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Cannes Awards Contenders, from the Weinstein Slate to ‘Son of Saul’

Cannes Awards Contenders, from the Weinstein Slate to 'Son of Saul'

The Cannes Film Festival often yields year-end awards contenders, from eventual Best Actor-winner Roberto Begnini (“Life is Beautiful”) and “The Piano” and “The Pianist” to Michael Haneke’s “Amour” and Best Picture-winner “The Artist.” Last year’s “Foxcatcher” wound up grabbing a few nods, more than Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” and the festival introduced several foreign film contenders, while “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which didn’t open stateside until 2015, could provide a Supporting Actress shot for well-reviewed Kristen Stewart.
So what of this year’s crop of awards hopefuls?

Weinstein Co. has a full slate this year:

Carol.” This is a strong contender on many fronts. Most likely are its two leads. Rooney Mara shared the Cannes Best Actress jury award, which will help her going forward and lends support for a Best Actress slot along with Cate Blanchett. Mara was nominated once in that category for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” while Blanchett has scored six nominations and two wins, most recently for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.”

The lesbian romance should continue to fare well with critics, who will provide a needed boost as the film tries to connect with audiences through the fall festival circuit and its December 18 opening. We root for the well-heeled older suburban housewife (Blanchett) and the younger shopgirl (Mara) to find ways to express their love within the constraints of early Fifties society. But Haynes often tends toward the stately and formal; this is not a sentimental emotive weepie. 

The movie is gorgeously wrought. The Guilds and Academy voters should recognize the production design, cinematography, costumes and score, as well as Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel. Depending on the year-end competition, this could go all the way to Picture and Director as well. 

“Macbeth.” Cannes reviews were strong (read ours here) for the film and its leads (Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard) but Justin Kurzel’s bloody Shakespeare movie didn’t take home any Cannes prizes. Harvey Weinstein’s decisions about when and how to release the film will tell us whether he plans to invest in a major awards campaign.

Southpaw.” At his annual Cannes presentation, Weinstein promised that his company would deliver an Oscar nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal for his dramatic role as a troubled, muscle-packed fighter in Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw.” He explained that the festival offered the movie an official slot, but they withdrew “Southpaw” in order to let Gyllenhaal participate on the Competition jury. He promised to show the film, and his people invited press to a Tuesday night market screening, which was canceled in favor of a later glittery yacht showing attended by Gyllenhaal and celebrities in Cannes, but no press. So what does this all suggest? Critics and audiences have yet to see the film, which opens in July.

“Tulip Fever” was the footage that popped at the TWC show-and-tell. The Amsterdam period romance based on the bestseller leans heavily on blossoming star Alicia Vikander (“Royal Affair, “Anna Karenina,” “Ex Machina”), who was on hand. In the film she’s married to older man Christoph Waltz; when a young painter (Dane DeHaan) comes to do a portrait, an affair inevitably ensues. The movie, which also stars Dame Judi Dench as a nun, will likely be introduced at Venice, Telluride, Toronto or New York ahead of its November release. 

Read: Cannes Festival is Dominated by Two Hollywood Masters

Warner Bros. launched non-stop action adventure Mad Max: Fury Roadat Cannes to effusive, exuberant praise for one of the best-made movies of the year. The Academy will ignore its violent pedigree and recognize the moviemaking skills of director George Miller and his technical team, from D.P. John Seale to the sets, costumes, visual effects, makeup, editing, sound and score. Think “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” “Gravity” or “The Lord of the Rings.”

Read: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Auteur George Miller Does It His Way

This year Disney/Pixar’s animated family comedy Inside Outcould break out of the animated Oscar ghetto for the first time since “Toy Story 3” in 2010 and Pete Docter’s 2009 Cannes debut “Up.” Reviews are through the roof for this original movie, and on June 19, boffo box office should follow. 

Read: Why Pete Docter’s ‘Inside Out’ Was Tough to Make Into Must-See Pixar

Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” may not have impressed the Cannes jury, but the story about a retired maestro conductor (a dignified and moving Michael Caine) hanging in a high-end Swiss resort with his daughter (Rachel Weisz), best friend (Harvey Keitel) and various movie stars (Paul Dano and Jane Fonda) is hugely entertaining and will play well for both the Golden Globe and Academy voters, who will relate to its concerns about what artists sacrifice for their careers. Actors should respond most especially to the popular Caine, and Keitel and Fonda could also break through. Fox Searchlight is behind it, which won’t hurt. Reviews are good, and my guess is that this will play like hotcakes on the arthouse circuit. 
Son of Saul,” directed by Hungarian rookie Laszlo Nemes, won the Grand Prix at Cannes and was notable for being included in the Competition even though he was a first-timer. The hard-hitting movie takes a rigorous point-of-view on the Holocaust, showing us the horrors through the blinkered lens of a concentration camp inmate who is forced to help with the mass slaughter of Jews. The movie is deeply moving and boasts amazing sound design (for which it won a Cannes award). Sony Pictures Classics won the festival bidding war; the film was expected to land a Cannes prize. As the likely official Oscar submission from Hungary, see the film play Telluride, Toronto, New York and more. It will be a strong contender for the win.

Now that Dheepan,” Jacques Audiard’s beautifully crafted emigre story about a young Tamil family trying to rebuild a life in France, has won the Palme d’Or, France may decide to submit the film for Oscar consideration, but it will face heavy competition in a strong year for French dramas. IFC’s Sundance Selects will likely send the film to the fall festivals

The Assassin,” the gorgeously mounted martial arts drama from Hou Hsiao-hsien, which won the Cannes directing prize, is a possible Oscar submission from Taiwan. Well Go USA Entertainment will release it as an action film. (Review and roundup here.)

“Amy,” directed by Brit Asif Kapadia (“Senna”) is a high-profile documentary from A24, who will push the movie this July with audiences fascinated by the gifted and troubled singer Amy Winehouse. Kapadia uses the same technique of assembling multiple media, including paparazzi footage, into a compelling and fractured narrative that brings you uncomfortably close to the subject. While the Academy recently responded well to music doc winners “Twenty Feet from Stardom” and “Searching for Sugarman,” this film may be too downbeat, ugly and edgy for the doc branch, which tends to seek uplift. 

Denis Villeneuve’s Mexican border actioner “Sicario,” starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, played well at Cannes but is too much of a routine thriller to rise to the level of Oscar consideration. Lionsgate will release the film in September. 

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