Friday, February 24, 2006

2006 Sapphie Awards For Best Lesbian Flicks

(Link) Need to freshen up your Netflix list? Girlfriends mag announces their pics for this year's best lesbian films.

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JIC Post:
From Girlfriends magazine

The queer cinemascape of 2005 was filled with lesbian secret agents, gay cowboys, English schoolgirls, and a tranny desperate housewife—and that was the more mainstream fare. The LGBT film festival circuit also yielded an abundance of groundbreaking international work, including Ligy J. Pullappally’s The Journey and Angelina Maccarone’s Unveiled. Once again Girlfriends magazine is proud to honor the year’s best of queer film with our tenth annual Sapphies Awards.

The lesbian spy thriller D.E.B.S. swept two top categories, Best Narrative Film and Best Director (Angela Robinson). Felicity Huffman’s performance as a male-to-female transsexual who discovers she has a teenaged son won her Best Actress (Transamerica). Judges were very taken with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s performances in Brokeback Mountain, but Heath squeaked by to win Best Actor. Judges felt Henry Corra’s Same Sex America was the most worthy of the documentaries, and director Jennie Livingston’s short Who's the Top? also caught their favor. No one steamed up the screen like Best Love Scene winners Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen in director Alice Wu’s Saving Face. Finally, we are proud to bestow a lifetime achievement award on acclaimed filmmaker and film festival organizer Shari Frilot.

This year’s esteemed panel of Sapphies judges included NewFest LGBT Film Festival director Basil Tsiokos, Power Up executive director Stacy Codikow, filmmaker and queer film historian Jenni Olson (The Joy of Life), film critic Lydia Marcus, filmmaker Lenn Keller (Desire: Exploring Butch/Femme), Girlfriends TV critic Lynn Rapoport (managing editor, San Francisco Bay Guardian), Girlfriends film critic Candace Moore, Girlfriends copy chief and filmmaker Laurie Koh, Pink and White Productions owner Shine Louise Houston, and filmmaker Madeleine Lim, who founded the Queer Woman of Color Media Arts Project.

Best Narrative Feature
D.E.B.S. (dir. Angela Robinson)
Full of humor, danger, and forbidden desire, D.E.B.S. is the story of an elite secret agent who falls for the world’s deadliest assassin. And they’re both ladies. When good girl Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster) longingly bites her lip as she stares into the eyes of arch nemesis Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster), we know for sure that these are the Bond girls we’ve been waiting for. Director Angela Robinson first introduced LGBT audiences to the savvy, skimpy-skirted members of the D.E.B.S. spy academy in a short film that made the festival rounds. Based on that, she convinced major studio Sony to bankroll a lesbian action flick—a first. The judges are proud to award this heart-quickening adventure top honors. Director Pawel Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love came in a close second.

Also nominated:
The Joy of Life (dir. Jenni Olson)
My Summer of Love (dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)
Saving Face (dir. Alice Wu)
Unveiled (dir. Angelina Maccarone)

Best Documentary
Same Sex America
Henry Corra of Corra Films, which puts out both films and commercials (they did one for Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign in 2000), believes in shaping a documentary in the same creative way he would a feature, even though in the end the material must speak for itself. This approach earned Same Sex America critical praise from the IDA; it can currently be seen, too, on Showtime. Tackling the loaded subject of same-sex marriage but refusing to let his own political agenda sway the story, Corra presents a balanced exploration of the topic and frames it primarily for middle America—not the polarized extremes. This award from our judges recognizes that in the battle for same-sex marriage, open dialogue is an indispensable weapon.

