By Dave Karger
Updated May 20, 2011 at 11:40 PM EDT

The next Academy Awards ceremony may be nine months away, but as the 64th Cannes film festival is ending, here are the films and actors that already have people thinking Oscar in the South of France.

The Artist The happiest surprise of the festival was director Michel Hazanavicius’ crowd-pleasing black-and-white silent film starring two French actors you’ve probably never heard of (Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo). But trust me: You’re going to love it. And so will the Academy. The Weinstein Co. will release the film in the late fall.

The Tree of Life To say Cannesgoers were mixed on Terrence Malick’s latest opus would be a distinct understatement. Still, Malick’s last three films all earned at least one nomination. This visually-sweeping meditation on our existence (which Fox Searchlight is releasing next week) could be a contender for picture, director, actor (Brad Pitt), and cinematography.

Tilda Swinton The past supporting-actress winner (for Michael Clayton) delivers a riveting performance as the mother of a teenage killer in Lynne Ramsay’s acclaimed We Need to Talk About Kevin. It’s not an easy sit, but she’s nothing short of mesmerizing. With the right distributor, she could be a Best Actress nominee next year.

Woody Allen Opening the festival with the delightful Midnight in Paris, the writer/director found himself with one of his best-received films in years. He may just score his 15th career screenplay nod?

Michael Shannon and Linda Cardellini Shannon, a previous nominee for Revolutionary Road, won raves as a working-class dad growing increasingly mentally ill in Sony Pictures Classics’ Take Shelter, while former ER costar Cardellini turned in an impressively understated performance as a servicewoman just back from war in Return. The films are quite small, but if their buzz continues, they could end up as nominees at next year’s Spirit Awards.

Meryl Streep She’s back! The Weinstein Co. snapped up The Iron Lady, featuring Streep as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, after watching just a five-minute sizzle reel. Those who saw it say the two-time winner is in rare form.