How will this year's Cannes breakouts factor into the Oscars race?
The red carpet has been rolled up, the jewels returned to their rightful owners, all the glamour bottled until next year — the Cannes Film Festival is officially over. So what did we learn this year, besides the fact that filmmaker and Cannes jury president Pedro Almodovar is not a fan of Netflix? Objectively, we discovered that there are a lot of interesting filmmakers making a lot of interesting films. Whether or not these movies garner Oscar chatter depend on a number of factors, primarily whether or not their distributors launch a meaty campaign on their behalf.
And as my colleague Joey Nolfi has emphasized with his spot-on Cannes coverage, 22 performances in films that have debuted at the Cannes Film Festival have gone on to win or be nominated for Academy Awards since 2007. Still, during that time frame, only one Cannes Best Actress winner (Carol’s Rooney Mara) has progressed to an Oscar nod, though four Cannes-winning men (Inglorious Basterds’ Christoph Waltz, Biutiful’s Javier Bardem, The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, and Nebraska’s Bruce Dern) have done the same.
In terms of the Palme d’Or, only two films (Amour, The Tree of Life) have crossed over with the Academy’s Best Picture nominees.
It is safe to say that wins for Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled (the second female to ever land the festival’s director prize) and Joaquin Phoenix and writer/director Lynne Ramsey for You Were Never Really Here, which also landed a best screenplay nod, mean that both Focus Features and Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions will be asking Academy members to consider both of these features. (That will be a more challenging task for Focus since Coppola’s The Beguiled, which stars Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning, is a horror thriller that opens at the end of June — not exactly prime Oscar bait by release date or genre.)
Other interesting maybes include The Meyerowitz Stories from Netflix and Ben and Joshua Safdie’s Good Time from A24. Neither landed awards, but both generated high marks for their lead actors. Baumbach, who was nominated for his 2006 screenplay The Squid and the Whale, has never been favorite with the Academy but that could change once members see what he was able to get out of Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman. Likewise, indie filmmakers the Safdies aren’t well known to Oscar voters, but if A24 can generate momentum for teenage heartthrob-done-good Robert Pattinson, who critics are saying turns in a career-best performance, Good Time could likewise enter the conversation. (A24’s other prospect this year Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, which the Moonlight distributor purchased out of Cannes. The indie starring Willem DaFoe could be that gem that catches fire with voters like this year’s unlikely Best Picture winner.)
Taylor Sheridan, the actor-turned-screenwriter-turned-director won the Un Certain Regard director prize for his Sundance premiere Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. The Weinstein Company will release the thriller set on a Native American reservation on Aug. 4 and will certainly follow that up with a campaign of sorts. Sheridan, whose last screenplay Hell or High Water landed him an Oscar nomination, is certainly generating the right kind of momentum. After his last project came out of seemingly nowhere to land a best picture nomination, Wind River might not be such an outlier this year.
RELATED VIDEO: Watch the trailer for Wind River
Not surprisingly, the foreign language race received more clarity then anything else. Palme d’Or winner The Square is a polarizing two-and-a-half hour takedown of the art industry that stars Elizabeth Moss and Dominic West (Magnolia Pictures will release it in the U.S.) If Sweden chooses the Ruben Ostlund-directed piece as its official Oscar choice, it could go all the way.
It could be challenged, however, by Russia’s Loveless, the critically-beloved portrait of selfish, bourgeois parents who are fighting over custody of their 12-year old child, only to see him disappear. The film, from Leviathan director Andrey Zvyginstsev isn’t a shoo-in as Russia’s official choice but its strong presence at Cannes could promise more attention down the road. Same goes for France’s BPM: Beats Per Minute, which tracks the AIDS epidemic in France and took home the Cannes Grand Prix prize, along with Austria’s Happy End from Michael Haneke, starring Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert.
The most interesting part of Cannes is always Cannes itself. Trying to translate it into the Oscar race isn’t the easiest of tasks, considering the Academy’s voting process and the body of voters itself. Just take a look at last year’s Loving. The Jeff Nichols project was a stunner on the Croissete, only to practically disappear from the Oscar conversation, with the exception of Ruth Negga’s best actress nomination.
Maybe we just need to appreciate the festival on its own terms.