Now that it’s all over, let’s take an Oscar-specific look at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which could very well serve as a partial crystal ball into what will be happening in the awards race a few months down the line.
In the past few years, the best picture-nominated likes of “The Tree of Life,” “Amour,” “Inglorious Basterds,” “Midnight in Paris,” “The Artist” (which won) and, last year, “Nebraska,” all debuted at the festival. Only once in the last 5 years — 2010 — did no Cannes alum go on to get a best picture nomination, suggesting there’s a pretty good chance something that premiered on the Croisette in the past 11 days will make it to the Dolby Theater.
There were two films that took home prizes Saturday that one might expect are safe to be assumed as the festival’s Oscar MVPs: Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” (which won best director) and Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner” (which won best actor for Timothy Spall). Both heading to US theaters via Sony Pictures Classics (who definitely know how to turn Cannes premieres into awards season fixtures), the films appear to have Oscar written all over them, with directors the Academy has nominated multiple times before offering films that critics hailed as among their best.
But then again, you never know. In 2007, Joel & Ethan Coen’s “No Country For Old Men” went home empty-handed at the festival and then went on to win best picture. And two years later, few thought Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” was the Oscar contender it would wind up to be after it screened in Cannes. So perhaps something unexpected could happen beyond Mr. Leigh and Mr. Miller’s latest (though it’s pretty safe to say that it won’t be “Grace of Monaco” or “The Search” — both of which crashed and burned for the most part). Here’s our category by category take:
Best Picture: Of the two frontrunners noted above, “Foxcatcher” definitely seems like the surest best (read Indiewire’s review). A highly anticipated potential fixture in last year‘s awards race, it was pushed to 2014 at the last minute because director Miller didn’t want to rush things. But considering how crowded the Oscar race was — and how well-received it was in Cannes — it looks like that decision was for the best. The film tells the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and their relationship with the eccentric John du Pont (Steve Carell), heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune that led to murder. It might end up all feeling a bit cold for the Academy’s tastes, so it’s no sure thing, but it’s still hard to imagine at this point that it doesn’t at least get one of the best picture slots — though that also depends on how many there are.
If there is 9 or 10 slots, we wouldn’t just bet that “Foxcatcher” makes the cut, but also “Mr. Turner.” In addition to being a consistent fixture at Cannes, Mike Leigh has done pretty well for himself at the Oscars, too — especially considering how his work generally doesn’t bait such attention. He’s received screenplay nominations for four of his last five films (“Topsy-Turvy,” “Vera Drake,” “Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Another Year”) and saw his Palme d’Or winning “Secrets & Lies” manage the rare feat of both winning Cannes’ top prize and getting an Oscar Best Picture nomination. So there’s no reason to count him out for this biopic about the life of controversial 19th century British painter and printmaker J.M. Turner (Cannes best actor winner Spall), especially after it got such strong reviews.
But beyond those two, is there really anything that stands a chance? David Cronenberg’s “Maps To The Stars” and Olivier Assayas’s “Clouds of Sils Maria” — different takes on celebrity culture — are very unlikely to be the kind of films Oscar voters take to (especially since they offer a thing or two that might hit close to home), even though both came out of Cannes with strong reviews. Ned Benson’s revamped “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” premiered in Toronto to warm reviews as two films and was shown at Cannes to even warmer ones as one, and does have the backing of The Weinstein Company. But best picture seems like a tall order, and the film is more likely to factor into the acting races for its stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy.
And then there’s Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman,” which was acquired by new company Saban Films with the promise of an awards campaign. New companies rarely fare well with awards campaigns, but “Homesman” benefits from a ton of Oscar-approved folks being involved: Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, John Lithgow, and Jones himself have all been nominated or won (they have 6 acting statues between them). But our critic Eric Kohn suggested it might be the strangest film in Cannes competition (and not necessarily in a good way), which doesn’t bode well.
