The Cannes film fest doesn’t appear to have delivered any major Best Picture contenders, the way it did with last year’s The Artist, Tree of Life and Midnight in Paris. On the other hand, there are many films that could be in contention, in one category or another. It’s never easy to gauge how a film will play. Drive took Cannes by storm last year and continued its hype throughout the year. But there were chinks in the armor with a few major film critics and it never managed to strike the right Oscar chord in any way, much to the shock and surprise of those who loved it. Why, well Academy voters aren’t as enamored by pure style unless the director is a likable “star.” It seems silly, but that’s how the game is played. If the director becomes sexy enough, their film can succeed on style alone. Usually, though, there has to be more depth of story to make it into the race. Two major films have yet to play — David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and Jeff Nichols’ Mud. Both had films in the race last year. Nichols’ shattering, memorable Take Shelter (not “starry” enough), and Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method; even when the director makes a fairly conventional period piece it is still too weird for Oscar. But getting the Academy’s approval is like picking a career to satisfy your parents — it’s nice if it happens naturally but by all means don’t plan your life around it. Even still, either film could hit with voters depending. For now, though, we’ll set them aside. Going category by category, here are the films and performances that I think made the most impact. Whether they make it to the end of the year is a different question, of course. That depends on things you can control (publicity) and things you can’t (buzz and the dying of buzz). Right now, the film I think will hit like an asteroid is Ben Zeitlin’s impressive debut, Beasts of the Southern Wild. I don’t see the Academy being collectively stupid enough to ignore a great work like this. But of course, anything’s possible. We are, with this year, entering a vital, heat-filled era of filmmaking. And if Academy members keep their minds open and their DVD players humming, this should be a great year for Oscar. I am hoping they keep it with ten nominees for Best Picture. If they don’t, god help us all. Best Picture Moonrise Kingdom — this is the film I feel, all in all, has the best shot at a Best Picture nomination. Wes Anderson has only been nominated for an Oscar twice — once for writing The Royal Tenenbaums and once for The Fantastic Mr. Fox. He is due for some higher recognition. The movie will have to make money. Bottom line: do I think it realistically has a chance for Best Pic? No. But of all of the films I saw in competition (Beasts of the Southern Wild was not in competition for the Palme d’or) it’s the one that has the most going for it. Beasts of the Southern Wild — it’s hard to know whether or not this will hit. Falling in love with a movie and reading raves about it doesn’t an Oscar contender make. The hype alone could cause a mini backlash not just with Oscar voters but with major critics, who chafe at bloggers getting a crack at the “m” word before they do. But “masterpiece” is exactly what Beasts is, no matter that its director was only 23, or however old he was. It is a revelatory experience, the best encapsulation of the damage caused by Katrina, and the misinterpretation of the communities it destroyed. It features a young black girl in the lead — surprise surprise, those old white guys in the Academy might be so moved to vote against type. If I could spot “The Artist” in the crowd right now, this is the movie I’d pick for that. Of course, it could collapse spectacularly under the weight of the beastly awards race. For that, I will be sorry for it. Art should be allowed to exist whether 6,000 calcified voters validate it or not. Killing Them Softly — again, another provocative work that may or may not play. Why it might: it’s a searing indictment of the Wall Street meltdown and taps in to the current state of cynicism. Why it might not: remember who Academy voters are. What could make the difference: money, honey. Outside possibilities for Best Picture consideration: On the Road, if it makes enough money and gets good reviews, Rust and Bone — but that would be a different Academy, surely, a braver, smarter one than we’ve seen recetly. Lawless has much going for it but it doesn’t scream Oscar to me, particularly. But you never know. The Preview Footage — naturally, I feel confident that Django Unchained, The Master and the Silver Linings Playbook will all be considered for Best Pic. But we’ll wait and see on those. Best Actor Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour (who are we kidding, they would never — but the dude deserves it) Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone (again, who are we kidding) Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly – always a possibility. He’s wonderful in Killing Them Softly — he’s the star. Best Actress Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild — this could prove to be the performance of the year. Even though she’s just a wee one. Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone. Her star status, previous win and the kind of performance she gives here, Cotillard for actress might be the one to take to the bank. Emmanuelle Riva in Amour (wouldn’t that be so cool) Supporting categories Dwight Henry as Wink in Beasts of the Southern Wild for supporting. Just a brilliant performance. Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman in Moonrise Kingdom — you know, if it flies. Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund in On the Road — strong buzz, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say either way. Foreign Language This is a no-brainer. There are two majors – Rust and Bone and Amour. They are both being handled by the adept Sony Pictures Classics. How will their countries decide? Which, if any, will be the official submission? Hard to say, but if it wasn’t determined and limited by the country’s submission, these two would be right at the top of the list. The Hunt seems like a pretty likely Denmark submission, and a very very good film. Unseen by me, but we hear praise for Pablo Larraín’s political drama, No. It might be Chile’s best bet for a FLF nomination and producer-star Gael García Bernal raises its profile. I am sure that this preliminary look will change — but for now, this is how I see it all settling out.