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Oscar Race at Cannes: Here Are the Winners and Losers

All that Nicole Kidman, and only one Oscar shot. After all the Cannes hoopla, it's slim pickings as far as real contenders are concerned.

Elle Fanning Nicole Kidman Colin Farrell Sofia Coppola Kirsten Dunst'The Beguiled' photocall Cannes

Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst
at the Cannes Film Festival

Silv/REX/Shutterstock

But while Baker assembled an expertly orchestrated mix of professionals and Florida locals to create a believable milieu that is authentic, heartbreaking, and also full of joy, the movie lacks snob appeal. Some viewers are turned off by these often angry and unappealing characters. Critics will chime in, and A24 is a wily marketer, but this movie may wind up more Indie Spirit than Oscar fodder.

Ben Rothstein / Focus Features

“The Beguiled”

Cannes director-winner Sofia Coppola’s Civil War melodrama could, if American critics line up, land some nominations. The period film is elegantly crafted, with a trio of strong performances from lead actress Nicole Kidman as the resilient school mistress, lead actor Colin Farrell as a manipulative wounded Irish Union soldier, and supporting actress Kirsten Dunst as the gullible teacher he woos.

READ MORE: Cannes 2017: Sofia Coppola Makes History as the Second Female Filmmaker to Win Best Director

The question, with Focus Features’ Oscar-wrangler Adriene Bowles moving over to Annapurna, is whether Peter Kujawski’s untested team will handle this campaign better than they did last year’s “A Monster Calls.” “The Beguiled” is more mainstream, but will require careful handling. It needs to surf the Cannes goodwill to a strong June 23 opening: That will tell the tale. Assuming all goes well, Coppola, Kidman and Dunst could eventually land nominations, but technical nods are most likely, for cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd and more possible down the line.

Michelle Williams, Todd Haynes, Julianne Moore, Jaden Michael and Millicent Simmonds'Wonderstruck' photocall, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 18 May 2017

Michelle Williams, Todd Haynes, Julianne Moore, Jaden Michael and Millicent Simmonds
‘Wonderstruck’ photocall, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France – 18 May 2017

David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

“Wonderstruck”

Todd Hayne’s ambitious weaving of the two story threads in rookie screenwriter Brian Selznick’s adaptation of his own graphic novel wowed Cannes critics and audiences (though not the jury) with its cinematic prowess. It was a daunting task, wedding a black-and-white 1927 silent film with a 1977 color narrative about a young man who suddenly goes deaf. Haynes’ cinematic skills were perfectly suited to this story about lonely children in peril, seeking answers as they wind their way to the Museum of Natural History in New York.

The Academy crafts will hum over rock-star costume designer Sandy Powell, cinematographer Ed Lachman’s evocation of two distinct time periods, Mark Friedberg’s wondrously detailed production design, and Carter Burwell’s sensitive score, which carries the movie along with its intricate sound design, and makes it sing.

However, the actors make an unwieldy ensemble, led by two young kids. The likeliest to pop with the media are debuting 14-year-old deaf lead Millicent Simmonds, who moved even the hardened Cannes press corps as she signed to her interpreter, and Academy perennial Julianne Moore, a strong contender for Supporting Actress.

Again, Amazon and Roadside, who collaborated effectively on “Manchester By the Sea,” will need to find an audience for the film as well as critical support — after Cannes, “Wonderstruck” sits at 74% on Metacritic, but may do better stateside.

you were never really here phoenix

“You Were Never Really Here”

“You Were Never Really Here”

The sex trade is front and center in several films  this year, including Lynne Ramsay’s film-noir homage “You Were Never Really Here” (Amazon), starring a beefy Joaquin Phoenix as yet another suicidal character in a series of grim existential Cannes selections. Like “Good Time,” this exercise in style will be tough to get past the Academy’s resistance to small-scale indie violence. “Goodfellas,” “Mean Streets,” and “The Departed” rode a surge of critical success to overcome their gangster origins.

Thrice-nominated Phoenix — and Converse-wearing Cannes Best Actor winner — could score a fourth Oscar slot as a sad-sack freelance hit man who lives alone with his aging mother and is sent to rescue the daughter of a politician who is working for an underage sex ring, but sinks into a “Chinatown” maze of cruelty and deceit. Ramsay’s homage to the hardboiled melodrama is accomplished, but may be too dark for the mainstream Academy. Again, the critics and the fall festival circuit will push it into the year-end discussion.

Taylor Sheridan, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen'Wind River' photocall, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 20 May 2017

Taylor Sheridan, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen of “Wind River” at Cannes

James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

“Wind River”

Weinstein came into the festival with the directing debut of “Hell or High Water” writer Oscar nominee Taylor Sheridan, who attended Cannes for the first time. Jeremy Renner is excellent as a wily but damaged tracker of predators who investigates an ugly murder of a Native American girl in a remote wintry rural location, aided by FBI rookie Elizabeth Olsen (in an unfortunate reprise of Emily Blunt’s “Sicario” role). TWC may give the movie a stronger push now that it has won Best Director in Un Certain Regard. So far they’re opening the movie in August.

READ MORE: How Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Wind River’ Won an Award at Cannes

“Patti Cake$”

Fox Searchlight took Sundance hot buy “Patti Cake$” to the Director’s Fortnight, but it played late in the festival (along with SPC’s Sundance movie “Brigsby Bear”). Breakout Australian actress Danielle Macdonald and supporting veteran Cathy Moriarty (“Raging Bull”) could appeal to Academy actors. But these movies will need to become big hits to register with Oscar voters.

Agnes Varda Faces Places

“Faces Places”

“Faces, Places”

Jumping to the front of the Oscar line is 88-year-old filmmaker Agnes Varda’s heart-tugging pop-up road movie documentary, which comes out of the festival surrounded by love and valentines and its Best Documentary prize. She’s at the top of her game, even if she’s going blind and leans on a cane. The aging Academy doc branch will respond to this love letter to the creative spirit.

“With ‘The Beaches of Agnes’ and ‘The Gleaners’ she’s been pursuing her own style of film essay,” said documentary jury member and festival programmer Thom Powers. “This is in contention. In collaboration with JR, it’s a style of filmmaking she’s created with seamless integration of his tremendous talents.”

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