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Oscar: Fool’s gold to fest juries?

BERLIN — The Oscar nominations this year again underline the fact that European film festivals can serve as launching pads for awards season contenders.

The 2003 Cannes fest, the so-called “worst Cannes Film Festival in memory,” managed to help foster no less than four “best picture” nominees for this year’s Oscars: “Mystic River” (best pic), “The Triplets of Belleville” (best animated feature), “The Barbarian Invasions” (best foreign-language film) and “The Fog of War” (best documentary feature).

Add the other noms garnered by these films, including three acting, one screenplay and one song nod, and you’ve got nearly a dozen nominations.

So why don’t festival juries truly embrace Oscar-friendly movies?

Had last year’s Cannes jury given something — something at all — to “Mystic River,” it might have eased some of the negative press the fest received.

Ditto “L.A. Confidential” back in 1997. Curtis Hanson’s celebrated pic garnered nine Oscar nominations, including a best pic nom, and two wins, but received bupkus from the jury in Cannes, where it premiered.

Is it any wonder Hollywood remains nervous about festival competitions?

Maybe it’s a lack of gratitude on the part of winners that turns fest jurors’ noses up.

At last year’s Oscars, Michael Moore was too busy bashing George W. Bush to say thanks to Cannes for honoring “Bowling for Columbine.” “The Pianist,” too, had lots of chances to thanks Cannes, but neither Roman Polanski in exile nor Adrien Brody in tears recalled their victories on the Croisette.

But cult helmer Monte Hellman, who is being honored in a Berlin retrospective with two of his films this year, has another thought.

Hellman has competed in Euro fests and served on juries from Sundance to France, Italy, Germany and Spain, and says that in the ivory tower world of fest juries, these critical decisionmakers are simply unlikely to ever consider such declasse matters as golden statuettes in (shudder) Hollywood.

“Juries don’t care about success but (rather) what they think is good,” Hellman says.

He also adds the proviso, “Remember, most jury members are idiots and I’m always right.”

Ironically, he didn’t even thank me for asking.

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