OSCAR TRACKER: What Did the Cannes Film Festival Tell Us About the 2013 Oscar Race?

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It is now looking pretty clear that the 2011 Cannes Film Festival was something of a fluke when it comes to foreshadowing the following year’s Academy Awards. Three of last year’s nine Best Picture nominees premiered in Cannes and for the first time since 1978, the Cannes award and the Academy Award for Best Actor went to the same person. The other rarity from last year’s Cannes Film Festival was that the American films were the ones that were drawing the most buzz before, during, and after the festival.

This year there were certainly some high profile American entries into the festival, but when the dust settled on the Croisette it was the European films that had the loudest buzz. None may have received more attention than the Palme d’Or winner Amour from Cannes favorite Michael Haneke. The film received stellar reviews with high praise for Haneke’s script and direction and for the two lead performances from Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emanuelle Riva. Foreign films have a built-in disadvantage in the acting categories, but both stars find themselves in the top twenty in this week’s Oscar predictions update.

The American film that got the biggest boost from the Cannes Film Festival was an independent feature that was not even in the main competition. Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild already won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and is now the recipient of the FIPRESCI Award at the Cannes Film Festival where it was playing in the Un Certain Regard category. The film has all of the momentum behind it to establish itself as a solid contender in this year’s Oscar race, with only one potential problem – it gets released at the end of June. The reception has to be astounding for such a small film to maintain momentum through the Fall awards season. I see the film on Tuesday of next week and will have the opportunity to judge for myself, but for now I am confident enough to put it in the Best Picture top ten.

Walter Salles’ On the Road received better reviews than John Hillcoat’s Lawless, so I switched their order in the Best Picture and Director races. Neither seems like a likely contender, however, with On the Road more likely to appeal to the arthouse crowd than the Academy and Lawless more likely to get ignored altogether. Lawless does have Harvey Weinstein behind it, but the Oscar magician will have his hands quite full with other titles this year. Some of the highest acclaim from Walter Salles’ much anticipated Jack Kerouac adaptation went to Garrett Hedlund who plays Dean Moriarity. It’s unclear whether he will land in lead or supporting, but he is somebody to watch nonetheless.

Speaking of Harvey, he was at Cannes to promote some of his company’s films that were not playing In Competition this year. He hosted a soiree to screen clips of his upcoming films The Master from Paul Thomas Anderson, Django Unchained from Quentin Tarantino, and The Silver Linings Playbook from David O. Russell. Sharon Waxman of The Wrap has a nice write up of the screenings and she seemed most excited about The Master and Django. These films had nowhere to go on my Best Picture Oscar predictions list, since I already had them at the number one and two spots.

However, another favorite of Harvey Weinstein’s did crack this week’s top twenty. The Sapphires, a small Australian musical comedy about four Aboriginal sisters forming an all-girls singing group received a standing ovation when it played out of competition. After the film premiered, Vulture reports that Steve Zeitchek of the Los Angeles times tweeted a reaction from Harvey himself: “‘Have you seen The Sapphires? The Artist just happened again.” As I mentioned above, Harvey will have his hands full with a number of quality films this year, but if he feels that The Sapphires might have more widespread appeal, then it may become his darling of 2012. I have added it to the top 20 and put the film’s highly praised star Chris O’Dowd in the running for Best Actor.

Andrew Dominik’s 2007 film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford received critical acclaim and was nominated for two Oscars, but missed out in the Best Picture category. Dominik’s follow-up Killing Them Softly was well-received by critics when it played at Cannes, but the sentiment seems that it’s more destined to please the arthouse crowd than the Academy. We will find out when it opens in September if it is destined to be this year’s Drive or if it will find a place with both critics and the Academy.

Finally, Wes Anderson has been hailed as one of the greatest work filmmakers, yet he constantly seems to elude the Academy. Could his well-loved Cannes Film Festival opener Moonrise Kingdom be destined for a Midnight in Paris trajectory? It already has the opening Box Office numbers to show that it is popular with audiences and it will likely prove to have legs strong enough to give it a lengthy theatrical run. Will it be the ticket to breaking Wes Anderson away from his niche audience and into more widespread appeal?

Did we learn anything else from the Cannes Film Festival? Which movies do you think have the best shot?

Don’t forget to check out the latest Oscar predictions update!

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  • i really hope that Academy recognizes movies like Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild. And hope Weinstein promote their every movie for the Oscar campaign and not get caught up on one …… they might really promote The Sapphires flick more since the other big 3 can land Oscar success on their own thanks to the directors :D

  • Luiz Angel

    If there is anything I’ve learned, its that its way to early to predict the Oscars in May..
    Yet, if there is anyone I want to win Best Director or best Screenplay, its my favorite Director in Paul Thomas Anderson.
    He has yet to make a bad film and in my humble opinion, he keeps topping every great film he has made.
    From Boogie Nights, to Magnolia, to There Will Be Blood, it just keeps getting better and I have nothing but great expectations of his next film.

    • I completely agree about Paul Thomas Anderson.

      As for predicting the Oscars in May – it may be way too early, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to do!

  • Genadijus

    Talking about best actress category, it’s really difficult to define posible nominations. Last year we has Meryl, she was front-runner from the moment we had known that she’ll be playing Margaret Thacher. And she took an an Oscar in February.

    This year we’ll see also a lot of good performances by women, but we don’t have one exceptional front-runner. There can be several questions regarding this category:
    1) How long Academy will be waiting for Jualianne Moore recognition? She’ll present a couple of performances this year.
    2) I have a feeling that this year we’ll see a lot of new faces in this category and my no1 – Mia Wasikowska. She deserves a nomination.
    3) I don’t think so that Viola Davis will receive a nomination for “Won’t Back Down”. It doesn’t look like Oscar contender.
    4) I’m not sure about Helent Hunt in “Six Sessions” (previously “The Surrogate).

    • I didn’t think ‘The Blind Side’ looked like an Oscar contender either and Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for her performance in it. It’s hard to gauge a film before seeing it, but ‘Won’t Back Down’ seems like the kind of tearjerker that could draw some major support from the Academy.

  • Genadijus

    It would be a huge missunderstanding from Academy’s side to repeat “The Blind Side” scenario…

    Best Female category looks more or less clear: Bill Murray, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jacquen Phoenix, Hugh Jackman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and probably L. di Caprio.

  • John

    I think that in live action short film category could be nominated two short from Cannes: “Bear” and “Limerence”, and reading reviews, I think “Limerence” could be the winner!!

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