CRITICS CHAPTER

'Criticism is the only thing that stands between the audience and advertising.' - Pauline Kael


WHO WE ARE



Dr David Archibald, University Of Glasgow
Film International, Financial Times, Cineaste


Steve Ashton,
Filmvision.net

Dan Bessie
Filmmaker and Culture Critic

Prof. Dennis Broe
Jump Cut, NY Newsday, Boston Phoenix

Dianne Brooks
The Film Files, Writemovies.com

Paul Buhle
Brown University

Lisa Collins
Filmmaker

Benjamin Dickenson
Bright Lights Film Journal, UK

David Ehrenstein
Quarterly Review of Film and Video

John Esther
Los Angeles Journal

Miguel Gardel
Proletaria Press

David Spaner
KPFK Los Angeles, UprisingRadio.org,
Vancouver Georgia Straight

Michael Haas
Culture critic

Laura Hadden
Pacifica Radio

Gerald Horne
University Of Houston

Reynold Humphries
British Film Historian

Sikivu Hutchinson
BlackFemsLens.org, KPFK Radio

Jan Lisa Huttner
TheHotPinkPen.com, Films For Two

Cindy Lucia
Cineaste Magazine

Pat McGilligan
Film Historian

Prairie Miller
WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network

Logan Nakyanzi
Go Left TV, Huffington Post

Victor Navasky
The Nation

Gerald Peary
Boston Phoenix

Louis Proyect
Counterpunch, Marxmail.org

Luis Reyes
Film historian

Nancy Keefe Rhodes
NPR Radio WAER-FM,
Syracuse City Eagle

Nancy Schiesari,
BBC, Channel 4,
Univ. of Texas, Austin

Rebecca Schiller
Culture Critic

Michael Slate
Beneath The Surface, KPFK Radio

Christopher Trumbo
RIP, January 8, 2011

Dave Wagner
Mother Jones, Film International

Linda Z
LFC Film Club

Noah Zweig
Telesur


Paul Robeson With Oakland, Ca. Shipyard Workers, 1942

Black August

So in order to best cover all bases, progressive film critics tend to consider three categories of assessment, rather than two: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The first two are self-explanatory. And the third category is reserved for movies that may have been impressively put together, but there's just something offensively anti-humanistic about them.

Stay tuned......

The Organizer

Monday, December 29, 2008

**THE 2008 PROGIES NOMINEES FOR BEST PROGRESSIVE PICTURES**



1. 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.

BATTLE IN SEATTLE
CHE
MILK
THE VISITOR
WALTZ WITH BASHIR
WENDY AND LUCY


2. THE GARFIELD: The Progie Award for BEST ACTOR 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.

JOSH BROLIN (W.)
BENICIO DEL TORO (CHE)
RICHARD JENKINS (THE VISITOR)
FRANK LANGELLA (FROST/NIXON)
SEAN PENN (MILK)


3. KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For BEST ACTRESS. Named for Karen Morley, who was driven out of Hollywood in the 1930s for her leftist views, but who maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.

SALLY HAWKINS (HAPPY-GO-LUCKY)
ANGELINA JOLIE (CHANGELING)
MELISSA LEO (FROZEN RIVER)
MICHELLE WILLIAMS (WENDY AND LUCY)
KATE WINSLET (REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, THE READER)


4. 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."

BODY OF WAR
THE LUCKY ONES
STOP-LOSS
WALTZ WITH BASHIR
WAR, INC.


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

CHE
THE EDGE OF HEAVEN
TAKE OUT [Shih-Ching Tsou]
WALTZ WITH BASHIR
THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION


6. 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."

BODY OF WAR
RELIGULOUS
STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE
TROUBLE THE WATER
TRUMBO


7. ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: Named after brutally slain young actress, Adrienne Shelly. For the movie this year most opposing violence against women.

BEFORE THE RAIN
CHANGELING
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS
GRAN TORINO
PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL


8. LA PASSIONARA AWARD: For the most positive female images in a movie, and in light of the historically demeaning portrayal of women in movies.

CHANGELING
FROZEN RIVER
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
TROUBLE THE WATER


9. OUR DAILY BREAD AWARD: For the most positive and inspiring working class images in a movie this year.

BATTLE IN SEATTLE
THE GARDEN
KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL
PROFIT MOTIVE AND THE WHISPERING WIND
TAKE OUT [Shih-Ching Tsou]
THE WRESTLER


10. THE ROBESON AWARD: Named after courageous performing legend, Paul Robeson. The award is for the movie that best expresses the people of color in light of the historically demeaning portrayal of them in films.

BALLAST
CADILLAC RECORDS
EXILES
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA
TROUBLE THE WATER


11. THE BRANDO: The Progie Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE FILM ACTIVIST is named after Marlon Brando, who starred in movies such as the Black power-themed "Burn!" and 1987's anti-apartheid "A Dry White Season," and championed underdogs like the American Indian Movement offscreen.

