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Cannes: An Oscar lover's guide

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Following the high-wattage first few days of this year’s festival (Robin Hood, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), the last 48 hours have seen several entries from acclaimed filmmakers, some with release dates already set and others looking for U.S. distribution. Here’s how a few of them might fare in the awards season.

Another Year Mike Leigh’s latest pensive London drama is arguably the best-received film of the first half of the festival (as evidenced by my colleague Owen Gleiberman’s take on it). If it were to find domestic distribution, I’d say Leigh vet Lesley Manville’s affecting lead turn as a wine-swigging medical secretary would have the best shot at a nod. The film increasingly belongs to her as it progresses, and her final shot is one to remember.

Biutiful I’ve just come out of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s haunting drama starring Javier Bardem—the one Josh Brolin told me about the other day—and although it mostly worked for me, I sensed a fairly tepid response from the media crowd at the end of the screening. It may not become a major Oscar player like González Iñárritu’s last film, Babel, but depending on his competition, Bardem could end up in contention for a Best Actor nomination, since he dominates the film.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Woody Allen’s droll infidelity drama boasts a knockout supporting comedic performance from British actress Lucy Punch, but I wonder if her professional escort character will strike some as too similar to Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite. And though the film has many fun moments, I’d say this will be one of the rare Allen screenplays that doesn’t have a shot at a nomination. I fear too many critics will deem it less than completely formed.

Inside Job and Countdown to Zero The festival’s two hottest documentaries explore the current economic crisis and the escalating nuclear arms situation, respectively. Both have been widely praised and both—along with Countdown director Lucy Walker’s Sundance-winning Wasteland—seem like decent doc shortlist contenders.

The Myth of the American Sleepover Rookie feature filmmaker David Robert Mitchell became the first U.S. director to be accepted to the Cannes International Critics’ Week since Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know) managed that feat five years ago. Mitchell’s keenly observed film—about a group of Michigan teenagers exploring with issues of sexuality and identity—boasts strong performances by several of its young actors, particularly Claire Sloma and Marlon Morton, whom I expect Hollywood casting directors to pounce on very soon. Not all of the film’s plotlines are believable, but it’s the kind of movie that could pick up some Spirit Award or Gotham Award nods at the end of the year.

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