New York Critics Name Japan’s DRIVE MY CAR Year’s Best Film (AWARDS 2021)

THE POWER OF THE DOG wins big at the New York Film Critics Circle awards but not quite big enough, losing to a Japanese drama for Best Film.

From melodramatic theatrics to obscure art house foreign cinema, the New York Film Critics Circle of 2021 covered the gamut in their annual awards.

In a shocker, the NYFCC named Drive My Car — a three-hour Japanese drama — as the year’s Best Film. While the movie from director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi has been widely praised, it’s still a left field consensus choice for any critical fraternity (even the artsy-inclined group from NYC).

On the flip side, their choice of Lady Gaga as Best Actress for her scenery-chewing turn in House of Gucci almost comes off as a populist pander. Some critics have lauded her performance (including me) while others have dismissed it as camp. Regardless of where you land, this win for Gaga sure boosts her Oscar hopes.

Almost lost in the shuffle between these extremes was the huge haul by The Power of the Dog, director Jane Campion‘s slow-burn Western. It was the day’s big winner with three awards: Best Director for Campion, Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch, and Best Supporting Actor for Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Normally, such a sweep would ensure a Best Film victory, too, which makes the upset by Drive My Car even more surprising, one that likely inducing gasps across Film Twitter when it was first tweeted out. The citation should help make it a contender in the Oscar race for Best International Film, and it could elevate its star Hidetoshi Nishijima as a possible dark horse for a Best Actor nomination.

Speaking of dark horses, Supporting Actor winner Smit-McPhee could emerge from underdog status to leading Oscar contender for his strong work in The Power of the Dog, as could NYFCC’s Best Supporting Actress choice Kathryn Hunter. She plays all three witches in Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Licorice Pizza, which was named Best Film a day before by the National Board of Review, won screenplay honors here for writer / director Paul Thomas Anderson.

Here is the NYFCC’s complete list of winners and special award citations.

NEW YORK FILM CRITICS CIRCLE
2021 Film Awards

Best Film: Drive My Car

Best Director: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Best Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Best Actress: Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

Best Supporting Actor: Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress: Kathryn Hunter, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Screenplay: Licorice Pizza, Paul Thomas Andereson

Best Animated Feature: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Best First Film: The Lost Daughter (dir. Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Best Foreign Language Film: The Worst Person in the World, Norway

Best Non-Fiction Film: Flee

Best Cinematography:  West Side Story, d.p. Janusz Kamiński

Special Award: Maya Cade, for her creation of the Black Film Archive

Special Award: Diane Wayermann, for her support of daring and impactful filmmaking at Sundance and Participant (posthumous)

Special Award: Marshall Fine, for his years of service as NYFCC’s General Manager and his decades on the NY film scene

Founded in 1935, the organization’s membership includes critics from daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines and qualifying online general-interest publications.

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Click on links below for other Critics Group Awards and Guild Nominees that have been announced so far for the 2021 / 22 season:

AFI American Film Institute’s Top 10 Films of 2021
National Board of Review 2021

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