It just may turn out to be that the one, maybe only, thing the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival may have in common with the Oscars is that it is most remembered for screwing up the presentation of the big winner.
As you recall, in 2017 Best Picture winners Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope and Dunaway blurted out the name of what turned out to be the wrong winner, La La Land. A few moments later, a frazzled – and soon to be fired – accountant corrected that with the actual winner, Moonlight.
Tonight in Cannes, not understanding cues given to him in French by the evening’s host, Jury President Spike Lee really jumped the gun by announcing the Palme d’Or winner, Titane, first, rather than last. Quel Scandale! At least he got the name of the movie right. But the history making moment for director Julia Ducournau becoming only the second woman ever to win the Palme was somewhat lost in the confusion.
Beyond that, the eclectic group of winners chose by Lee’s jury are, on the face of things, and at this early point in the season, probably unlikely to repeat their triumphs at the Academy Awards. But that is not unusual for Cannes, which has a spotty track record of being a good indicator of the way Academy voters may see things once we really kick into gear around Labor Day, and for next year, continuing the long road to Oscar Sunday on March 27, 2022.
However this 74th edition, after being canceled because of the pandemic last year and delayed from May to July this year, was being breathlessly perused by pundits, who devour any cinematic morsel that might scream OSCAR OSCAR.
Let’s calm down, even if this is particularly true, because Cannes has had over two long years to wait to present their sequel of sorts to the 2019 edition, which, in terms of Oscar prognosticating, was the best in years, if not ever.
A remarkable total of 22 Oscar nominations came from films that first debuted in Cannes in May of 2019, including 10 for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, 2 for Pain & Glory, plus one each for Les Miserables, The Lighthouse, I Lost My Body, Rocketman, and another 6 for Parasite, which had the added distinction of being the first – and only – film since 1955’s Marty to win the Palme d’Or and the Best Picture Oscar. Cannes films wound up winning an impressive total of 7 Oscars that year. Certainly this was a tough act to follow, and the overall Cannes lineup, with the festival now in the rear view mirror, may not have the stuff of dreams to make it two in a row (in terms of predicting eventual glory at the Academy Awards).
NEON, which shepherded Parasite from the Grand Theatre Lumiere all the way to the Dolby stage and Best Picture, has their second Palme d’Or winner in a row with the much acclaimed, somewhat controversial, and, as more than one critic suggested, kinky movie Titane. But it is unlikely to see it repeat, despite the history of being only the second female winner (and on the heels of Chloe Zhao’s second female directing Oscar win).
This is more good news for Cannes, often criticized for its paltry list of females in the official main competition, than as any signal for Oscar, which shies generally from horror, anyway. NEON also has Joaquim Trier’s Norwegian The Worst Person In The World, with Cannes Best Actress Renata Reinsve. But don’t expect that win for Norway to translate to any kind of sure-fire Oscar nomination status.
Cannes acting winners most often are not a match for Oscar’s. The same would go for Caleb Landry Jones, who won Best Actor tonight for Nitram. But following 2019’s Cannes Best Actor Antonio Banderas’s example of pairing it with an Oscar nomination might be tougher. Of Lee’s jury winners, I would suspect most of them are, depending if they are entered from their respective countries, going to have their best chance competing in the Academy’s Best International Film contest, the one area Cannes reliably sets the table for Oscar in terms of likely contenders and eventual nominees.
For instance, in both the 2018 and 2019 Oscar years, three of the five nominees for foreign films were first introduced in Cannes. Cannes really is indispensable in this area when it comes to sorting out potential entries from around the world. There are many possibilities across all Cannes sections in this regard.
Of all tonight’s winners, Amazon Studios’ A Hero from Iran, which tied with Finland’s Compartment No 6 for the Grand Prix (second place), would seem to have the best chance of not only an International Film nomination (although the Finland film does, too, based on buzz alone), but breaking out into other categories, like director and original screenplay for Asghar Farhadi, an Oscar favorite who previously has seen two of his films, A Separation and The Salesman, win in the formerly titled Best Foreign Film category. Amazon plans to make him and the terrific A Hero (I think easily his finest since A Separation) a staple on the fall festival circuit, with Farhadi in tow, and that could lead to more than one Oscar nomination when all is said and done.
But, of course, there is much to be unveiled, starting with Venice, Telluride, and Toronto, so we shall see how far it can go. I was very happy to see Ryusuke Hamaguchi win Screenplay for his exceptional Drive My Car, and that film, at three hours the longest in the competition, would be a wise choice for Japan to submit for the Oscars International race.
American directors in the competition, Wes Anderson with his Gallic-flavored French Dispatch (delayed a full year in order to compete at Cannes), Sean Penn with Flag Dag, and Sean Baker with Red Rocket saw their films shut out of the winners circle, but could turn up later in the awards season.
Anderson’s film looks ripe to appeal to Academy craft branches like Costumes, Production Design, and Score, while new faces Dylan Penn in her dad’s film, and Simon Rex (!) in Red Rocket won decent enough reviews to move them forward, at least into indie spirit territory.
Although it is his first English language film, Amazon’s Annette won Best Director for French helmer Leos Carax for his unique musical opening night film starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, making the decision to also delay it a whole year after the 2020 Cannes cancellation a smart one.
It gives a boost and credibility for Annette, and Amazon can build on that beginning in August, when the movie opens in theaters, followed by its streaming debut on August 20. Too offbeat for the Academy? Who knows? It got mixed buzz from critics (I dug it). But its originality could give it a boost with the Oscar crowd if it can maintain a presence and Amazon spends.
As for other Cannes debuts that might continue on an Oscar quest, Tom McCarthy’s very fine out of competition entry, Stillwater, stands a good chance of continuing buzz for star Matt Damon, and perhaps the luminous Camille Cottin in Supporting Actress when it opens July 30.
The exceptional Val Kilmer documentary Val, and Todd Haynes’ docu debut Velvet Underground are coming out of Cannes with some heat, although the Oscar documentary branch voters tend to shy from showbiz-related docus, so no slam dunks despite their quality.
Ari Folman’s wonderful and original Where Is Anne Frank? needs to be picked up by a distributor, but definitely could find footing in the Animated Feature category for the previously Oscar-nominated director (Waltz With Bashir). Sony Pictures Classics is likely to make a run for the British drama, Mothering Sunday, considering among its cast includes Oscar magnets like Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Glenda Jackson, as well as costume design from three time winner Sandy Powell, even though romantic leads Josh O’Connor (just Emmy nominated for The Crown) and Odessa Young don’t wear much at all in many of their scenes. Critics liked Directors Fortnight entry The Souvenir Part II. But Oscar completely ignored Joanna Hogg’s first part, and likely will do the same for this one, again from A24.
Overall, Cannes always provides enough cinematic delicacies to keep the conversation going. But unlike the last time the movie world descended on the French Riviera two years and two months ago, don’t expect another 22 Oscar nominations to come out of it.
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