Most Likely To Succeed: Foxcatcher
Also Quite Possible: Mr. Turner
Dark Horses: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby; The Homesman; Clouds of Sils Maria; Maps To The Stars
Best Actor: One major question left with “Foxcatcher” is how it campaigns its three main actors, all of whom could be argued as lead (particularly Carell and Tatum). Carell is clearly the one with the performance most likely to impress Oscar voters, as it’s much more showy than his co-stars. But Tatum quietly anchors the film, although that’s often the exact description of performances that go unnoticed at Oscar. And for now, we’ll suggest i’ts Carell that goes lead and the other two supporting anyway, and he’s already got some competition in “Mr. Turner” himself, Timothy Spall. Spall beat Carell for Cannes’ best actor prize, a prize that has resulted in an Oscar nomination four of the last five years (for Christoph Waltz, Javier Bardem, Jean Dujardin and Bruce Dern). So those are some good odds. Not looking so good is basically anybody else, but dark horse status was definitely earned at the festival by James McAvoy (“Eleanor Rigby”), Tommy Lee Jones (“The Homesman”) and Haluk Bilginer (for Palme d’Or winner “Winter Sleep” — though who are we kidding suggesting an Oscar nomination),
Most Likely To Succeed: Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Also Quite Possible: Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner
Dark Horses: Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher; James McAvoy, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby; Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman; Haluk Bilginer, Winter Sleep
Best Actress: In winning the best actress prize at Cannes Julianne Moore has now pulled off the very rare feat of receiving that award at Cannes, Berlin (for “The Hours”) and Venice (“Far From Heaven”). But she still doesn’t have an Oscar. Could her gutso performance as a former A-list actress in David Cronenberg’s “Maps To The Stars” change that? Probably not, but it could very well nab her another nomination. And she could potentially be joined by Marion Cotillard, who many thought would beat her to the Cannes prize for the Dardennes’ “Two Days, One Night” — especially after being snubbed for “Rust and Bone” a few years back. Though notably both Moore and Cotillard have potential Oscar bait films that could still come in 2014 with “Still Alice” and “MacBeth,” respectively (though neither are officially on the year’s release schedule). So who knows…
Beyond Moore and Cotillard, a quintent of possibilities come with Jessica Chastain (“Eleanor Rigby”), Anne Dorval (“Mommy”), Hilary Swank (“The Homesman”) and Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche (“Clouds of Sils Maria”). There’s varying obstacles for all five (“Mommy” doesn’t have a distributor yet, for example, but if it finds one critics could rally for Dorval), but none of them should be counted out. It’s also nice that the festival seems to have provided more female contenders than male, for once.
Most Likely To Succeed: Julianne Moore, Maps To The Stars
Also Quite Possible: Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night; Jessica Chastain, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Dark Horses: Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria; Juliette Binoche, Clouds of Sils Maria; Anne Dorval, Mommy; Hilary Swank, The Homesman
Best Supporting Actor: As noted, Mark Ruffalo and even more so Channing Tatum could end up being campaigned in lead, though it seems very safe to say that won’t be the case for Ruffalo, who could earn his second Oscar nomination for “Foxcatcher.” And he and Tatum are really the only contenders in this category to come out of Cannes (though Sundance alum “Whiplash” did re-screen at the festival, and it definitely offers an option here with J.K. Simmons). We’re sort of stepping out on a major limb suggesting Robert Pattinson and John Cusack for “Maps To The Stars” below, but stranger things have happened (or maybe they haven’t).
Most Likely To Succeed: Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
Also Quite Possible: Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher
Dark Horses: Ciaran Hinds, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby; Robert Pattinson, Maps To The Stars; John Cusack, Maps To The Stars
Best Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave has a small but powerful role in “Foxcatcher” as Tatum and Ruffalo’s mother, and it’s those “small but powerful” roles that often end up getting Oscar nominations, at least when they are given by legendary actresses just like Vanessa Redgrave (ask Judi Dench and Beatrice Straight). No to mention they snubbed her a few years back for “Coriolanus,” and that so far this category is looking very uncompetitive. Except for perhaps a pair of women offering excelllent work in “Mr. Turner” — Dorothy Atkinson and Marion Booth — could follow in the footsteps of Imelda Staunton, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Brenda Blethyn in getting an Oscar nomination for a Mike Leigh film. Or they could go the way of Sally Hawkins and Lesley Manville…
Most Likely To Succeed: Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher
Also Quite Possible: Dorothy Atkinson, Mr. Turner; Marion Booth, Mr. Turner
Dark Horses: Suzanne Clement, Mommy; Chloe Grace Moretz, Clouds of Sils Maria
Best Foreign Language Film: Here’s where we have some certainty. It’s reasonable to feel assured that at least one of Cannes’ films will end up a foreign language film Oscar nominee, if not two, three or four or all five. In the past 5 years, 11 films have managed that feat, including 4 out of 5 films last year. It first all just depends on if respective countries decide to submit them (or if the rules allows them to — see “Blue is the Warmest Color” not being France’s choice last year). Palme d’Or winner “Winter Sleep” is all but assured Turkey’s submission, as is “Mommy” for Canada (which would be the country’s second time submitting Xavier Dolan, appropriately five years after his debut film “I Killed My Mother”) and “Wild Tales” for Argentina.” Beyond that it all depends on which films each country ends up submitting, though one thats very unlikely is Andrey Zvyagintsev’s widely acclaimed “Leviathan,” as Russia’s Minister of Culture has made clear he is not a fan of the film, which is a bold statement on the country’s political and religious climate.
Most Likely To Succeed: Winter Sleep (Turkey); Mommy (Canada)
Also Quite Possible: : Wild Tales (Argentina); The Wonders (Italy)
Dark Horses: Two Days One Night (Belgium or France); Goodbye To Language (France); Still The Water (Japan); Party Girl (France); Love at First Fight (France); White God (Hungary); Leviathan (Russia — who is unlikely to submit it).
Peter Knegt is a contributing writer to Indiewire and their awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.