San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle lauds ‘The Power of the Dog’

Besides Jane Campion, other winners include Mike Mills, Rita Moreno, Ryusuke Hamaguchi

The members of the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle cast their final vote Sunday and chose Jane Campion’s powerful, brutal “The Power of the Dog” as the best picture of 2021.

Campion’s film, about two very different brothers on a cattle ranch in 1925 Montana, swept the awards with eight in all, unusual for the 19-year-old Circle, which usually favors more varied choices.

The film also won two awards for Campion: best director and best adapted screenplay. The film is based on a 1967 novel by Thomas Savage.

Three actors from the film also won. Benedict Cumberbatch took best actor for his performance as rancher Phil Burbank, a snarly, bitter man with a dark past.

Kirsten Dunst won best supporting actress for her role as the alcoholic Rose Gordon, who marries Phil’s brother and sets the chaos in motion. And Kodi Smit-McPhee nabbed best supporting actor as Rose’s effeminate son, Peter, whose presence on the ranch strongly affects Phil.

Additionally, the film won for its stirring music score by Jonny Greenwood (of the band Radiohead), and for its precise editing by Peter Sciberras.

As for the other awards, Olivia Colman won best actress for her turn as Leda Caruso, a professor who meets a young mother while on vacation and finds herself reckoning with her troubled past, in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter.”

Bay Area–born filmmaker Mike Mills won best original screenplay for his touching, thoughtful “C’mon C’mon,” which featured Joaquin Phoenix as a radio journalist who finds himself looking after his young nephew.

Best animated feature went to Disney’s glorious “Encanto,” about a young woman searching for her special power while trying to save her magical family. But the animated documentary “Flee,” which tells the harrowing tale of a man’s attempt to escape Afghanistan, came close enough to earn an honorable mention.

Best international feature film was Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s masterful “Drive My Car,” based on a story by Haruki Murakami, about a theater director who processes the death of his wife while being driven by a stoic young woman.

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer of Soul” went home with best documentary. This extraordinary film rescues 50-year-old footage and tells the story of an amazing and unjustly forgotten concert from the summer of 1969.

Bruno Delbonnel’s stark, severe black-and-white artistry in Joel Coen’s brilliant “The Tragedy of Macbeth” won best cinematography, while Tamara Deverell’s work on Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” including a richly textured carnival dripping with hard colors and sinister corners, took best production design.

The group’s special citation award, which is designed to single out unsung gems, resulted in a tie between two very different films: Shatara Michelle Ford’s “Test Pattern,” about an interracial couple who spends the day looking for a rape kit following a sexual assault, and Myriam Verreault’s “Kuessipan,” the story of two young Innu women whose longtime friendship faces a test.

Finally, the Marlon Riggs Award, which is intended for filmmakers or individuals who represent courage and innovation in the world of cinema, went to none other than EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony)–winner (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) Rita Moreno, who lives in Berkeley. In 2021, the legendary performer was the subject of her own forward-thinking documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It,” in addition to turning in an acclaimed performance in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” remake.

The SFBAFCC announced its full list of nominations on Friday, with “Drive My Car,” David Lowery’s “The Green Knight,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza,” “West Side Story,” as well as “The Power of the Dog” landing in the best picture category.

Founded in 2002, the SFBAFCC is comprised of critics and film journalists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express, the San Jose Metro, Palo Alto Weekly, the Marin Independent Journal, the San Francisco Examiner, KRON-TV, Variety, and more.


“C’mon C’mon” — VOD

“Drive My Car” — in theaters

“Encanto” — Disney+

“Kuessipan” — Amazon Prime

“The Lost Daughter” — Netflix

“Nightmare Alley” — in theaters

“The Power of the Dog” — Netflix

“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” — Netflix, Hoopla, or Kanopy

“Summer of Soul” — Hulu

“Test Pattern” — VOD

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” — Apple TV+ (starting 1/14)

“West Side Story” — in theaters

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