Home International CinemaChinese + Taiwanese + Hong Kong Cinema The Dixie Chicks vs. George W. Bush + Freedom of Speech Issue & San Diego Film Critics Reject Groupthink

The Dixie Chicks vs. George W. Bush + Freedom of Speech Issue & San Diego Film Critics Reject Groupthink

The Dixie Chicks vs. U.S. President George W. Bush: Shut Up and Sing. Curiously, the Southeast Film Critics Association selected Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck’s political documentary Shut Up and Sing as the recipient of this year’s Wyatt Award, which is given to “the film that best captures the ‘spirit of the South’ ”. Why curious? U.S. right-wingers – many of them in the, in large part, ultra-“conservative” American South(east) – were outraged after The Dixie Chicks’ vocalist Natalie Maines publicly criticized George W. Bush for his – and, indirectly, his supporters’ – catastrophic war in Iraq.

Awards season curiosity: The Dixie Chicks’ vs. George W. Bush documentary as ‘Spirit of the South’ representation?

The Southeastern Film Critics Association, consisting of reviewers from nine southern (or “southeastern”) U.S. states, mostly took the tried-and-true path when it came to their Best of 2006 list. (See further below.) The one exception: their Wyatt Award “for the film that best captures the ‘spirit of the South,’” which went to the Dixie Chicks vs. George W. Bush documentary and potential Oscar contender Shut Up and Sing.

Directed by two-time Oscar-winning veteran Barbara Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A., 1976; American Dream, 1990) and Cecilia Peck (Gregory Peck’s daughter), Shut Up and Sing chronicles the vicious, right-wing-led firestorm that engulfed Dallas’ country music band The Dixie Chicks after singer Natalie Maines remarked at a 2003 London concert, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

Maines, of course, was referencing the George W. Bush administration-engendered Iraq War that to date has led to the deaths of up to 150,000 civilians.

‘The war couldn’t be going better’

At one point in Shut Up and Sing, the Dixie Chicks’ media handler advises Maines to refrain from expressing her true feeling about Bush in an upcoming interview with U.S. television journalist Diane Sawyer.

“I’ll tell you why,” he explains. “He’s got sky-high approval. The war couldn’t be going better. By the time this interview airs … the looting will be done, the rebuilding of Iraq will be started. … Two weeks from now, it’s going to be even a more positive situation.”

The Dixie Chicks’ freedom of speech controversy

Iraq War irony aside, why would the Dixie Chicks’ freedom of speech documentary be a curious choice as a representation of the Spirit of the South?

Well, just bear in mind that a large number of the Dixie Chicks’ accusers, detractors, vilifiers, and boycotters were from the highly “conservative” American South, where love of country music and hate of foreign-country Muslims are abundantly found.

Ken Takakura Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles: Film Critics unorthodox winnersKen Takakura in Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. Zhang Yimou’s psychological/family drama Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles was a surprise double winner at the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards, topping both the Best Foreign Language Film and the Best Actor categories. The latter’s honoree was 75-year-old veteran Ken Takakura, whose screen credits – e.g., A Fugitive from the Past, Too Late the Hero, Black Rain – include nearly 170 titles in the last five decades.

Down with groupthink: Ken Takakura & ‘The Dead Girl’ among San Diego Film Critics’ unusual picks

From the Dixie Chicks to Ken Takakura: The San Diego Film Critics Society tends to go its own way during awards season. For instance, last year most critics’ groups selected Ang Lee’s gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain as their Best Film. The San Diego Film Critics, for their part, opted for Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake. Hardly a superior choice, but an unusual one all the same.

Other esoteric picks include Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous and Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake as their Best Film winners in, respectively, 2000 and 2004. To a large extent, the San Diego Film Critics’ 2006 choices are evidence of their continued success in skirting awards season groupthink.

Although their Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress slots were filled with by now expected (or at least not unexpected) names – Letters from Iwo Jima and its director, Clint Eastwood; Helen Mirren for The Queen – other top winners were total surprises.

Veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura

In the Best Actor category, instead of U.S. critics’ fave Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), the San Diego Film Critics went for veteran Ken Takakura (The Yakuza, Black Rain), who was singled out for his performance in Zhang Yimou’s Chinese-Japanese co-production Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

In the psychological drama, Takakura plays an elderly Japanese man who, in place of his estranged and deathly ill opera-aficionado son (Kiichi Nakai), travels to China’s Yunnan province to film the titular folk opera.

Zhang’s drama also happened to be the San Diego Film Critics’ equally surprising Best Foreign Language Film pick – instead of the current favorites: Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth / El laberinto del fauno and Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima.

Besides, Ray Winstone was voted Best Supporting Actor for playing an unscrupulous police captain in John Hillcoat’s period Australian Western The Proposition, while Lili Taylor was Best Supporting Actress for her 1940s Los Angeles barfly in Bent Hamer’s Factotum, a Norwegian / German / U.S. co-production based on a story by, who else, Charles Bukowski.

‘The Dead Girl’ + Edward Norton & back to the Dixie Chicks

Jason Reitman’s Thank You for Smoking (adapted) screenplay has been honored elsewhere, but Karen Moncrieff’s Best Original Screenplay win for The Dead Girl was a first. The all-star mystery drama revolves around those somehow or other linked to the titular deceased character (Brittany Murphy). Also in the cast:

Rose Byrne. Mary Beth Hurt. Kerry Washington. James Franco. Giovanni Ribisi. Josh Brolin.

Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, 1999).

Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, 2000).

Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard, 1980).

Three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie (Best Actress for The Hustler, 1961; Best Supporting Actress for Carrie, 1977; and Children of a Lesser God, 1986).

There’s more: Edward Norton, whose films have been largely ignored by most U.S. critics’ groups this awards season, was given the Body of Work Award for his performances in The Illusionist, Down in the Valley, and The Painted Veil.

Lastly, we come full circle, back to the Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing was the San Diego Film Critics’ Best Nonfiction Film. Davis Guggenheim’s climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth has been the favorite elsewhere.

Anyone for Penélope Cruz?

So far no luck, but maybe, perhaps, who knows, there’s still a chance that at least one U.S. critics’ group will name Penélope Cruz the year’s Best Actress for her star turn in Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver.

True, Cruz could never have played Queen Elizabeth II in as stiff-upper-lippedly a fashion as Helen Mirren. But on the other hand, Helen Mirren could never have played the Anna Magnani-esque Raimunda in as sensually exuberant a fashion as Penélope Cruz.

And between the Queen of England and the Queen of Italian Cinema, the latter is quite a bit more enthralling.

Jackie Earle Haley Little Children: Convicted sex offender feared + hated in dysfunctional suburbiaJackie Earle Haley in Little Children. Former The Bad News Bears child actor Jackie Earle Haley was both the Southeastern and the Chicago film critics’ Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a convicted sex offender who returns to his suburban Boston home – where he is met with fear, hate, and disgust – in Todd Field’s dysfunctional-suburbia drama Little Children, starring Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson. Haley had previously been the New York Film Critics Circle‘s pick as well. The Boston Society of Film Critics, however, opted for another “local” boy, Mark Wahlberg in the Boston-set Irish mafia thriller The Departed.

Local mob makes good in Boston + ‘Babel’ beaten in Chicago

Martin Scorsese’s generally well-regarded, Boston-set mob thriller The Departed was the not all that surprising top choice of the Boston Society of Film Critics.

More interesting was the inclusion of the Dixie Chicks’ Shut Up and Sing as the Best Documentary co-winner, alongside Amy Berg’s Deliver Us from Evil, about Irish-born, Northern California-based Catholic priest and serial rapist/abuser Oliver O’Grady.

The Departed also performed well at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, topping three categories: Best Film, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay (William Monahan, who adapted Andrew Lau’s 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs).

Chicago’s most-nominated film – nine nods in all – was Alejandro González Iñárritu’s multi-storied drama Babel, which ended up winning one single award: Best Supporting Actress for Rinko Kikuchi.

See below a partial list of winners of the following movie critics groups: Southeastern, San Diego, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Phoenix, St. Louis, and Florida, in addition to the International Press Academy’s Satellite Awards.