JOHN CUSACK
DANNY GLOVER
ROBERT GREENWALD
SPIKE LEE
SEAN PENN


12. THE TOMAS GUTIERREZ ALEA AWARD: Named after the late legendary Cuban filmmaker. For best depicting mass popular uprising or revolutionary transformation in a movie.

BATTLE IN SEATTLE
CHE
CHICAGO 10
DEFIANCE
HUNGER


14. THE SERGEI: The Progie Award for Best Progressive LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT is named after the Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, who created Russian revolutionary classics such as 1925's "Potemkin" and 1927's "10 Days That Shook the World."

HARRY BELAFONTE
JEAN-LUC GODARD
DANNY GLOVER
KEN LOACH
PAUL NEWMAN


15. THE LAWSON: The Progie Award for BEST ANTI-FASCIST FILM this year, is named after screenwriter John Howard Lawson, one of the Hollywood Ten, who wrote Hollywood's first feature about the Spanish Civil War, 1938's "Blockade," with Henry Fonda, and anti-Nazi movies such as 1943's "Sahara," starring Humphrey Bogart.

BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS
DEFIANCE
GOOD
THE READER
VALKYRIE


16. THE MODERN TIMES: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Film SATIRE is named after Charlie Chaplin, who made 1936's "Modern Times" and 1940's "The Great Dictator."

FROST/NIXON
RELIGULOUS
W.
WALL-E
WAR, INC.


17. THE ORSON: The Progie Award for BEST OVERLOOKED OR THEATRICALLY UNRELEASED [seen at festivals, or on TV or DVD only] Progressive Film is named after actor/director Orson Welles. After he directed the masterpiece "Citizen Kane" Welles had difficulty getting most of his other movies made.

FIELDS OF FUEL
THE REAL GREAT DEBATERS
A TIME TO STIR
24 CITY
WINGS OF DEFEAT


18. THE LORENTZ: The Progie Award for Best ENVIRONMENTALIST film is named after Pare Lorentz, who directed the Depression era classic documentaries "The Plow That Broke the Plains" and "The River."

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER
THE GARDEN
THE HAPPENING
WALL-E


19. 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.

CHRIS & DON
MILK
NO REGRET
SAVE ME
THE SECRETS


20. THE LENNON: The Progie Award for Best Progressive MUSICAL OR FILM ABOUT MUSIC is named after peace activist and musician John Lennon, who co-starred in the 1967 satire "How I Won the War" and the 2006 doc "The U.S. vs. John Lennon."

ANITA O'DAY: THE LIFE OF A JAZZ SINGER
CADILLAC RECORDS
THE GITS
PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE
WAR DANCE

Sunday, December 28, 2008

PROGIE NOMINEES ANNOUNCED ON THOM HARTMANN’S SHOW





Dalton Trumbo


Click to Listen to the Radio Segment Here

West Coast Contact: Ed Rampell

Phone: (626)284-6954

Cell: (626)429-7343

Email: edrampell@charter.net

East Coast Contact: James Agee Cinema Circle

Email: ProgressiveCritics@gmail.com

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

PROGIE NOMINEES ANNOUNCED ON THOM HARTMANN’S SHOW

The Awards Honor Outstanding Movies of Conscience and Consciousness

Los Angeles, Dec. 28, 2008 – The James Agee Cinema Circle have announced the nominees for the 2008 “Progie” Awards at 11:00 a.m. (PST), December 29th on Thom Hartmann’s Air America radio program. The Progies recognize features, documentaries and filmmakers for their outstanding achievement in promoting human rights and providing a voice for people of color, women, the working class, immigrants, gays, the environment and against war, censorship and political repression.

The Progies are awarded in several categories, including: THE RENOIR: The Progie Award for Best Anti-war Film, named after the French filmmaker Jean Renoir, director of 1937’s anti-militarism masterpiece “Grand Illusion.” THE BRANDO: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Film Activist, named after Marlon Brando, champion of Native peoples and other underdogs. THE DZIGA: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Documentary, named after Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, director of 1929’s “The Man With the Movie Camera.” THE TRUMBO: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Picture, named after screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, who broke the Blacklist in 1960 by receiving screen credit for “Spartacus.”

The Progies premiered last December, when The Progressive Magazine published online an article recognizing films for their political consciousness, conscience and content (see: http://www.progressive.org/mag_rampell122607.) This inspired the creation of an international association of leftist film critics, reviewers, historians and scholars dedicated to spotlighting Hollywood, indie and foreign progressive pictures -- the James Agee Cinema Circle, named after the onetime film critic for Time and The Nation.

JACC participants include: Dan Bessie, culture critic and son of one of the Hollywood Ten; Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner, co-authors of “Radical Hollywood”; Gerald Horne, author of “The Final Victim of the Blacklist” and “Class Struggle in Hollywood”; Bill Meyer, People’s Weekly World reviewer; Luis Reyes, co-author of “Hispanics in Hollywood”; Jack Shaheen, author of “Reel Bad Arabs” and “Guilty”; etc.

