Saturday, June 22, 2024

Will “Anora” Be Nominated For Best Picture? Lessons From Past Palme d’Or Winners

Once the Cannes Film Festival named “Anora” the 2024 Palme d’Or winner, Oscar pundits across the Internet likely penciled it in as a 2024 Oscar Best Picture nominee. After all, the last two Cannes winners and three of the last four got into Best Picture – yet that kind of run is still an outlier in the expanded era.

In the 15 years since Best Picture expanded from five films, only five Palme winners have gone on to be nominated by the Academy. If “Anora” does have a real chance to be the sixth, then it is worth going over how the previous five ultimately got in and whether “Anora” is similar enough or too different to match them.

“The Tree of Life” [2011 Cannes Palme d’Or Winner]The Tree Of LifeThe Tree of Life” was the last film made by an American to win the Palme d’Or until Sean Baker broke the streak with “Anora.” But as beloved as Baker is in some circles, he hardly has the resume or reputation of a Terrance Malick. And of course, as experimental as Baker has been in films like “Tangerine,” “The Florida Project,” “Red Rocket” and now “Anora,” almost no one is artsy and experimental in the way Malick has been, with “The Tree of Life” as a prime example.

Nonetheless, “The Tree of Life” was also the last time to this point that Malick’s inscrutable, dense, cosmic filmmaking reached a wide audience of award voters. Having Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as his acting headliners also helped a great deal, along with having Jessica Chastain in the middle of her breakout 2011 season. Yet with “Anora,” Baker doesn’t have that kind of A-list support and cast to help push him the rest of the way, as stars Mikey Madison and Mark Eydelshteyn are more potential future headliners than anything else right now.

However, “The Tree of Life” really benefited from good timing, as the 2011 Oscar field was wide open enough for something this odd and far from the mainstream to get in. Or, to be less delicate, the 2011 Oscar field was weak enough for it to get in, especially in a year where “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” made the cut, too.

Given how sparse the first half of 2024 has been for potential contenders – and how sparse Cannes looked until “Anora” and other late breakers were screened – there’s still a chance the 2024 Oscar field will be weak on a 2011 level. If the fall festivals aren’t much better, and if potential blockbuster crossovers like “Joker: Folie a Deux,” “Wicked” and “Gladiator II” can’t fill the gap, maybe “Anora” will stay in the field by default at worst.

“Amour” [2012 Cannes Palme d’Or Winner]Amour” is certainly the furthest thing from “Anora” in terms of style, story, and lead characters. While “Anora” features two young lovers in a whirlwind romance, “Amour” features a much older married couple facing the end of life together. Even so, there are a few similar narratives that “Anora” can take from “Amour’s” lead.

Amour” was directed by Michael Haneke, in a change of pace from wilder efforts like “Funny Games” that launched his career. But unlike when he won the Palme in 2009 for “The White Ribbon,” this win springboarded him into a breakthrough with the Academy, giving him Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations and one for Best Picture. In Baker’s case, this is his first Palme win. Still, perhaps this will launch him into being considered overdue for an award season breakthrough, too – with similar Director and Screenplay nominations to go with it.

However, “Amour” was powered by lead actress Emmanuelle Riva, who received her own Oscar nomination and may have been Jennifer Lawrence’s toughest competition for the win by Oscar night. Having such a leading contender put “Amour” over the top to get in, too, even when it had almost no other precursor recognition going into nomination morning. As such, depending on how the rest of the Best Actress field shakes out, perhaps Madison staying at the center of it is all “Anora” needs to stay in the running, too.

“Parasite” [2019 Cannes Palme d’Or Winner]It took seven years after “Amour” for another Cannes winner to go on to the Oscars. Of course, “Parasite” made a lot more history beyond that, as the first Palme winner since “Marty” in 1955 to win Best Picture. It was also the first foreign language film ever to win Best Picture, which isn’t something “Anora” can match since its lead character is a New Yorker in the modern day.