Southeastern

Best Film: The Departed.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth.

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine.

Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed.

Wyatt Award (for the film that best captures the “spirit of the South”): Shut Up and Sing.

 

San Diego

Best Film: Letters from Iwo Jima.

Best Foreign Language Film: Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

Best Nonfiction Film: Shut Up and Sing.

Best Actor: Ken Takakura, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Supporting Actress: Lili Taylor, Factotum.

Best Supporting Actor: Ray Winstone, The Proposition.

Best Ensemble: Babel.

Best Director: Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima.

Best Original Screenplay: Karen Moncrieff, The Dead Girl.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking.

Body of Work Award: Edward Norton for The Illusionist, Down in the Valley, and The Painted Veil.

 

Boston

Best Film: The Departed.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth.

Best Documentary (tie): Shut Up and Sing and Deliver Us from Evil, dir.: Amy Berg.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson.

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Ensemble: United 93.

Best Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed.

Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro, Pan’s Labyrinth.

David Brudnoy New Filmmaker Award: Ryan Fleck, Half Nelson.

Best Film Series in the Boston Area:

  • At the Harvard Film Archive: “At Home and Abroad: The Vietnam War on Film / From Both Sides: The Korean War on Film / On All Fronts: World War II on Film,” “Centennial Starlets: Anna May Wong and Janet Gaynor,” and “Major and Minor Notes: A Billy Wilder Centennial.”
  • At the Brattle: “50 Year of Janus Films” and “Man in the Dunes: Hiroshi Teshigahara.”

Best Discoveries & Rediscoveries:

  • The Phantom Carriage / Körkarlen (1921), dir.: Victor Sjöström.
  • Lucky Star (1929), dir.: Frank Borzage.
  • The Fallen Idol (1948), dir.: Carol Reed.
  • The Red Badge of Courage (1951), dir.: John Huston.
  • Army of Shadows / L’Armée des ombres (1969), dir.: Jean-Pierre Melville.

 

Chicago

Best Picture: The Departed.

Best Foreign Language Film: Letters from Iwo Jima.

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Rinko Kikuchi, Babel.

Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Original Screenplay: The Queen, Peter Morgan.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Departed, William Monahan.

 

Washington D.C.

Best Film: United 93.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth.

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking.

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine.

 

Phoenix

Best Film: United 93.

Best Foreign Language Film: Letters from Iwo Jima.

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal.

Best Supporting Actor: Jack Nicholson, The Departed.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine.

Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed.

 

St. Louis

Best Picture: The Departed.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth.

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Screenplay: Peter Morgan, The Queen.

 

Florida

Best Film: The Departed.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth.

Best Nonfiction Film: An Inconvenient Truth.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal.

Best Supporting Actor: Jack Nicholson, The Departed.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed.

 

Satellite Awards

Motion Picture Drama: The Departed.

Motion Picture Comedy or Musical: Dreamgirls.

Foreign Language Film: Volver, Spain.

Motion Picture Animated or Mixed Media: Pan’s Labyrinth.

Documentary: Deliver Us from Evil.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical: Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical: Joseph Cross, Running with Scissors.

Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Best Director (tie): Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers, & Bill Condon, Dreamgirls.

Best Original Screenplay: Peter Morgan, The Queen.

Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed.

Mary Pickford Award (“for outstanding artistic contribution to the entertainment industry”): Martin Landau.

Nikola Tesla Award (“in recognition for visionary achievements in filmmaking technology”): Richard Donner.

Auteur Award (“In Memoriam”): Robert Altman.

 

Southeastern Film Critics Association website.

San Diego Film Critics Society website.

Image of the Dixie Chicks and U.S. President George W. Bush in Shut Up and Sing: The Weinstein Company.

Ken Takakura Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles image: Sony Pictures Classics.

Jackie Earle Haley Little Children image: New Line Cinema.

“The Dixie Chicks vs. George W. Bush + Freedom of Speech & San Diego Film Critics Reject Groupthink” last updated in January 2019.

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