CANNES – Awards season is no stranger to Cannes. From “Amour” to “The Tree of Life” to “No Country For Old Men” to “The Pianist” to “The Piano,” every year there seems to be a player or two that pokes its head out from the crowded Croisette and into Oscar's waiting arms. This year's potential players may not include a true Best Picture contender, but they are evidence enough that the festival's presence will be felt throughout the upcoming campaign.
Before you start second guessing which films have a shot and which don't, remember the actions of this year's Hollywood-influenced competition jury. The Coen brothers, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller and the Guillermo Del Toro, among others, awarded some interesting prizes that will absolutely affect the race. The critical kudos are important, too (as are those of us who cover the beat on a regular basis and took in this year's slate), but the remarks from those key industry players were very telling indeed (more on that later).
That said, let's run down the movies that saw their Oscar fate affected by debuting at Cannes over the past 14 days and reflect on their realistic chances to earn a nomination or two.
Director – Todd Haynes
Actress – Rooney Mara
Actress or Best Supporting Actress – Cate Blanchett
Supporting Actress – Sarah Paulson
Adapted Screenplay – Phyllis Nagy
Original Score – Carter Burwell
Cinematography – Edward Lachman
Costumes – Sandy Powell
Production Design – Judy Decker
Editing – Affonso Gonclaves
Lowdown: One of The Weinstein Company's major players this upcoming season, “Carol” earned almost universal rave reviews and was a potential Palme d'Or winner. That being said, a Best Picture nomination isn't necessarily a given and will require some serious campaigning by the studio. In theory, the film's absolute best shots at nods are Mara and Blanchett, but do you really run them both in the lead actress category? Even if it turns out to be a weak year we find it hard to believe both ladies will be able to make a five-nominee field. Could TWC run Blanchett in supporting even though her character is the title of the movie? Something to ponder.
Director – Paolo Sorrentino
Actor – Michael Caine
Supporting Actor – Harvey Keitel
Supporting Actress – Rachel Weisz
Supporting Actress – Jane Fonda
Original Screenplay – Paolo Sorrentino
Cinematography – Luca Bigazzi
Production Design – Ludovica Ferrario
Lowdown: Sorrentino's follow-up to Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner “The Great Beauty” will be an absolute Academy player. The question is whether both Weisz and Fonda can get nominated in the supporting category or if Fonda's appeal will be so impactful she pushes her fellow Academy Award winner out of the top five.
Best Director – Denis Villeneuve
Best Actress – Emily Blunt
Best Supporting Actor – Benicio Del Toro
Best Original Screenplay – Taylor Sheridan
Best Cinematography – Roger Deakins
Best Editing – Joe Walker
Lowdown: Like “Youth,” Denis Villeneuve's thriller centered on the the U.S. government's neverending drug war will play much better Stateside than on la Croisette. Its best chances for Oscar nods are Del Toro and Deakins. Blunt and Villeneuve have a shot as well.
Animated Feature Film
Original Screenplay – Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
Original Score – Michael Giacchino
Lowdown: Pixar's latest creation is already the prohibitive favorite to win the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar and it's still three weeks from opening. The film received an incredibly warm critical reception, but most seem to believe it's just a step below the creative heights of “Up” or “WALL-E.” Does that mean a general Best Picture nod isn't in the cards? Not necessarily, but it may be more difficult to land than Walt Disney Studios wants to believe. That being said, an Original Screenplay nomination seems very, very likely.
“SON OF SAUL”
Foreign Langage Film
Director – Laslo Nemes
Original Screenplay – Laslo Nemes and Clara Royer
Cinematography – Matyas Erdely
Lowdown: Nemes looked genuinely stunned when he took home the Grand Prix (second place) at Cannes this year. He shouldn't have been. “Saul” was an impressive accomplishment for a first-time filmmaker, even though many believed it could take home the Palme d'Or. More telling was the praise Miller, Dolan and Del Toro gave the picture during the post-awards press conference. Yes, there are a few dissenters (the New York Times' Manohla Dargis quizzically being one of them), but this one is going to strike a chord with many filmmakers and Academy members. Sony Classics, which picked “Saul” up before its premiere, may have something more than the Foreign Language Film frontrunner on their hands.
Foreign Language Film
Lowdown: This year's Palme d'Or winner has effectively passed “Mon roi” to represent France in the Foreign Language Film race. It would be blasphemous for the selection committee to choose another picture over a French film that took home Cannes' biggest prize. Will it make the top five? Possibly, but it's not a given.
Actor – Tim Roth
Original Screenplay – Michael Franco
Lowdown: Michael Franco's Los Angeles-set drama is a tough one to sit through and it's hard to imagine the general Academy embracing this picture. However, if they can prove U.S. investment, it's likely the recipient of multiple Independent Spirit Award nominations. It also has an outside shot for a screenplay nod based on the Cannes honor, but we think most of the movie industry will give more credit to Franco's direction than his script.
Original Screenplay – Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
Cinematography – Thimios Bakatakis
Lowdown: Yorgos Lanthimos's film won a special jury prize, but its best shot for awards season love is in the original screenplay race. The film falters a bit in the second half, but you can see the Writers Branch wanting to reward Lanthimos and his co-writer and Efthymis Filippou for their unique world view.
Foreign Language Film
Cinematography – Ping Bin Lee
Lowdown: Hsiao-hsien Hou took Cannes' best director prize, but it's unclear whether “The Assassin” will even be Taiwan's submission for the Foreign Language Oscar. It may simply be too esoteric. That means its best chance at a nomination may be for Cinematography. Maybe.
“THE LITTLE PRINCE”
Animated Feature Film
Original Score – Hans Zimmer
Lowdown: Director Mark Osborne (“Kung Fu Panda”) found a creative way to work the classic children's book “The Little Prince” into a 90-minute movie. “Prince” may not earn the overall kudos “Inside Out” will, but it's hard to not see it being one of the top five nominees if Paramount releases it this year.
Actor – Michael Fassbender
Actress or Supporting Actress – Marion Cotillard
Cinematography – Adam Arkapaw
Lowdown: Despite some rave reviews from the British press, Justin Kurzel's “Macbeth” came and went with a whimper. With weak commercial prospects outside the art house circuit the question is whether The Weinstein Company will even give Cotillard or Fassbender the push they need to land nominations. Considering Fassbender also has Danny Boyle's “Steve Jobs” on deck, we think that's highly unlikely.
“MAD MAX: FURY ROAD”
Director – George Miller
Screenplay – George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Actress – Charlize Theron
Editing – Margaret Sixel
Cinematography – John Seale
Costume Design – Jenny Beavan
Original Score – Junkie XL
Production Design – Colin Gibson
Lowdown: The reaction from Cannes was so strong that the festival received serious blowback from media and attendees wondering why “Fury Road” wasn't in competition Miller's long-awaited return to live action has already received rapturous reviews in the States (raves from the NYT and LAT, no less) and should eventually break even thanks to international returns (always important if you're a “genre movie” trying to crash Oscar). Technically, “Fury Road” already appears to have editing and cinematography nominations locked up (cue the backlash if it doesn't happen), but a Directing nod for Miller isn't out of the question. Filmmakers are going bonkers over it and, like Wes Anderson's “Grand Budapest Hotel” this past season, we don't think they'll forget come January.
Additionally, Asif Kapadia's “Amy” has an outside chance at landing a documentary nomination, but we're slightly concerned that it won't speak to enough members of that branch.
Which Cannes movies do you think have the best shot to make an impact this Oscar season? Share your thoughts below.