Monday, May 20, 2024

Will Cannes Be An Oscar Launching Pad Again This Year?

The road to the Academy Awards has not always run through Cannes. While plenty of Palme d’Or winners have gone on to represent the festival at the Oscars, like “The Piano,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Secrets & Lies” – and those are just from the ’90s – simply winning the Palme or any other award on the Croisette has never automatically put a film in contention for Best Picture. The Academy has long been a fairly insular, parochial institution, and the kind of international cinema Cannes favors does not always go down easy with the voting base.

But in recent years, the path from the French Riviera to the Dolby Theater has become increasingly straightforward. There is, of course, “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho’s Palme-winning sensation, which rode a wave of passion to unexpected Oscar glory. But consider Ruben Ӧstlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” which, while an English-language film, was the kind of Euro-cinema oddity that would have been a tough sell even ten years earlier. Instead, it garnered three Oscar nominations, including Best Director over the surging “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Or consider Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall,” which won Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Oscars. If it came out in the 2000s, it would have been overlooked and then remade two years later by Miramax (It would be set in the Rockies and star Julianne Moore or somebody).

Even films that don’t win the top prize at Cannes have a path to the Oscars – no matter how unusual they might seem to the average voter. In 2021, the Screenplay winner at Cannes, “Drive My Car,” won Best International Feature and earned nominations for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Director (Not a bad showing for a three-hour Japanese drama about processing grief). This year, Grand Prix winner, “The Zone of Interest,” had a similar haul, plus a surprise win for Best Sound, despite being a formally daring and emotionally harrowing exploration of human evil. These sorts of films have been nominated before, but not this regularly.

The previous Oscar season was unusually stacked, and this year would have likely been relatively quiet, even without last year’s strikes. But as Hollywood regroups, all eyes turn to Cannes and the international cinema community for the first signs of what next year’s Oscars might look like. With the announcement of the official 2024 lineup imminent, here are some possible contenders that could show up on the Croisette and one major player already announced in competition.

Bird (dir. Andrea Arnold)

Andrea Arnold has only made four narrative features. Still, she’s already up there with fellow social realists Ken Loach and the Dardennes when it comes to her Cannes batting average: All three films she premiered in competition at the festival (“Red Road,” “Fish Tank,” and “American Honey“) won the third-place Jury Prize (The odd one out, “Wuthering Heights,” premiered at Venice and won the Golden Osella for its cinematography). Arnold’s acclaim has only grown in the eight years since “American Honey,” and she promises to be among the highest-profile filmmakers premiering at Cannes with her widely-expected competition entry, “Bird.” Another hard-bitten drama, this time set in south England, the film is headlined by two red-hot young stars, Barry Keoghan and Franz Rogowski (which certainly can’t hurt its profile). If Arnold wins the Palme, this one could have some serious legs throughout the season.

Emmanuelle (dir. Audrey Diwan)

It’s unclear whether the newest film from Golden Lion winner Audrey Diwan will premiere at Cannes or Venice, but it’s undoubtedly among the highest-profile foreign films we know of right now. There are always surprises, of course – was “Anatomy of a Fall” on anyone’s radar before Cannes? Diwan has gathered a strong cast for her follow-up to “Happening,” featuring Noémie Merlant, Will Sharpe, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Naomi Watts, and while the subject matter doesn’t initially appear Oscar-friendly (being based on an erotic novel), the success of “Poor Things” proves that sex isn’t necessarily a hindrance to the modern Academy.

Hard Truths (dir. Mike Leigh)

There’s another British master of social realism who could join Andrea Arnold on the Croisette. Mike Leigh is one of our greatest living filmmakers, boasting hardware from both Cannes (“Naked,” “Secrets & Lies”) and Venice (“Topsy-Turvy,” “Vera Drake”), and in the upcoming “Hard Truths,” he promises to bring his characteristic empathy and insight back to modern England. This film may be saved for Venice, but a Cannes showing is still a distinct possibility – and if all goes well, the film (not to mention the great Marianne Jean-Baptiste) could be a significant contender in the future. Could it be Mike Leigh’s best Oscar showing since “Vera Drake”? No matter what happens, it’s great to have him back.

Kinds Of Kindness (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)

The summer release date of “Kinds of Kindness suggests that a Cannes premiere is in the cards, and the completion of Yorgos Lanthimos’ ascent from arthouse weirdo to Oscar darling will make it the hottest ticket in town. Aside from its excellent cast, which includes Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, and more, it reunites Lanthimos with frequent screenwriting collaborator Efthimis Filippou and promises to continue the Greek auteur’s hot streak after “Poor Things.” While it may not be a slam dunk for the Oscars (it’s an anthology of sorts, a form that doesn’t have the best track record), Lanthimos has received love from the Academy going back to “Dogtooth.” It’s worth keeping an eye on.

The Shrouds (dir. David Cronenberg)

Yes, we all know what the Academy thinks of horror, but a lot depends on exactly what kind of horror a film is. The premise of “The Shrouds,” centered on a technology that allows people to talk to the dead, seems like an easier pill for audiences to swallow than, say, “Crimes of the Future.” Besides, it’s not like “Eastern Promises,” which earned Viggo Mortensen a Best Actor nomination, was Oscar-friendly. The film promises to show a master filmmaker grappling with his own mortality (the protagonist, played by Vincent Cassel, is a dead ringer for Cronenberg himself), and depending on how well it’s received, there may be an opening for awards season.

Megalopolis (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

Just about the only thing we know for sure about “Megalopolis,” Francis Ford Coppola’s $200 million passion project, is that it will premiere in competition at Cannes this year. The rest is hearsay gathered from what screenings have been held so far, with Coppola’s friends being quite receptive and film executives being somewhat less so. “Megalopolis” may well be a late-career masterpiece from a man responsible for some of the greatest films of all time…or a mind-bogglingly self-indulgent failure. More likely, it’ll be somewhere in between. But if it gets a receptive audience at Cannes, who can say where it will go from there.

What do you think will be announced for tomorrow’s 2024 Cannes Film Festival lineup? Do you think Cannes’s hot streak with producing Oscar nominees for Best Picture will continue? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account.

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

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