Also nominated:
The Aggressives (dir. Daniel Peddle)
Little Man (dir. Nicole Conn)
Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria (dir. Susan Stryker)
Zero Degrees of Separation (dir. Elle Flanders)

Best Director
Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.)
Gone are the days when a lesbian director could win a Sapphie with capable actors, a decent soundtrack, and a passable love scene. Thanks to Angela Robinson, now they’ll need stunt women, CGI, and a team of bodyguards to keep the paparazzi off the talent. Clearly our judges were impressed by D.E.B.S.’s key shoot-em-up, mondo-destructo scenes, like the one in which counteragent Lucy Diamond gets ambushed during a blind date at a tony restaurant. Clearly so was Disney, who, after seeing her work in D.E.B.S., hired Robinson to direct Lindsay Lohan in Herbie: Fully Loaded.

Also nominated:
Angelina Maccarone (Unveiled)
Jenni Olson (The Joy of Life)
Don Roos (Happy Endings)
Alice Wu (Saving Face)

Best Actress
Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
Huffman is best known as pill-popper Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives, a role that barely hints at the incredible range the actress brings to her Sapphies winning performance as a transwoman. With great authenticity, Huffman gives her character Bree dignity, wit, and a vulnerable but tough-as-nails poise as she hits the open road to rescue a son she never knew existed. Bree’s top concern is the sexual-reassignment surgery just days away (which her therapist refuses to authorize until she connects with this chapter of her life), so she is caught off guard by the parental affection she begins to feel for the kid she bails out of jail. On their journey to Los Angeles, Bree keeps her true identity hidden, but for the audience, Huffman wears the character’s struggles on her sleeve.

Also nominated:
Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love)
Natalie Press (My Summer of Love)
Lynn Chen (Saving Face)
Jasmin Tabatabai (Unveiled)

Best Supporting Actress
Joan Chen (Saving Face)
Just when we were sure that Joan Chen’s gayest turn in front of a movie camera was as Anne Heche’s lover in 1995’s Wild Side, along came out director Alice Wu to cast the veteran in her coming out dramedy, Saving Face. Chen charmed our judges with her endearing performance as Ma, a middle-aged widow who shows up pregnant on her daughter Wil’s doorstep after her own immigrant parents kick her out—only to find out that Wil has a secret of her own. Known as “the Elizabeth Taylor of China” in her homeland (she was born into a family of doctors in Shanghai), Chen is most recognized stateside as the empress in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor.

Also nominated:
Catherine Keener (Capote)
Anneke Kim Sarnau (Unveiled)
Lisa Kudrow (Happy Endings)
Tian Yuen (Butterfly)

Best Actor
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
The early buzz about Brokeback Mountain focused on “A-list actor” Jake Gyllenhaal’s starring role in a movie of this nature. But the true pleasure (and heartbreak) of this film is the tight-lipped, repressed, and ultimately inspiring performance by Heath Ledger. As Ennis del Mar, Ledger strikes a fine balance between overwhelming masculinity and gut-wrenching tenderness. His turn depicts how the two are most definitely not mutually exclusive—though they cause him, over the twenty-year span of the film’s plot, enormous internal conflict.

Also nominated:
Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)
Craig Chester (Adam and Steve)
Steve Coogan (Happy Endings)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)

Best Supporting Actor
Kevin Zegers (Transamerica)
Zegers impressed our judges with his portrayal of Toby, a street-smart kid who is so deeply damaged that the only kind of affection he knows how to give is the kind he hustles as a prostitute. But underneath that is a deeper longing for unconditional love, which arrives in the unexpected form of a transwoman played by Best Actress winner Felicity Huffman, who is the boy’s biological father. Zegers, whose character is seventeen-years-old, perfectly traverses that confusing edge between youth and adulthood. Together he and Huffman form a great onscreen chemistry as they warily circle each other and later accept each other for who they are.

Also nominated:
Jacques BonnaffĂ© (Cote D’Azur)
Dom DeLuise (Girl Play)
Kett Turton (Show Me)
Kostja Ullmann (Summer Storm)

Best Short
Who’s the Top? (dir. Jennie Livingston)
Queer director Jennie Livingston made a name (and some enemies) for herself in the early 1990s with her groundbreaking documentary Paris is Burning. The drag queen doc racked up loads of awards—though sadly, not one from the Academy. Now her short feature, which explores the role of differing sexual tastes and flavors in the demise of a lesbian relationship, is getting off to a great start with this year’s Sapphie (as well as awards from the Philadelphia and Long Island Gay and Lesbian film festivals). Originally conceived as a feature-length narrative (which Livingston says still might still happen), the SM musical comedy includes a cast of 24 dancers.

