Sony Pictures Classics "Foxcatcher"

Sometimes awards season starts in September, but as this article points out, sometimes it starts in Cannes. Over the next 11 days, we'll get our first looks at the films hoping to become the next "The Artist" or "Inglorious Basterds" (and not the next "Lawless" or "This Must Be The Place") as they premiere on the Croisette. And there's definitely plenty with considerable potential. 

Previous Oscar winners Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep, Hilary Swank, Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, and director Michel Hazanivicius are all premiering films at the fest alongside past nominees like Mike Leigh, Bennett Miller, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Jessica Chastain, Hailee Steinfeld, Berenice Bejo and Ryan Gosling (though the latter is sitting in the director's chair this time).

Not all of them are in films that are going into the fest with those kinds of ambitions (as good as Julianne Moore looks in the trailer for "Maps To The Stars," calling it a film that looks like an Oscar contender is a stretch -- though we sure hope it ends up becoming one anyway), but that's what's great about Cannes. It's not some kind of Oscar speculation-fueled fest where that's what everybody is taking about all the time. It develops a bit more naturally and it's often pretty surprising (no one would have thought "The Artist" would end up a Best Picture contender before the fest started). But there's always gonna be favorites, so with the unpredictability of the next 11 days in kept in mind, here are five films most likely to succeed in this regard:

Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave
U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Cannes Premiere Date: May 19th

Why It Might Be An Oscar Contender: "Foxcatcher" was a highly anticipated potential fixture in last year's awards race. But it was pushed to 2014 at the last minute because director Miller ("Capote," "Moneyball") didn't want to rush things. But considering how crowded the Oscar race was, maybe it was for the best. And it gives us something to very much look forward to in 2014 -- potentially with Cannes kicking things off. Starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave, the film tells the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark (Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) and their relationship with the eccentric John du Pont (Carell), heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune that led to murder. Written by E. Max Frye and "Capote" scribe Dan Futterman, if it were to work out a little less than a year from now, it would be Bennett Miller's third straight film to receive a Best Picture nomination.

Why It Might Not Be: Certainly heading into Cannes with the Oscar question most dominantly placed on it, "Foxcatcher" thus has the most to lose in that regard. If reviews are less than stellar, it could sink pretty quickly. Though it's hard to imagine Sony Classics would put it under this kind of pressure it didn't have the goods...

Tim Roth and Nicole Kidman in "Grace of Monaco."
TWC Tim Roth and Nicole Kidman in "Grace of Monaco."

Grace of Monaco
Olivier Dahan
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Milo Ventimiglia, Parker Posey, Derek Jacobi, Frank Langella
U.S. Distributor: The Weinstein Company (it seems, at least)
Cannes Premiere Date: May 14th

Why It Could Be An Oscar Contender: Another film pushed back from last year, "Grace of Monaco" has a lot going for it on paper: It's a biopic from a director that's already won his leading lady an Oscar (Marion Cotillard for "La Vie En Rose") starring an Oscar winner (Nicole Kidman) who is playing an Oscar winner (Grace Kelly). And the last three films to open Cannes -- "Midnight in Paris," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Great Gatsby" -- all went on to receive Oscar nominations.

Why It Might Not Be: While "Foxcatcher" seemed to genuinely get pushed back because its director needed more time, the external narrative behind "Grace" is not so promising. There was a massive feud between Harvey Weinstein and director Dahan going on behind the scenes, with Weinstein wanting a tighter cut and Dahan refusing. This reportedly is what pushed the film off the Weinsteins' slate earlier this year, until Cannes' decision to open the festival with it changed their tune. But just a few weeks ago, Harvey & Co. were once again considering not even distributing the film, which isn't exactly a vote of confidence from such an Oscar-hungry gang. We'll have a good idea by the end of Wednesday how good the film behind all the drama actually is, and whether the Oscar hopefuls of "Grace" are more than just good-on-paper.