The 2008 election year was a rich period for progressive pictures, such as Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling”, Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon”, Oliver Stone’s “W.”, Michael Moore’s “Slacker Uprising”, Steven Soderbergh’s “Che”, Courtney Hunt’s “Frozen River”, etc. For a comparable period in Hollywood history one must go back to 1940 and 1941, when Best Picture Oscar nominees included: “The Grapes of Wrath”, “The Great Dictator”, “The Philadelphia Story”, “Citizen Kane” and “How Green Was My Valley.”

The results of the James Agee Cinema Circle democratic vote for Progie nominees have been announced December 29, 2008. Following a second vote the Progie Award winners will be announced in early February 2009, prior to the Academy Awards ceremony.

L.A.-based film historian/critic Ed Rampell, author of “Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States”, and WBAI film critic Prairie Miller, producer of “The WBAI Arts Magazine” on N.Y.’s Pacifica Radio affiliate, are available for interviews, as are other JACC participants.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Speak Of Me As I Am: Old Man Robeson Keeps Rolling Along




Written By: Ed Rampell http://www.losangelesjournal.com/new/articles-view-17-728
2008 has been a year of progressive biopics, bringing Che Guevara, Harvey Milk and Richard Nixon back to life on the screen (lauding the first two, reviling the latter). Add to this distinguished company Speak Of Me As I Am, a leftist bio-play starring the stirring K.B. Solomon in an inspiring one-man show about Paul Robeson that is perfect for the holiday season. The son of a slave, Robeson was a Renaissance Man, an all-star athlete at Rutgers who earned a law degree and went on to become an actor (his most famous role was as a character of the Renaissance, Othello, from whom the play’s title is taken), singer and probably most importantly, a pro-Communist Black militant who stood up to “whitey,” be he a Southern racist or German fascist.

The first act of Speak Of Me As I Am tells much of Robeson’s story through film clips, songs performed live accompanied by a pianist and cellist and most of all by Solomon’s commanding presence. We see how Robeson went from all-American to “un-American,” the star of stage, screen and concert hall’s annual salary of $100,000 reduced to $2,000 per year when he was blacklisted during the HUAC-McCarthy era. Accused of being a Communist, Robeson was denied the right to perform at home, and his passport was seized by the State Department, preventing the internationally acclaimed celebrity from accepting the numerous gigs he was offered abroad. Although the play doesn’t mention it, one of Robeson’s greatest “crimes” was declaring during the Cold War that African-Americans wouldn’t fight for the USA against the Soviet Union, about 20 years before another Black activist, Muhammad Ali, refused to serve in Vietnam because no Viet Cong had ever called him the N-word.

Robeson died in the 1970s, and for today’s generation, the closest they’ll come to “meeting” this extraordinary man is through this show written and produced by Solomon and Krys Howard. Solomon’s performance is a marvel not to be missed. The towering basso profundo opera singer has the icon’s stature, mannerisms and smile down, and his mellifluous voice is a delight that sometimes had the audience singing along to numbers such as I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. Deftly cutting from the spoken to the sung word to tell Robeson’s saga, Solomon’s renditions of classics like Porgy’s Plenty of Nothing, The House I Live In, Danny Boy and but of course, Robeson’s signature tune, Old Man River, shall have you tapping your tootsies and perhaps tearing up, as your inner self is transported heavenward. It’s almost as if this life force, who tirelessly stood up for the “little people” against injustice, has come back to life.

Indeed, this is the premise of Speak Of Me As I Am – Robeson returns from heaven (where Solomon wittily observes he can’t find J. Edgar Hoover or Joe McCarthy) to tell his story. In particular, Robeson seeks to redeem himself against charges that he was unpatriotic, insisting that he was a real American in the revolutionary tradition of 1776, fighting for truth, justice and the democratic way. The play glosses over Robeson’s relationship with the Communist Party and Soviet Union, which he was accused of being a stooge of. Indeed, during a visit to the USSR Robeson did confront the Stalinists over the imprisonment of an artist or intellectual, whom I believe was Jewish.

This incident is powerful ammunition against those who denigrate Robeson as a Stalin apologist, and could be incorporated into act II. In this much shorter second act, which seems to be a work in progress, the modern day Robeson comments on today’s recession and the election of America’s first Black president.

I called Speak Of Me As I Am a one-man show, but in fact the play makes clever use of an enchained Black mannequin onstage, so that at times it almost feels like a cast of two. Photos of famous radicals and infamous reactionaries, from Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglas and John Brown to Hoover, McCarthy and Harry Truman, also decorate the set and are also put to good use.

Speak Of Me As I Am joins the illustrious company of Che, Milk and Frost/Nixon, as well as the play Marx in Soho by the people’s historian, Howard Zinn, as a work of art that brings great personalities and issues vividly back to life. This is one of the greatest things art can do. By the end of Speak Of Me As I Am, you too will feel that Robeson and Solomon have got the whole wide world in their hands. Don’t miss this life affirming theatrical experience, which will be performed from time to time in 2009 as Solomon and Howard seek to bring Robeson’s thrilling story to a theatre near you.


For more info contact (310)398-7192 or Email: peggylee.kennedy@gmail.com.