12/29/09

The Women Film Critics Circle Awards

I'm proud to be a part of the WFCC and I'm ashamed to say that I missed voting this year. Something that won't happen next year. The best thing about the WFCC is the fact that it provides a forum for the discussion of the still under-represented women in the film industry.

You can find hundreds of forums for fans of multiple genres of film and plenty of "film" sites that critique women's appearance alongside the films they appear in as though that's just the accepted status quo. Giving out awards like, "hottie of the day", as though reviewing film and the immature ogling of women must go hand-in-hand.

So the fact that a network like this exists is beyond helpful in an industry that not only objectifies women, but also many people, people groups, and ideas on a regular basis. Some say it's just the nature of the business, but the WFCC begs to differ, and dissenting and intellectual voices can make a difference in an oversaturated critical world that often links itself inextricably to the use and abuse of female sexuality for no other reason than the fact that it can. The WFCC offers an alternative viewpoint and perhaps a more finely tuned criticial lens with which to view film.

It's not that the members of the WFCC always agree with one another, you may even notice a small disclaimer in the awards this year regarding this fact. It's the idea that they are determined to keep these important discussions alive and keep asking the tough questions while calling filmmakers out on two-dimensional and unrealistic female characters. But the WFCC isn't just the stereotype police, they take the time to notice the well-done films and characters and to reward female filmmakers for their excellent works.

So here are this year's awards. Whether you agree or disagree, you are invited to join in on the discussion in the comments section here or over at the WFCC website at http://wfcc.wordpress.com/

THE WOMEN FILM CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS 2009

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN
*TIE
Coco Before Chanel
My One And Only

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN
Julie & Julia: Nora Ephron

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
Sunshine Cleaning: Megan Holley

BEST ACTRESS
Abbie Cornish: Bright Star

BEST ACTOR
Ben Foster: The Messenger

BEST YOUNG ACTRESS
Sidibe Gabourey: Precious

BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS
Meryl Streep: Julie & Julia

BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN
Seraphine

BEST FEMALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
American Violet
Amreeka
The Baader Meinhof Complex
Inglourious Basterds
Lemon Tree
The Messenger
My Sister's Keeper
Sweet Crude

BEST THEATRICALLY UNRELEASED MOVIE BY OR ABOUT WOMEN [Includes films released on DVD or TV, or screened at film festivals, in recognition of the limited opportunities available for films by and about women on screen]
Grey Gardens

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES
Julie & Julia

BEST ANIMATED FEMALE
Princess And The Frog: Anika Noni Rose as Tiana

BEST FAMILY FILM
Up

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Gertrude Berg [Posthumous]: Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg: Aviva Kempner, director

ACTING AND ACTIVISM: Emma Thompson - For her work on and off screen against sex trafficking

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women:
Precious

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America
American Violet

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman's place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity
An Education

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]
Isabella Rossellini: Green Porno

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD [Supporting performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]
Olivia Williams: An Education

BEST DOCUMENTARIES BY WOMEN:

GROUNDBREAKER: The Beaches of Agnès, Agnès Varda

ABOVE AND BEYOND: American Casino, Leslie Cockburn

COURAGE IN FILMMAKING: Tattooed Under Fire, Nancy Schiesari

WFCC TOP TEN HALL OF SHAME

Antichrist: The cinematic equivalent of nails down a chalkboard. Pretentious pornography, satanic sex, and Willem Dafoe as an artsy New Age femocidal sexorcist.

Deadgirl: Again the theme is vile sexual violence to women. In this case, the woman is dead and the men can do what they like with her And they do. This film brings out the worst of male fantasies towards women, and it wasn't a pretty sight.

Downloading Nancy: The sexual violence towards Nancy, even though she asked for and seemed to want it, was difficult to absorb.

Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past: Matthew McConaughey as cardboard cutout misogynist, in one too many phone-it-in rom-coms featuring toxic bachelors.

Pirate Radio: Horrible male characters who treat women like a floating meat market.

Precious: If this film were a poor 'white trash' family/community, it wouldn't have received the applause that it did. The point is that it promotes prejudice against blacks, fat women, unmarried women, less educated women and a whole lot more. That it is successful screams out for another film from the same neighborhood where the family is kept above the fray of stereotyping, by a strong unmarried mother.

Twilight Saga: New Moon: Bella (lead human female) is completely pathetic, the whole giving up one's soul thing. How sad is it when a gal in a small town picks two boys she likes, one is a vampire and one is a werewolf.

Up In The Air: 'Just think of me as yourself, only with a vagina.' Oh, puh-leez! Who was this corporate female predaor [Vera Farmiga] supposed to be, this gorgeous, available babe with no back story and the magic ability to pull two sexy black dresses from her rollaway with no prior notice?!?!?

Two words: Judd Apatow. Some more words: perfect, beautiful women exist to save overweight schlubby men from their otherwise inevitable fate as complete no-hopers.

Worst Full Frontal Male Nudity 2009: Observe And Report's comedic flabby flasher. Ha Ha.

*Please Note: The WFCC Top Ten Hall Of Shame represents the 'don't tell me to shut up' sidebar contribution of individual members, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Circle. Also, members may be objecting to particular characters in a film, and not the entire movie.


*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: Adrienne Shelly was a promising actress and filmmaker who was brutally strangled in her apartment in 2006 at the age of forty by a construction worker in the building, after she complained about noise. Her killer tried to cover up his crime by hanging her from a shower20rack in her bathroom, to make it look like a suicide. He later confessed that he was having a "bad day." Shelly, who left behind a baby daughter, had just completed her film Waitress, which she also starred in, and which was honored at Sundance after her death.

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: The daughter of a laundress and a musician, Baker overcame being born black, female and poor, and marriage at age fifteen, to become an internationally acclaimed legendary performer, starring in the films Princess Tam Tam, Moulin Rouge and Zou Zou. She also survived the race riots in East St. Louis, Illinois as a child, and later expatriated to France to escape US racism. After participating heroically in the underground French Resistance during WWII, Baker returned to the US where she was a crusader for racial equality. Her activism led to attacks against her by reporter Walter Winchell who denounced her as a communist, leading her to wage a battle against him. Baker was instrumental in ending segregation in many theaters and clubs, where she refused to perform unless integration was implemented.

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: Karen Morley was a promising Hollywood star in the 1930s, in such films as Mata Hari and Our Daily Bread. She was driven out of Hollywood for her leftist political convictions by the Blacklist and for refusing to testify against other actors, while Robert Taylor and Sterling Hayden were informants against her. And also for daring to have a child and become a mother, unacceptable for female stars in those days. Morley 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.