I love the split sensibilities of the San Diego Film Critics Society. On one hand they gave their Best Picture trophy to Debra Granik‘s Leave No Trace, but their runner-up favorite is Peter Farrelly‘s Green Book. These two films — a subdued, Hollywood-averse, tension-free indie vs. a somewhat old-fashioned, Hollywood-convention-embracing, racially-stamped buddy film — don’t just represent different filmmaking approaches but separate aesthetic continents.
The SDFCS is vigorously applauded for handing its Best Actor prize to First Reformed‘s Ethan Hawke. There’s no stopping Hawke now. A sizable portion of the Gold Derby gang — mostly finger-to-the-wind sheep who wouldn’t recognize a strong aesthetic conviction if it came up and bit them in the ass — have recently caved in their months-long resistance to Hawke and are now including him in their top-five Best Actor projection rosters. SAG and Academy voters are almost sure to follow.
“Leave No Trace is a respectable film if you can handle the surly, emotionally impenetrable behavior of Ben Foster’s behavior. The film is thoughtful and earnest, and refreshingly free of cliches. But it’s not that great. It’s appealing as far as it goes. Some have actually called Granik’s film “extremely boring”, which it is if you want to be hard-nosed about it. In his Sundance review the occasionally surprising Variety critic Peter Debruge actually said “there’s a listless, almost meandering nature to the story…no sense of where the script is headed, and no urgency to its resolution.”
“Granik is a skilled, straight-shooting director. Everyone (myself included) loved Down To The Bone (’04) and Winter’s Bone (’10). Granik’s aversion to conventional, commercial approaches and strategies is commendable. She’s respectably indie-brand with her own ethos and way of shooting, and almost all the critics are “in the tank” for her, and that means if a fairly decent film like Leave No Trace comes along, they’re going to praise it all they can. They’ll never admit it, but it’s how the game works with certain filmmakers. Kelly Reichardt is another indie helmer who always gets a pass.”