Nonetheless, “Parasite” caught fire as a genre-bending battle between rich and poor, shifting from satirical comedy to outrageous thrills and brutal tragedy at the drop of a hat. By all accounts, “Anora” is also a wild genre-hopping movie with a class warfare undercurrent, as Madison’s sex worker marries Eydelshteyn’s Russian oligarch heir and battles his rich parents to save their marriage. Yet for now, the 2019 movie “Anora” has been compared to the most “Uncut Gems” – which did not garner traction with the Academy despite Adam Sandler’s dramatic leap and its Film Twitter popularity.

Parasite” was certainly not the kind of movie the Academy had embraced before either, at least up to that point. But it was too undeniable by Oscar night, after being the most heralded movie of the year for months. “Anora” may be one of the few fully adored movies of 2024 so far, yet it has a long way to go to get that kind of charmed run through award season.

Parasite” was also the rare movie that won it all despite not having a single acting nomination. Yet ironically enough, winning the SAG Award for Best Ensemble was one of the biggest factors in its Oscar victory. Madison may keep “Anora” from an acting shutout on Oscar nomination morning, but it probably can’t depend on any ensemble awards – from SAG or others – for an extra “Parasite” like boost.

“Triangle of Sadness” [2022 Cannes Palme d’Or Winner]After Cannes was canceled in 2020 and “Titane” was too unconventional to make the Palme to the Oscars leap in 2021, Cannes became an Oscar bellwether again when “Triangle of Sadness” won Ruben Ostlund his second Palme in 2022 and then squeezed into the Oscar Best Picture field months later.

Like “Parasite,” “Triangle of Sadness” was a genre-bending, twisty, and often very graphic depiction of class warfare. Unlike “Parasite,” it had far more mixed reviews after getting out of Cannes, yet those who loved it loved it just loud enough to put it in. Nonetheless, “Triangle of Sadness” was really boosted by international support and a more artsy fanbase of voters, critics, and fans of “eat the rich” class satire.

The American-born Baker may not appeal as much to Ostlund’s kind of base and not for a movie that takes place in the modern streets of New York. But “Triangle of Sadness” didn’t need to do that much to get in, as it only received nominations for Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay – while its breakout actor Dolly De Leon was snubbed in Supporting Actress. Maybe a similar outcome of a Picture/Director/Screenplay only package, while Madison is snubbed, is less likely for “Anora,” but it is not improbable.

“Anatomy of a Fall” [2023 Cannes Palme d’Or Winner]If “Anora” outperforms “Triangle of Sadness” on Oscar nomination morning, maybe there’s a chance it could match what “Anatomy of a Fall” did a year ago. In addition to its own Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay nominations, it also got Best Actress and Best Editing recognition. Maxing out in those five major categories could be the best-case outcome for “Anora” too, whether or not it matches “Anatomy of a Fall” with a collective Screenplay victory.

Otherwise, there seemingly isn’t much that last year’s Cannes winner and this year’s have in common. “Anatomy of a Fall” was set overseas, was directed by a woman who co-wrote with her husband, starred a middle-aged woman, and was set largely in a courtroom after a mysterious death. While “Anora” may or may not have “Uncut Gems” like action and thrills, the most high-octane thrills in “Anatomy of a Fall” are strictly verbal ones – whether in court or in a domestic dispute.

Nonetheless, since Neon guided “Anatomy of a Fall” into the center of the Oscar race, just like it did for “Triangle of Sadness” and “Parasite,” the easy assumption is that it can do the same for something like “Anora” as well. Still, as those examples and the likes of “The Tree of Life” and “Amour” proved, Cannes winners need more than just a studio’s PR team and Palme prestige to survive the following nine months of Oscar season.

Maybe since three of the last four Palme winners did it, that means more than how only five of them have done it in the previous 15 years overall. Yet “Anora” will serve as a significant test case on whether it has really become that simple these days.

What Oscar contenders do you think emerged from this year’s Cannes Film Festival? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @Robertdoc1984

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