While it’s a more diverse celebration of film of all kinds, few could argue that Cannes hasn’t provided a major launching pad for awards movies over the years. From “No Country For Old Men” and “Inglourious Basterds” to “The Artist,” “Midnight In Paris,” “Amour” and “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” barely a year passes without something popping up at Cannes which makes a big splash with the Oscars come the following February.
We’ve had a few blessed months off from thinking about awards, but as our Cannes coverage wraps up, we thought we’d crack out the old crystal ball and examine what, if any, of this year’s Croisette crop are looking good as far as the awards season goes.
It hopefully goes without saying that we’re still nine months away from the Oscars, that there are a ton of contenders to come, and that any number of things could change. But it’s certainly useful to take the temperature of the major movies from the festival (one notable exception is “Behind the Candelabra,” which though it’s getting a theatrical release in some parts of the world, will only be eligible for Emmys due to its HBO premiere in the U.S. — look for it to be a huge player there when nominations are announced in July), and their awards potential. Check out our thoughts below, and thanks to Cannes correspondents Jessica Kiang and Kevin Jagernauth for their help.
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
Of everything at the festival, this looks likely to be the heaviest player in the awards season at year’s end. Once awards misfits, the Coens have become ever more acceptable to the Academy since “Fargo,” and three of their last four movies were best picture nominees, with “No Country For Old Men” winning Best Picture and Best Director. And from the buzz on the Croisette, their latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” should be joining them. Though the film’s gained comparison to some of their darker, tricksier work like “A Serious Man” and “Barton Fink,” it also won absolute rave reviews; it’s very difficult to find anyone with much of a bad word to say about it, and Steven Spielberg‘s jury agreed, awarding the picture with the Grand Prix runner-up award. As such, this seems like it has a very good chance to be among the Best Picture nominees come year end, with Director and Screenplay nominations also likely (though as ever, it’ll depend on the competition that’s yet to unspool). Our Cannes correspondents agreed that Oscar Isaac has a good chance of earning his first Best Actor nomination for the title character (Jess said he’s “as much a lock as possible”), but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious supporting nominee among the mix; Carey Mulligan and John Goodman have been mentioned in some circles, but their roles are likely to be too brief here. Nevertheless, expect a fistful of nominations here, including below-the-line categories like Cinematography, Costume Design and Best Original Song (the film only has one non-cover, but it brought the house down in Cannes). The only possible stumbling block is distributor CBS Films, who’ve never run a serious awards campaign before.
The competition section’s other major American movie was, on the whole, warmly received, even if it didn’t go on to the same kind of consensus raves as “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Alexander Payne‘s black-and-white road movie got some very glowing notices — one awards watcher called it “next year’s best picture winner or a very strong contender,” and like the Coens, Payne is now firmly within the establishment, with Screenplay wins for “Sideways” and “The Descendants.” That said, we might be being influenced by Jess’ middling notice for the film, and several others along the same lines, but we’re not 100% convinced that this could go all the way; it’s a more modest lo-fi film than “The Descendants,” without George Clooney‘s star power to carry it, and its early unveiling at Cannes could see it overshadowed by the time it makes it to theaters, especially with higher-profile competition to come, including from its own studio Paramount, who also have Jason Reitman‘s “Labor Day” and Martin Scorsese‘s “Wolf Of Wall Street” to look after. So it’s still up in the air whether Best Picture can happen but Bruce Dern looks likely to be a serious contender for Best Actor, if only as a kind of career recognition. That said, three major possibilities for the category emerged at Cannes alone, with many more to come, and we think if any seem likely to slip out, it could be him.
“All Is Lost”
Speaking of that third Best Actor possibility, Robert Redford won glowing notices for this one-man survival show directed by “Margin Call” helmer J.C. Chandor. Many critics were surprised that the film played out of competition — there was a certain feeling that Redford might have taken Best Actor if he was eligible. But that aside, the veteran won some of the best reviews of his career for the picture, and given that he only has one previous acting nomination (for “The Sting” 40 years ago), the narrative’s already falling into place. Whether the film follows him is another question; Chandor picked up a Screenplay nomination for “Margin Call,” and the film in general has very good notices, but our correspondent’s feeling is that the film is too spartan in its narrative to get much traction for the big prize, and we’ve always suspected that the one-man-show nature of the film will make it a performance piece in the Academy’s eyes. That said, the similarly survival-at-sea-themed “Life of Pi” was a big player last year, and Chandor’s certainly going places, so if the fall field proves to be disappointing, don’t count it our yet, even if Roadside Attractions will have a fight on their hands to make it happen.
One of the best reviewed films of the festival — no huge surprise, given the critical adulation that greeted “A Separation,” which won Best Foreign Language film two years ago, as well as picking up a screenplay nomination — it was widely touted for the Palme d’Or, and while it didn’t win, it did pick up Best Actress from the jury from Bérénice Bejo. All that said, the film doesn’t quite have the reviews to match, or even excel, “A Separation,” and we suspect that in order to break out of the foreign language ghetto, it probably needed them. However, it’s probably the closest thing this year’s festival offered to “Amour,” and we’re sure Sony Pictures Classics will hope to repeat their success here. If Iran enter a Foreign Language film and don’t have qualms about a film shot and made in France (which they might well), it should be competitive there, and a Screenplay nomination looks very viable. Both of our Cannes correspondents tipped Bejo as a Best Actress possibility, and given that she’s been a nominee once before, it’s certainly not unthinkable. That said, the category looks tougher this time around — perhaps she’ll fair better with some category fraud shifting her to Supporting?
