Just as I did last year, I recently published an article full of basic facts and history for those misinformed, unfamiliar, and just plain “newbie” when it comes to the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival. It’s likely something you’ve heard of, maybe seen from the marketing of a movie (“…an Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival), but never paid attention to. I can agree with that. As a regular Midwestern guy and an amateur movie critic, I understand the ambivalence to the upturned nose and air of artistic decadence permeating from the southern Mediterranean coast of France every year.
To the general public, Cannes is all about the movies for the movie snobs. The winner of last year’s prestigious Palme d’Or, their best picture award, was the Amour from director Michael Haneke. Amour went on to be nominated for five Oscars and won for Best Foreign Language Film. E! and other entertainment outlets will rave about the exclusivity and red carpet glamour, but it’s really the top 1% of the movie industry polishing each others’ laurels and credentials.
Nevertheless, I still respect the art form that is cinema and film and the best each year go to or come from Cannes. Snobby as it is, the Cannes Film Festival, or “Festival de Cannes,” represents the most prestigious and publicized film festival in the world. Held from May 15-26 this year for its 66th competition, it represents the earliest first look at many of the artistic films that will go on to become Oscar contenders. Just ask Amour, Moonrise Kingdom, and Beasts of the Southern Wild from last year, which premiered for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival en route to the Oscar nominations. The year before that, The Artist won it all at Cannes and did the same at the Oscars. The special “jury” committee of artists (including jury president Steven Spielberg and fellow Oscar winners Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman, and Christoph Waltz), will be handing out this year’s Palme d’Or, Grand Prix (second best feature), Jury Prize (third best), as well as awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
THIS YEAR’S WINNERS
Palme d’Or— Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adele)
Special note: Normally, the Palme d’Or is awarded only to the director of the winning film (Abdellatif Kechiche), but the Jury made an exception to bestow Palme to the film’s two stars, Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulus
Grand Prix— Inside Llewyn Davis
Jury Prize— Like Father, Like Son
Best Actor— Bruce Dern for Nebraska
Best Actress— Berenice Bejo for The Past (Le Passe)
Best Director— Amat Escalante for Heli
Best Screenplay— Jia Zhangke for A Touch of Sin
Here, in this brief column, I’m going to preview and outline the notable competition films from this year’s Cannes Film Festival to keep an eye on for the near future of 2013. As aforementioned, some of your future Oscar front-runners and winners may be in this group. Hop on the buzz early! I don’t like siding with the aristocratic French anymore than you do, but I sure noticed last year, while compiling the data for my 2012 Awards Tracker, that the movies coming out of Cannes figured very prominently and were very worthy of attention. Also, once the buzz of these films catch on, you may be seeing them here in the U.S. at a theater near you very shortly.
“IN COMPETITION” (Palme d’Or contest)
Blue is the Warmest Color— This virtual unknown and underdog film bested the far more notable competition that you will read about below to win the top prize and two extra awards for its lead actresses. Lea Seydoux (Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) and Adele Exarchopoulus star as two lesbian lovers exploring their sexuality in an epic drama based on a provocative French graphic novel. If history stand up, this could be your top foreign film contender come Oscar time later this year. (no trailer, but clip #1 and clip #2)
Inside Llewyn Davis— Even though some will say that “second place is the first loser,” that will likely not be the case here. The Oscar-winning Coen Brothers are back and this time they track a sad-sack folk singer (Oscar Isaac) through his peaks as valleys on the 60’s music scene. The Coen Brothers are consistent in giving us something to see and talk about. Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake are in for this one as well. With the pedigree of the Coen Brothers name, expect this one to get the most hype and post-festival reaction, even after finishing in second. (trailer)
Only God Forgives— In one of the hottest trailers of the spring, Ryan Gosling re-teams with his Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn for a brash, ultra-violent revenge thriller set in the Bangkok underworld. Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas looks even tougher Gosling. Coming off of Gosling’s daring thief role from The Place Beyond the Pines, this will surely be a movie that gets people talking. (trailer)
Behind the Candelabra— Like Phillip Kaufman’s Hemingway and Gellhorn bio-pic starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman last year at Cannes, this latest piece of work from acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh covering the backstage life of entertainer Liberace (Oscar winner Michael Douglas) and his young confidant (Oscar winner Matt Damon, channeling a little Tom Ripley) will reach American audience on HBO instead of the big screen. It will premier on TV on May 26th. Expect Emmy to come calling instead of Oscar. (trailer)
