Japanese drama “Drive My Car” has been named the best film of 2021 by the National Society of Film Critics, which met virtually on Saturday to select its annual awards.
The film beat Celine Sciamma’s “Petit Maman,” which finished second, and Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” which finished third. “Drive My Car” director Ryusuke Hamaguchi won Best Director over Campion and Sciamma, with the citation also honoring Hamaguchi’s other film of 2021, anthology drama “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy.”
While the NSFC is a review organization for American outlets, a significant majority of the wins went to non-English language films, including three of the four acting awards. The award for “Drive My Car” made it just the fifth film to win critics’ awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.
The first four to do so were “Schindler’s List”, “LA Confidential”, “The Hurt Locker”, and “The Social Network”.
Both lead actor awards went to non-English performances, with Hidetoshi Nishijima winning Best Actor for “Drive My Car” and Penelope Cruz winning Best Actress honors for “Parallel Mothers.” Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”) and Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”) were Nishijima’s runners-up, while Renate Reinsve (“The Worst Person in the World”) and Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”) finished behind Cruz.
In the supporting categories, Anders Danielsen Lie continued the trend of non-English actor wins for ‘The Worst Person in the World’, followed by Vincent Lindon for ‘Titanium’ and a tie between Mike Faist for ‘West Side’. Story” and Kodi Smith. -McPhee for “The Power of the Dog”. Ruth Negga won supporting actress for “Passing”, making her the sole winner for an English performance; its finalists were Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story” and Jessie Buckley for “The Lost Daughter.”
The screenplay and cinematography awards went to “Drive My Car” and “The Green Knight,” respectively. The Best Non-Fiction Film category was won by the Danish animated documentary “Flee”.
Because a non-English film won Best Picture, the NSFC did not vote in its usual Best Foreign Language Film category.
Special Film Heritage Awards were presented to Maya Cade, creator of the Black Film Archive, and recently deceased film directors, critics and historians Bertrand Tavernier and Peter Bogdanovich.
The National Society of Film Critics consists of 59 critics, although some members abstain from voting if they have not seen enough films. The group was established in 1966, and for much of its history has made Best Picture choices more idiosyncratic than the Oscars.
The last two years in a row, however, the NSFC winner — 2019’s “Parasite” and 2020’s “Nomadland” — have won Best Picture Oscars. It gave the two organizations five matches in the last 12 years, after they had only agreed four times in the previous 44 years.
This year‘s vote was dedicated to critics Morris Dickstein and Michael Wilmington, longtime members of the NSFC who recently passed away. Voting is conducted using a weighted system for each voter’s first, second and third choice, with voting continuing until a film is mentioned on the majority of ballots.
The winners, with point totals:
Best Picture: “Drive my car” (48 points)
Finalists: “Petit Maman” (25), “The power of the dog” (23)
Best actor: Hidetoshi Nishijima, “Drive my car” (63)
Finalists: Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog” (44); Simon Rex, “Red Rockets” (30)
Best Actress: Penelope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers” (55)
Finalists: Renate Reinsve, “The worst person in the world” (42); Alana Haim, “Licorice Pizza” (32)
Best Supporting Actor: Anders Danielsen Lie, “The worst person in the world” (54)
Finalists: Vincent Lindon, “Titanium” (33); Mike Faist, “West Side Story” (26) and Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog” (26)
Best Supporting Actress: Ruth Negga, “Passing by” (46)
Finalists: Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story” (22); Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Girl” (21)
Best Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car” and “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” (46)
Finalists: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog” (36), Céline Sciamma, “Little Mom” (28)
Best Screenplay: Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe, “Drive my car” (46)
Finalists: Pedro Almodovar, “Parallel Mothers” (22); Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza” (20)
Best Non-Fiction Film: “Flee” (41)
Finalists: “Procession” (28) and “The Velvet Underground” (28)
Best Cinematography: Andrew Droz Palermo, “The Green Knight” (52)
Finalists: Ari Wegner, “The Power of the Dog” (40); Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, “Memoria” (35)
Special citation for the film awaiting distribution in the United States: “Back in Reims”, Jean-Gabriel Périot
Film Heritage Award: Bertrand Tavernier and Peter Bogdanovich
Film Heritage Award: Maya Cade for the film noir archives