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Predicting the Cannes Prizes – Gender Politics About to Blow Up

It usually follows that the film I didn’t see wins the Palme d’Or. This year that could mean the Russian film Leviathan, which Jeff Wells has predicted to win (he also predicted, as did many others, that Blue is the Warmest Colour would win last year, another movie I didn’t see – typically), Guy Lodge has tipped his hat in approval of it winning, and probably many a critic has followed suit. You can read Craig Kennedy’s predictions too.

The one overall statement I can make about this year’s festival is that it was dominated by stories about women. The other statement: only a few films in main competition were directed by women, none of them made even the smallest bit of noise. And I watched as the majority of film critics did what they always do: hump the pole of male-driven cinema, directed by or revolving around the central male figure as being the only valuable narrative in film, even in a year like this one when the best directors in the world offered up rich, involving stories about women who weren’t necessarily young hotties naked and having sex. And indeed, Foxcatcher is one of the best films I saw and would be a worthy winner for any prize, whether it starred men or not.

But you know, we’re supposed to shut up about all of this. Believe me, the one thing film critics hate is to be told that they like anything because of their sex or their ethnicity – nothing pisses them off more, which is part of the reason I do it. Someone has to shake the tree. Are the majority of film critics male? Yes. Without a doubt. Do I really think they’re racist and sexist? Of course not. Do I think their general conditioning informs their taste? Probably.

The jury is led by Jane Campion. That means two things. The first, if anything but Leviathan wins, Jeff Wells will send verbal firebombs at Campion and crew, accusing them of misandry and using gender politics to block the obvious winner. On the flip side if Leviathan does win it will confirm that films about women really don’t matter unless those women are naked and having sex. Of course, these are two extremes that aren’t really fair to the selection of films or to the jury. Just because Campion is a woman, she will be held to these two standards – by Wells and his cohorts as a woman who can’t be trusted to find “the best” because they will always put gender politics above all else, and by people like me who fight for equality and hope that films about women, especially brilliant films that happen to star women, to be recognized. Critics resist the urge to pick winners based on gender or race, but at some point you have to wonder why it always rounds down to the same basic number.

This is often why men are put in charge of things like deciding best (the Academy, film critics) because we pesky women are always beating the drum that we matter. We should probably just surrender and take our seat behind the men where it belongs. It was probably right of the selecting committee to choose only a small amount of films BY women because men know how to make movies and women don’t. And it’s probably right that the majority of film critics dismiss films about women as not being important enough stories to be called great.

At any rate, let’s put this to bed shall we?

Palme d’Or – Craig is predicting Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, which means it probably won’t win. I would wish for Mommy because it is the best film I saw at the festival, wildly brilliant, totally unpredictable and unforgettable, particularly the end. But given everything I just said, given that it’s supposedly really THAT GOOD, one must predict Leviathan to win it. I can’t say for sure that it was better than everything else because I didn’t see everything else. What I can say is that, though I saw many great films there, only Mommy is deserving of the top prize. But Timbuktu could win it as well.

Best Director: I’ll go with Xavier Dolan (if it doesn’t win the Palme) or Andrey Zvyagintsev. If Leviathan really is THAT GOOD it’s possible it could win one or the other of the major prizes. It would be awesome if Bennett Miller won for Foxcatcher, or in a total goof, Tommy Lee Jones for The Homesman, just because I would like to see some of these critics really lose their shit. And believe me…

Best Actress: Either Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night – or Ann Dorval for Mommy

Best Actor: Steve Carell for Foxcatcher is most likely winner [or Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner who is an attendance as we speak, probably winning.]

Screenplay: No clue but if it were me it would go to the Dardennes for Two Days, One Night, or Leviathan picks up another award here. Xavier Dolan could pick this up as well as he deserves to win everything.

Jury Prize: I like Craig’s choice of Timbuktu so I’ll go with that.

I never get these right, though, so this is just a pointless exercise – I’m sure you readers will know better what will win.

Update: Here are predictions by reader Unbourgoise, which I think are better guidelines:

Palme d’Or – Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Winter Sleep (He’s put in the work; already won the Grand Prix twice, Director once, and FIPRESCI twice now. Big figure in the art cinema world – this could finally be his year)

Grand Prix – Xavier Dolan for Mommy (It’s a really popular choice for a festival high point, but I think the Jury may stay their hand a bit at giving him the award at the ripe young age of 25. This could be a sign of encouragement for future efforts, though of course Dolan will be furious about anything less than a Palme)

Jury Prize – Alice Rohrwacher for The Wonders (If they’re going to buy into the “Women reward women” narrative that people expect/loathe, this will most likely be the place that it happens. Still the Water is also a candidate, but The Wonders fits the bill for the award a little more, I think)

Director – Andrey Zvyagintsev for Leviathan (Call this a hunch. It could nab the Prix or the Palme, but I’m predicting a somewhat milder honor. Could see Szifron making a surprise appearance here, though)

Actress – Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night (The obvious choice. People say she was passed over for Rust & Bone and/or The Immigrant these past two years, and this performance is pulling in some high praise)

Actor – Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner (Another pretty straightforward choice. Not really expecting Carell to make a play here, and Spall’s performance reportedly makes what’s already a very strong film)

Screenplay – Bruce Wagner for Maps to the Stars (This category’s pretty much a crapshoot, even among the other Cannes awards. Maps is pretty high-concept, so I think it has a chance, but there are at least five other films that could easily win.

My thoughts, but as we all know, predicting Cannes is generally an exercise in futility. You know what hasn’t happened in a long time though? A tie. We’re in the longest tie-less streak in the festival’s history, could it come back? Winter Sleep/The Wonders? Leviathan/Mr. Turner? Mommy/Timbuktu?