Marion Cotillard was originally intended to take Bejo’s role in “The Past,” but she’s got her own performance in contention, with James Gray‘s “The Immigrant.” The filmmaker is yet to have his awards breakthrough, and while he’s got a period piece this time around and Harvey Weinstein in his corner, the divisive reaction to his latest (which had some wildly hostile notices from some corners, though we liked it quite a bit) suggests that this isn’t going to be the film that makes the Academy welcome Gray into their arms. That said, Harvey knows how to push an actress in a picture even if the film isn’t a critical favorite, and so Cotillard, who won good reviews even from those who didn’t like the film, shouldn’t be dismissed. The actress only just missed out this year for “Rust & Bone,” and could well again be shut out by more Academy-friendly competition, especially with Bejo in contention. But we suspect she’ll be hovering around the season, and the potential could be here for technical awards — cinematography, production design etc — if the relevant branches take to the film.
“Blue Is The Warmest Color”
The last two Palme d’Or winners, “The Tree of Life” and “Amour,” went on to Best Picture nominations, but it’s worth noting that it’s something of a rarity; before them, it had been nine years since another film pulled it off, namely “The Pianist.” As such, we’d be cautious about this year’s winner, the critically adored “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” even if it wasn’t a three-hour lesbian romance with explicit sex and based on a graphic novel. But it is, and while some might point to Spielberg‘s thumbs up for the film as a sign that Academy audiences might take to it, we suspect it’ll face a battle getting seen by voters. Plus Sundance Selects picked the film up, and they have no Oscar form to speak of, at least away from documentary and foreign language awards. If the French pick it for their Foreign Language entry (not a foregone conclusion, as ever), it could end up a nominee there, though.
“Only God Forgives”
Despite adulation from critics and fans, Nicolas Winding Refn‘s “Drive” only picked up a single sound nomination two years ago. And given that follow-up “Only God Forgives” has been 1) much less well-reviewed and 2) is even more violent and abrasive than its predecessor, we can’t see it managing even that when it comes to the awards season. The one possibility flagged up in advance was Kristin Scott Thomas, as the acid-tongued matriarch. She won terrific reviews for the performance, but it’s not a massive part, as our review revealed, and if Albert Brooks couldn’t get a nomination for “Drive,” we can’t really see this happening for a film that’s just not going to be to the Academy’s taste.
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”/”Fruitvale Station”
Two Sundance flicks graduated to Cannes (there was a third, “We Are What We Are,” but while that’s apparently terrific, it’s hardly Academy material), but they didn’t quite get a leg up by walking the Croisette. In previous years, “Precious,” “Blue Valentine” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” have gone on to major nominations after sidebar selection, but neither David Lowery‘s film (which seemed to have already been seen by most English-language critics) or Ryan Coogler‘s seemed to get the same boost. ‘Saints’ already had strong reviews out of Park City, but with IFC Films picking it up, is probably a long shot for anything more than the Spirit Awards. “Fruitvale Station” was picked up by The Weinstein Company, which is obviously a good thing, but its reception on the Croisette, including our review, was decidedly more muted than at Sundance. With Harvey’s slate looking so full, it may end up not quite getting the right attention from the distributor, and a recent release date bump to the summer doesn’t suggest it’s going to be a high priority for the Weinsteins. That said, U.S critics will be more responsive to the movie, there’s a long way to go, and there’s still buzz around Michael B. Jordan‘s central performance. Plus again, if other fall movies disappoint, it might well work its way in.
As ever, some of the films at the festival simply weren’t the kind of films that were ever going to be on Academy radars; “Only Lovers Left Alive“ and “Borgman,” for instance, were among the best reviewed of the festival, but won’t figure into the awards seasons (though the latter could eventually end up with a “Dogtooth“-style Foreign Language nomination, we suppose). And there are others that might have been considered possibilities, but probably are non-starters after their premiere. Roman Polanski‘s “Venus In Fur“ got fairly good notices, but doesn’t seem destined for anything more than a few Cesar nominations. Sofia Coppola‘s “The Bling Ring“ was also warmly received, but without an acclaimed performance to get behind looks likely to be more “Somewhere” than “Lost In Translation” when it comes to awards. No one really liked “Blood Ties,” which would have had to be terrific to make any traction in the first place. But probably the biggest casualty would be opening night movie “The Great Gatsby,” which made it to Cannes having already opened in the U.S. On paper, the director of “Moulin Rouge!” tackling Fitzgerald with an all-star cast would be perfect Academy fare. But the film’s reviews, while not dreadful, have never been more than lukewarm (even the more positive notices essentially seem to say nothing more enthusiastic than “it’s better than you’ve heard”). While it’s not any worse received than, say, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” or “Les Misérables,” those films benefited from a late-in-the-day release, so despite excellent box office for the movie, anything beyond technical awards for ‘Gatsby’ simply isn’t going to happen.
The Weinstein Company Slate
As they’ve done the last few years, The Weinstein Company were out in force at the festival, showcasing some of their hopefuls from later in the year aside from Competition movies “The Immigrant” and “Only God Forgives.” Much of the footage had been seen elsewhere, but of the newer footage, Jess, who ran down the presentation here, says that the studio’s hopes seem to be most behind “Grace of Monaco” (saying that Harvey will get Nicole Kidman a nomination “if it kills them”). She also suggested that Naomie Harris might be someone keeping an eye on for “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom,” but that she’s not quite sold on Idris Elba in the title role yet. “August: Osage County” is still likely to be a big hitter, and look for “Salinger” to be a big player in the documentary race.