Best Progressive Films of 2015

Oscar May Have Snubbed Black/Non-White Films & Michael Moore, But The Progies Haven’t:

Michael Moore “Invades” 9th Annual Progie Award Nominations; A Gore Vidal Doc is Nommed Second Year in a Row; Transgender-Themed Tangerine Scores 3 Noms; Trumbo Up for The TrumboThe nominations for the 9th annual Progie Awards – recognizing 2015’s best progressive films and filmmakers – have been voted on.  The Progies highlight features, documentaries and the artists who made and appear in them, based on their progressive political, social, cultural, ethnic, economic, gender, ecological, immigrant, pro-human rights, pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-labor, etc., 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.

Michael Moore and his new film Where to Invade Next invaded the Progie nominations in four categories, including for Best Progressive Documentary and Lifetime Achievement.  While the nonfiction biopic Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia was nommed in the Best Progressive Documentary (but lost to the Edward Snowden expose Citizenfour) in 2014, Gore is back this year in Best of Enemies, which features Vidal debating rightwing idiot savant William F. Buckley during the 1968 presidential race.

The feature film Trumbo is up for The Trumbo, The Progie for Best Progressive Film, which is named after Dalton Trumbo.  Bryan Cranston is also nommed for the Best Progressive Actor Progie for portraying Trumbo in the biopic about how this Hollywood Ten screenwriter helped break the Hollywood Blacklist by writing scripts under assumed names while “banned” by the studios and finally receiving screen credits for the slave revolt epic Spartacus and Exodus in 1960.  The feature is notable for its positive depiction of a protagonist clearly identified as having been a Communist Party member.

Films critical of corporate practices on Wall Street and sports – The Big Short, Concussion – also received multiple Progie nominations.  As did Suffragette, a hard-hitting drama about the militant struggle of British women for the right to vote.  Todd Haynes’ pro-Lesbian rights drama Carol received two noms, too.  So did Spotlight, the fact-based expose of priest molestation and high level church cover-up revealed by a heroic team of investigative reporters.  The Turkish feature Mustang galloped to two Progie nominations in the Best Foreign Progressive Film and Best Pro-Feminist Depiction of Women categories.

With its anti-police brutality theme, the N.W.A. hit Straight Outta Compton was nominated in the Best Anti-Fascist Film Category, as well as for Best Portrayal of People of Color. The harrowing Hungarian anti-Nazi drama Son of Saul, set in Auschwitz, received three noms, including for Best Anti-Fascist Film.  Tangerine, featuring transgender African Americans and shot with iPhones, has also been nommed for Best Portrayal of People of Color, as well as in the best LGBTQ Rights and Most Positive and Inspiring Working Class Screen Image categories.  Ken Loach’s pro-Irish proletarian drama Jimmy’s Hall, written by Paul Laverty, is likewise nommed in the latter category.

Recently deceased cinematographer/director Haskell Wexler is also being considered for the Lifetime Achievement accolade.  Comedienne/actress Lily Tomlin, who has been making America laugh since the 1960s’ TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, is also nommed in that category, as well as for Best Progressive Actress for Grandma.  Another comic/actress, Sarah Silverman, is nominated in the latter category for her performance in I Smile Back.

The Progressive Magazine began publishing the Progie winners in 2007, when the awards premiered in order to put lefty films in the limelight. Since then, the James Agee Cinema Circle, an international group of left-leaning film critics, historians and scholars, has voted for the annual Progie nominations and awards.

2015 PROGIE NOMINATIONS FOR BEST PROGRESSIVE FILMS & ARTIST

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 and helped break the Blacklist.

  • The Big Short
  • Concussion
  • Experimenter
  • Spotlight
  • Trumbo

THE NEWMAN: The Progie Award for BEST ACTOR in a progressive picture is named after Paul Newman.

  • Steve Carell, The Big Short
  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
  • Peter Sarsgaard, Experimenter

KAREN MORLEY AWARD: The Progie Award for BEST ACTRESS in a film portraying women 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.

  • Sakura Ando, 100 Yen Love
  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Arielle Holmes, Heaven Knows What
  • Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back
  • Lily Tomlin, Grandma

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.

  • A War;
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Sicario
  • Son of Saul
  • Where to Invade Next

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 Brand New Testament
  • The Club
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Mustang
  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
  • Son of Saul

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.

  • A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile
  • Best of Enemies
  • Finders Keepers
  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  • The Hunting Ground
  • Welcome to Leith
  • Where to Invade Next

OUR DAILY BREAD AWARD: The Progie Award for the MOST POSITIVE AND INSPIRING WORKING CLASS SCREEN IMAGE is named after a 1934 movie about an American commune during the Great Depression produced by Charlie Chaplin.

  • Brooklyn
  • Jimmy’s Hall
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Suffragette
  • Tangerine

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.”

  • Concussion
  • Dope
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Tangerine

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.”

  • Danny Glover
  • Michael Moore
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Lily Tomlin
  • Haskell Wexler

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.”

  • Anomalisa
  • The Big Short
  • The Brand New Testament
  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
  • Spy
  • Where to Invade Next

THE PASOLINI: 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.

  • Carol
  • The D Train
  • The Danish Girl
  • Grandma
  • Tangerine

THE CONFORMIST: The Progie Award for BEST ANTI-FASCIST FILM is named after Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 anti-Mussolini film.

  • Beasts of No Nation
  • The Best of Enemies
  • Labyrinth of Lies
  • The Look of Silence
  • Son of Saul
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Straight Outta Compton

THE MARIANNE AND JULIANE: The Progie Award for BEST PRO-FEMINIST DEPICTION OF WOMEN is named after Margarethe von Trotta’s 1982 German film about sisters – one an editor, the other a militant.

  • Carol
  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Grandma
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Mustang
  • Spy
  • Suffragette

The James Agee Cinema Circle’s participants will select the award winners from the nominees around mid-February, and the results will be announced shortly before the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 28, 2016. Until then, we’ll see you in the Left Aisle at the movies.

May the Best Progressive films and filmmakers win!

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