The driver who brought me into Cannes this morning from the Nice airport told me I’m lucky because the weather here was horrible the day before. Well, the sun has started shining now, just as the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival is in heavy preparation mode for its big opening night Wednesday with Focus Features’ Moonrise Kingdom kicking things off from director Wes Anderson, who’s making his Croisette debut. Certainly festival director Thierry Fremaux and Gilles Jacob hope the sun will shine on the official selection this year as well after a rousing 2011 where Cannes had an an unusually large impact on the Oscar race. An impressive three films that debuted here — Midnight In Paris, The Tree Of Life and The Artist — all received Best Picture nominations, with the latter winning and also taking four other Oscars — including one for Best Actor Jean Dujardin repeating his Cannes victory. A fourth 2011 competition entry, Drive was also a major player during awards season after picking up the Best Director prize here for Nicolas Winding Refn.

That’s a pretty tough act for Fremaux to follow. When I saw him at  this year’s Governors Ball chatting up Harvey Weinstein just a short time after The Artist’s Oscar triumph (the first French picture ever to pull that off), I suggested that the pressure is on to repeat again this year. “I’m just here supporting our film,” an excited Fremaux told me at the time, but certainly ‘how do you top this?’ had to be in the back of his mind. Of course, Cannes being the world’s most important film festival doesn’t depend on finding movies that strike the fancy of Academy voters, but the two biggest red carpets in show business are important for each other.

Oscar and Cannes don’t always see eye to eye, so last year might have been an abberation. 1955’s  Marty still  remains the one and only film to win Best Picture and its Cannes equivalent the Palme d’Or (The Artist could have been the second but lost the Palme to the only American competition entry, The Tree Of Life). (more…)