
NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY
The James Agee Cinema Circle’s participants will select the award winners from the nominees in mid February, and the results will be announced shortly before the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 22. Until then, we’ll see you in the Left Aisle at the movies!
Ed Rampell is a Los Angeles-based film historian and critic who contributes regularly to The Progressive; he created the Progie Awards in 2007 to highlight the year’s best progressive films and filmmakers. Rampell is the author of the 2005 book Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States and the coauthor of three other film history books, most recently The Hawaii Movie and Television Book.