the Seattle Film Critics Society announced the winners of its 20 year-end award categories on Monday. They named “Driving My Car”, the three-hour drama directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and based on the short story by Haruki Murakami, the best film of 2021. The epic, which follows a widowed actor and director as he strikes up an unlikely friendship with his stoic driver, has has been around the world since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
“Drive My Car” has also been singled out by three other major circles of film critics (LA, NY, NSFC). Last week, it won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language, and it’s the Japanese entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. In addition to Best Picture, SFCS recognized the film in three other categories: Best Director for Hamaguchi, Best Screenplay for Hamaguchi and Oe, and Best Non-English Language Film.
“‘Drive My Car’ has taken the world of criticism by storm, and we are thrilled to be the latest association to award it as the best film of the year,” said SFCS President, Erik Samdahl. “The incredible attention to detail and careful pacing of Ryūsuke Hamaguchi and his crew, driven by a sensational cast, made the film stand out from the rest.”
The $165 million blockbuster from Warner Bros. “Dunes”, based on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Tacoma and directed by visionary Denis Villeneuve, won three awards, including Best Visual Effects and Film Editing, and Best Original Score for Hans Zimmer. . (You can read SR’s review of “Dune” here.) The spellbinding tale of Arthurian legend, “The Green Knight”, was also awarded three times: for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design.
In the acting categories, Nicholas Cage pulled off a quick one, nabbing Best Actor in a Leading Role for his haunting portrayal of a Portland man who will do anything to get his truffle-hunting pig back in the appropriately titled film. , “Pork”. He beat Benedict Cumberbatch in the category that didn’t go home completely empty-handed; his stunning portrayal of charismatic 1920s rancher Phil Burbank in “The Power of the Dog” won Cumberbatch the Villain of the Year award. His co-star Kodi Smit-McPhee, a former child actor whose role as Peter, a sensitive, soft-spoken boy under the tutelage of a raging cowherd, was recognized for Best Supporting Actor.
In the Best Leading Actress category, Kristen Stewart won for her sputtering and somewhat delirious portrayal of Diana, Princess of Wales on the brink of divorce in “Spencer”. Following her Golden Globes win, Ariana DeBose wins Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in “West Side Story”, the character who also earned EGOT Rita Moreno her Oscar and a long string of awards for the 1961 film adaptation. (You can read SR’s review of “West Side Story” here.)
The breakthrough animated documentary “To flee” was the first film to be nominated in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and Best Film Not in the English language categories. It won Best Animated Film. Beating stunt-laden blockbusters like the latest Bond movie “No Time to Die” and Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “In the Heights”, Lin Manuel-Miranda’s musical brought to the screen by director Jon M. Chu, won Best Action Choreography, making it the first musical to win the top prize in this category. (You can read SR’s review of “In the Heights” here.)
“Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Couldn’t Be Televised)”, a documentary by first-time filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, won Best Documentary Feature. The film brings to light once-considered-lost archival footage of musical performances from a summer concert series in New York City in 1969. “Mass” won Best Ensemble and Emilia Jones was recognized for Best Youth Performance for her powerful performance in “CODA”, a film about a hearing girl whose parents are deaf (hence CODA – Child of Deaf Adults) and her struggle to connect the two worlds, for her family and for her own activities as a singer.
The Seattle Film Critics Society was founded in 2016 and is represented by 36 members of print, radio, television and online media who live and work in the greater Seattle area. This is the company’s sixth year of awards. Last year, SFCS awarded first prize to Chloé Zhao’s tender poem about America, “Nomadic Land”.