Nebraska— Oscar-winning The Descendants and Sideways writer-director Alexander Payne goes small-town America and black-and-white for a road trip drama about a father and son (little-seen relic Bruce Dern and former Saturday Night Live player Will Forte) driving to claim prize money. The Best Actor win here by Dern over the the flashy and highly-talked about performance by Michael Douglas will get this movie extra buzz. (no trailer yet, but here’s a clip)
The Immigrant— James Gray and his go-to muse Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix team up for their fourth film together (The Yards, We Own the Night, Two Lovers), this one about underground 1920’s prostitution of immigrants in Manhattan. Jeremy Renner and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard join Phoenix. (no trailer yet, but take a James Gray tribute montage)
Only Lovers Left Alive— Looking at odd resume of director Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers), I wouldn’t have believed you if you said he would make a vampire movie spanning centuries. Well, he has and he’s got Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as Adam/Eve lovers, along with Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, and Jeffrey Wright on the set. (no trailer yet, but here’s a sneak peak clip)
Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure)— The Pianist director and Palme d’Or winner Roman Polanski is at it again, adapting the Tony Award-winning masochistic play of the same name with his own wife, actress Emmanuelle Seigner, in the famous lead role. Count on him to intrigue the critics. (no trailer yet, but check out what a trailer for the play looks like and you will get the idea)
The Past (Le Passe)— Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi follows his award-winning splash A Separation with this French-set film about an Iranian man (Tahar Rahim) who turns his back on his wife (The Artist‘s Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo) and children to return to his homeland only to be alarmed that she requesting divorce and beginning a new relationship. Drama, drama, drama! The Best Actress win for Bejo will be another springboard for this movie’s resume. (trailer)
Young and Beautiful (Jeune et Jolie)— Provacative French filmmaker Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool) returns with a chaptered story about a teenager (model and newcomer Marine Vacth) exploring her sexuality in mysterious ways. Swimming Pool star and veteran Charlotte Rampling brings extra gravitas. (short trailer)
“UN CERTAIN REGARD” (Secondary competition)
The Bling Ring— Emma Watson continues her post-Harry Potter drive for respect as a non-child actor. Here in The Bling Ring, she leads a group of starstruck teenagers who routinely break into celebrity homes to rob them. Based on a true story, this feature comes from Sofia Coppola of The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and Marie Antoinette fame. (trailer)
Fruitvale Station— This will be 2013’s Beasts of the Southern Wild and the little-movie-that-could with another unknown cast. Fruitvale Station, a drama about a wrongly detained Oakland man, stole hearts at Sundance back in January and will soon get a bigger stage to show its merit. Cannes is just the second step, where it picked up the Avenir Future Award as another feather in its quickly filling cap. (trailer)
As I Lay Dying— Popular actor and slowly aspiring director James Franco has this entry in the secondary competition. Starring himself, Danny McBride, Richard Jenkins, and Prometheus‘s Logan Marshall-Green, he’s taking on adapting William Faulkner’s 1930 period piece novel of the same name about a family honoring a dying family member’s wish to be buried in a nearby town. I’ll call that ambitious from a guy who’s depth is normally pot jokes and not Terrance Malick. (trailer)
“OUT OF COMPETITION” (Non-award competitors)
The Great Gatsby— This movie certainly isn’t news anymore to anyone and needs no introudction, but it did get its change to impress the hoity-toity folks out in France to open the festival. Here’s my full review for this decadent good time. (trailer)
All is Lost— Go ahead and call this a modern and senior version of Life of Pi. Oscar winner Robert Redford is the one-man cast for Oscar-nominated Margin Call writer-director J.C. Chandor in his sophomore feature effort about a man at sea fighting to survive on his boat. (no trailer, clip instead)
Blood Ties— 1970’s organized crime in Brooklyn is the setting for two brothers (Clive Owen and Billy Crudup) on opposite sides of the law in a feature directed by French actor Guillaume Cannet with a boast of a script team-up with the aforementioned James Gray. Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard join the pulpy drama and action. (trailer)
Zulu— The Tourist and Duplicity screenwriter Jerome Salle moves to the director’s chair for a poignant mystery-drama about post-Apartheid relations in Cape Town, South Africa between two cops (Orlando Bloom and Academy Award winner Forrest Whitaker). (no trailer, but here’s foreign behind-the-scenes featurette without subtitles, you’ll still get the picture).
Like I said, these movies might sound obscure now and are nowhere near our Chicago theaters, but keep an eye on them and remember the names. They might be becoming very popular in the next two weeks and in the coming months that follow. Remember, your future 86th Academy Award for Best Picture nominees or winner might just be sitting on that list. If I was a gambling man with money to spend and Vegas had a book for predicting Oscar nominees, a few of these movies would be getting some play from me. Enjoy following the festival and discovering new art and new films. I hope I can help make you sound like a movie expert in the coming movies!