Also nominated:
Dani and Alice (dir. Roberta Marie Munroe)
Hi Maya (Hoi Maya) (dir. Claudia Lorenz)
Hung (dir. Guinevere Turner)
Prom-Troversy (dir. Leanne Creel)

Best Love Scene
Lynn Chen and Michelle Krusiec (Saving Face)
Concept: Walled-up, type-A medical student Wil lets her guard down for Vivian, a sensual, openly queer dancer. Add candlelight, a warm blanket, and just one hour before Wil has to slip home. (Ma doesn’t know.) Vivian wants to give her something that’ll make her come back: let’s just say she’s successful—even our judges still remember the heat.

Also nominated:
Jordana Brewster and Sara Foster (D.E.B.S.)
Emily Blunt and Natalie Press (My Summer of Love)
Jane Krakowski and Evan Rachel Wood (Pretty Persuasion)
Anneke Kim Sarnau and Jasmine Tabatabai (Unveiled)

Desperately Seeking Distribution
Bam Bam and Celeste (dir. Lorene Machaco)
The incomparable Margaret Cho’s first turn as a film writer produced this wacky roadtrip, buddy-comedy revenge tale, which the judges think deserves a chance at wide distribution. Two small town misfits (Bruce Daniels as Bam Bam and Cho as Celeste) finally escape the Midwest and head to New York City to audition for Trading Faces, a reality show. Their roadtripping adventures lead them past a star-studded supporting cast including Alan Cumming and Jane Lynch until finally they face their high school nemesis, now a successful New York salon owner. The film is coproduced by Salty Features (co-owned by Boys Don’t Cry producer Eva Kolodner) and Cho’s own company Cho Taussig Productions.

Also nominated:
Both (dir. Lisset Barcellos)
The D Word (dir. Cherien Daibes Naffa, Noelle Brower, and Maggie Burkle)
Sevigne (dir. Marta Balletbo-Coll)

Lifetime Achievement Award
Shari Frilot
When Shari Frilot was a baby film festival programmer, she worried that her true passion, experimental film, would be a career liability. For years she ran the Mix Festival in New York City, which brought together LGBT film with a distinctly edgy edge; she even went global with the Mix formula when she helped launch Mix Brazil and Mix Mexico City in the early nineties. But when she moved to Tinseltown, she was worried.

“When I came to Los Angeles, I never thought that coming from a background of experimental cinema— Mix is on the margins of the margins—that I would have anything to offer in this town, in Hollywood. But on the contrary, it was actually my strength.” She landed a job at OutFest, L.A.’s gay film festival, helping John Cooper (whose ‘straight’ job was head programmer at the leading independent film festival Sundance) line up OutFest’s lesbian screenings. Then, when a position opened at the Park City fest, Cooper rewarded her self-described “wild, experimental, Puerto Rican, dyke, Creole” expertise with an offer to switch teams. She’s been with Sundance for eight years now.

Frilot’s tenure at Sundance has brought to the festival more lesbian programming and an increased emphasis on “Frontier Section,” where attendees can now enjoy interactive, performance-based cinema.

She has Cooper, Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman (Mix’s founders, who entrusted her with the fest), critic Ruby Rich, and filmmaker Jenni Olson to thank for her Sapphie. “I refused to buy into the idea of what I was supposed to be doing, or any preconceived notion of what’s mainstream and marketable. But they taught me, ‘Stick to your guns, your vision. The world needs the diversity and the difference.’”

Also nominated:
Margaret Cho
Eva Kolodner
Sarah Warn
Kathy Wolfe