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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?

30 Comments on this Post

  1. ubourgeois

    My predictions:

    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?

  2. Sasha Stone

    I like your predictions better so I’m going to post them!

  3. Sasha, you bashed That Lovely Girl. So if some films aren’t making a bit of noise, it’s because critics or bloggers don’t like them. Plus when you’ve got films by Bennett Miller and Mike Leigh, they are going to be front and center. Captives was directed by a man, not making much noise. The Homesman seemed a bit underwhelming. It’s not just films by women, or about women, that aren’t gaining any steam. There are plenty of failures, year in and year out, directed by men and about men.

    As always though, you covered the fest very well and people like me rely on good voices like yours to tell us what you see in front of you. Sad to say I don’t think Foxcatcher will win anything. The Dardennes always win something and I think screenplay is where they have this, actress too. Dolan probably has director and Leviathan takes the top prize. Carell for actor…as much as I want to see that I bet Spall gets it.

  4. Christophe

    The stars are arriving so I can tell you who’s in:

    -Mommy (Dolan)
    -Still the Water (Kawase)
    -Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner (best actor)

  5. Christophe

    -The Wonders (Rohrwach)

    The Dardenne Brothers are NOT here.

  6. Christophe

    -Foxcatcher (Miller)

  7. Bryce Forestieri

    Is Julianne Moore there?

  8. Christophe

    -Winter Sleep (Ceylan)

    No news abt any major actress on the steps… could be an outsider then!

  9. Christophe

    The attendance is more botox heavy than talent heavy… sigh.

  10. Christophe

    There will be a honorary prize for Jean Luc Godard. A letter from him will be read on stage. Will he diss Tarantino any further?

  11. Joao Mattos

    I will stay with my day one prediction: “Timbutku” will win the Palm D’Or. The cerimony is being broadcast somewhere by streaming?

  12. Christophe

    Actress Alba Rohrwacher is here with her sister/director. so it could be she gets the prize for best actress unless she’s only here to accompany her sister…

  13. Christophe

    No sight of Timbuktu or Julianne Moore, Xavier Dolan hasn’t stopped crying since he arrived, could become the second youngest Palme d’Or winner ever…

  14. Christophe

    The team of Leviathan is here too so our 7 winners will be: Mommy, Still The Water, Winter Sleep, Leviathan, Foxcatcher, Mr Turner (actor), The Wonders (actress???)

  15. Christophe

    Unless there are ties in which case there could be more than 7 winners…

    According to plan, we already know, Best Actor goes to Timothy Spall (Mr Turner)

  16. Joao Mattos

    I guess lat year Paolo Sorrentino wass invited to attend the closing ceriomny, and he was there, but he wons nothing at the end of it.

  17. Joao Mattos

    Stop Timothy you are embarassing yourself! Too much.

  18. Christophe

    Joao,

    Academy members are warned.

  19. Christophe

    Julianne Moore is definitely not present but she wins anyway…

  20. Bryce Forestieri

    I can only imagine the caliber or Julianne Moore’s performance.

  21. Christophe

    Shocker: Dolan is NOT Palme d’Or but Prix du Jury tied with Godard’s Adieu au Langage.

    Weak!

  22. Christophe

    Foxcatcher, The Wonders and Winter Sleep are still up for Director, Grand Prix and Palme d’Or.

  23. Christophe

    And also Still The Water by Kawase of course.

  24. Christophe

    Palme d’Or up next:

    Still the Water vs. Winter Sleep?

  25. Joao Mattos

    jane shared her palm with chen kaige maybe that could hapen today

  26. Christophe

    Did they have the nerve to ask Naomi Kawase at the ceremony only to have her leave empty-handed after she claimed she wanted nothing bu the Palme?..

  27. AnnaZed

    This is such a fine think piece; Cannes has inspired you if nothing else. Somewhere on this site you wrote that no one cares what you think but that’s not so!

  28. keifer

    Timothy Spall is one of those great character actors who always shows up and always does a credible job in every film in which he appears.

    He was absolutely stunning the “The Last Hangman” – a movie about England’s last official executioner. It’s a very interesting movie about a man who executed many criminals (and Nazi criminals at that after World War II) and, after retirement, campaigned vigorously against the legality of capital punishment. If you’ve never seen it, you’ll never forget Timothy Spall’s performance (or that of the actress who plays his wife in the film, the great Juliet Stevenson).

  29. keifer

    . . . forgot to summarize my thoughts above, which are: Therefore, I can’t wait to see “Mr. Turner”.

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