5 Burning Questions About the Cannes Film Festival

Money Monster
Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Hollywood players will be watching the Cannes Film Festival intently this week. As the movie business decamps to the Côte d’Azur, here’s a look at five hot topics that will dominate the rosé-filled after-parties, red carpets and A-lister press conferences along the Croisette.

(1) How Active Will Harvey Weinstein Be?
For months, rumors have abounded that the Weinstein Company is in turmoil. The indie label cut staff last year and left the last Sundance and Toronto Film Festival without landing a major project. Film flops such as “Burnt” and “Jane Got a Gun,” as well as the weaker-than-expected results for Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” have further amplified mutterings that all is not well in Harvey’s kingdom. But regardless of rumors, Weinstein has always been a ringleader of Cannes — whether fighting with the director of “Grace of Monaco” or promising an Oscar nomination to Jake Gyllenhaal for “Southpaw.” If Weinstein doesn’t make any big splashy deals at this year’s Cannes, could it be an omen for a tough year ahead?

(2) Will Cannes Heat Up the Oscar Race?
Sundance already offered two of this year’s potential best picture contenders with “Manchester by the Sea” and “The Birth of a Nation.” But Cannes is often the first stop for many awards hopefuls too — last year’s festival had “Carol,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Inside Out” and “Son of Saul,” all of which were major contenders. So which movies could endure a marathon sprint from the Palais to the Dolby Theatre? The awards chatter has already started on Jeff Nichols’ “Loving” (said to have a career-defining performance by Joel Edgerton), Olivier Assays’ “Personal Shopper” (which has Kristen Stewart carrying every scene) and Xavier Dolan’s “It’s Only the End of the World” (starring Academy favorite Marion Cotillard).

(3) What Will the Red Carpet Scandal Be? 
It’s a tradition at Cannes, as age-old as the tuxedos and glamorous gowns. In 2014, a prankster dove under America Ferrera’s dress at the premiere of “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” causing an international ruckus. Last year, the festival ignited another global controversy after an usher didn’t allow a woman dressed in flats inside a premiere, claiming that she wasn’t attired in black-tie dress code. (The New York Post snapped back that “Cannes’ no-flats policy is totally sexist.”) Our bet for 2016: The red carpet no-selfies policy somehow backfires.

(4) How Will Netflix and Amazon Change the Market?
Cannes festival organizers are clearly buying what Amazon is selling. The company will debut five films at the festival, and has committed to releasing its movies in theaters. Not so with Netflix, which has a more complicated relationship with arthouse players. Unlike Amazon, Netflix mostly releases the films it buys straight on its streaming platform, often forgoing a theatrical release. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos was heckled last year while giving a keynote at Cannes, with one audience member implying he was killing the film business in Europe. If bidding wars heat up in Cannes, both companies have the resources to go the distance — but will they continue to splurge? After a very active Sundance where it landed splashy titles such as “Manchester by the Sea” and “Weiner-Dog,” Amazon (with an almost full slate) may not feel the need to engage in that kind of brinksmanship. Moreover, as Netflix’s failed $20 million offer for “The Birth of a Nation” demonstrates, the biggest check doesn’t always win.

(5) Which Blockbusters Will Sink — or Succeed? 
Among the Hollywood exports premiering at the Palais are “Money Monster,” a financial thriller starring Julie Roberts and George Clooney, directed by Jodie Foster; “The BFG,” Steven Spielberg’s children’s movie about a giant with a heart of gold; and “The Nice Guys,” an action comedy with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. A standing ovation could announce them as contenders in the summer box office derby, but a torrent of boos could consign them to also-run status. Cannes audiences are never shy about sharing their opinions, and that’s why their instant exit polls can reveal so much.