The 75th Cannes Film Festival returns with international auteurs, Palme d’Or winning filmmakers, potential summer blockbusters, and many films that will, if everything breaks their way, be campaigning for Oscar come the fall.
In short, the competition lineup is loaded with promise.
The track record for Palme d’Or winners going onto Oscar success has varied over the years. Over the past two decades, Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” (2002), Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011), Michael Haneke’s “Amour” (2012) and Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” (2019) have received best picture nominations. However, “Parasite” is one of only two Cannes winners that have matched with Oscar, with the other being “Marty” (1955).
And yet, other Cannes winners have gone on to receive other nominations, such as Hirokazu Kore-media’s “Shoplifters” (2018) and Ruben Östlund’s “The Square” (2017), both of which have films playing in the this year’s fest with “Broker” and “Triangle of Sadness” respectively. The former stars Sang Kang ho, hoping to make an impact after being snubbed for his turn as the scene-stealing patriarch in Joon-ho’s feature winner. Östlund’s film is the Swedish filmmaker’s English language debut with three-time Oscar-nominee Woody Harrelson. Could their unique pairing kick start an overdue narrative for the overdue talents? The last Cannes best actor winner to match with Oscar was Jean Dujardin for “The Artist” (2011).
Only eight filmmakers have won the coveted top festival prize more than once: Alf Sjöberg (1946, 1951), Francis Ford Coppola (1974, 1979), Bille August (1988, 1992), Emir Kusturica (1985, 1995), Shohei Imamura (1983, 1997), Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne (1999, 2005), Michael Haneke (2009, 2012) and Ken Loach (2006, 2016). Kore-eda is hoping to join the ranks of his Japanese counterpart Imamura.
Respected Asian auteur Park Chan-wook is back on the scene with his long-anticipated “Decision to Leave” from Mubi. The film stars the criminally underrated Tang Wei, who delivered an incredible performance in Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” (2007) in a role that should have made her a much bigger star, and Park Hae-il, fantastic in “The Host” (2006). This could be a ripe opportunity for Mubi to get on the awards map, possibly emulating a playbook similar to Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car” from Janus Films last season. Chan-wook has been a favorite with the fest, winning two awards with “Oldboy” (2004) and “Thirst” (2009); this marks his fourth appearance and first since “The Handmaiden” (2016). Perhaps the strong showing of Asian stories and cinema in the last few years, including films like Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari,” could help find a pathway to success.
Before she plays Steven Spielberg’s mother in “The Fabelmans” later this year, Michelle Williams is re-teaming back with director Kelly Reichardt on the Croisette with the in-competition film “Showing Up.” Williams, who has netted four career noms has yet to win her statuette yet, and based on the track record for Reichardt’s other films, her mother role in Spielberg’s childhood feature looks to be the safer play for awards recognition. For writer/director Reichardt, past movies like “First Cow” (2020) have been embraced by critics, but her unconventional storytelling has failed to gain traction with Oscar voters. So even if the French crowd goes wild for “Showing Up,” it could still be a hard sell on the circuit.
Fresh off winning Kenneth Branagh an Oscar for original screenplay with “Belfast,” Focus Features is hoping to mirror that success (and more) with James Gray’s “Armageddon Time.” With a heavyweight cast including Oscar-winners Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) and Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), the personal drama about Gray’s childhood could lead to awards season glory. Oscar voters like nothing more than watching movies from people who make movies about how they fell in love with movies. Gray is revered in France, but his auteur creed has never translated into major success with the Academy Awards or with U.S. audiences for that matter. With a trend for personal childhood stories on the rise with Academy voters, including others like Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” (2018) and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” (2021), perhaps Focus can turn it around for the acclaimed filmmaker.
Other prominent directors in the competition include David Cronenberg with “Crimes of the Future,” starring Viggo Mortensen, Kristin Stewart and Lea Seydoux, and distributed by Neon. The studio is coming off a sizzling Oscar run in 2022, producing the triple-nominated and record-breaking “Flee” and netting Stewart her first nomination for “Spencer.” The idiosyncratic Cronenberg has never been nominated for an Oscar, despite his films appearing in lineups such as “A History of Violence” (2005) in adapted screenplay. Mortensen nabbed his first acting nom for Cronenberg with “Eastern Promises” (2007). Sci-fi flicks have a more difficult time at significant awards recognition, and the June release could be too early, especially with the entire second half of the season still to go. Plus, even Cronenberg admits this gory confection won’t be for everyone.
The major studios are present on the Croisette and are hoping to get people back in the movie theaters in a big way after COVID hobbled the exhibition business. Paramount Pictures’ “Top Gun: Maverick” has received a plethora of love from critics and journalists who have weighed in on it, drumming up the comparisons to “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) which netted six Oscar wins during its respective year. Could the Tom Cruise vehicle bring in multiple artisan categories like cinematography, film editing, sound and visual effects? Or with 10 available slots, could a best picture nom be in the stars?
Warner Bros’ will bring the life of Elvis Presley with the biopic “Elvis” starring Austin Butler and two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks. Likely to draw comparisons to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), which could be good or bad, depending on who you ask, the Baz Luhrmann drama could be a box-office draw based on the “King of Rock’s” mega-selling catalogue. Its awards chances depend on which voting demographic it speaks to and can it sustain with an early summer release.
Of course, all of this is theoretical until the credits roll in the Palais and the filmmakers find out if their latest effort will be greeted with a massive ovation or a chorus of boos.