Cannes and Oscar couldn’t be more polar opposite from each other. To make a sweeping statement about the difference, I’d say that the Oscar race isn’t about the movies: it’s about the industry that votes on the movies. Their choices illuminate who they are, how they’ve evolved, what they care about. Cannes has no such handicap. It is a true celebration of cinema from all over the world without concern about star power or box office. As an American covering Cannes it’s important to remember that – sure, box office gets thrown around, as in “it’s great but it won’t make a dime” in the same way movies are square pegs that often get stuffed into the round hole when deeming them “Oscar worthy,” as in “but will the Academy go for it.”
Where Cannes is concerned, one need not bother with second guessing its jury. You will lose anyway if you try to do that – who would have thought that a Steven Spielberg-led jury would have picked Blue is the Warmest Colour for their Palme d’Or? Most journalists figured no way would they ever go for that and they were modifying their predictions accordingly, thinking Spielberg would go the sentimental route. The end goal of Cannes isn’t really their awards so much, not for our purposes anyway. We’re more interested in what movies are worthy of attention, with one lazy eye on what’s potentially “Oscar worthy.”
This Indiewire wish list reads a bit like an Oscars wish list, as it’s doubtful many of these will be accepted into the festival, or that they will want to release those films there. The whole thing is worth a read anyway because they’ve done a great job pulling out the most anticipated films of the year, whether they’re “Oscar movies” or not.
The best way to read the season is to hover somewhere between keeping an open mind to what the Oscar race could still potentially be (honoring the best cinema had to offer in a given year), and with a semi-realistic dose of skepticism that excludes films that won’t really eligible for any category except foreign language. It’s difficult to not be cynical about this reality, as some would like to still believe that any film can be welcomed in Oscar’s embrace.
Hovering somewhere in the middle of crushingly lowered expectations and a semi-realistic outlook, let’s see which films smell like Oscar.
Directed by Bennett Miller
“Foxcatcher” was a highly anticipated potential fixture in last year’s awards race. But the film was pushed to 2014 at the last minute because director Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) didn’t want to rush things. But considering how crowded the Oscar race was, maybe it was for the best. And it gives us something to very much look forward to in 2014 — potentially with Cannes kicking things off. Starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave, the film tells the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark (Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) and their relationship with the eccentric John du Pont (Carell), heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune that led to murder. Written by E. Max Frye and “Capote” scribe Dan Futterman, if it were to work out a little less than a year from now, it would be Bennett Miller’s third straight film to receive a best picture nomination. But does a Cannes stop come first?
Directed by Tim Burton
Tim Burton — who headed the Cannes jury two years back — has gotten a lot of flack as of late thanks to big budget, critically panned films like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Dark Shadows.” But he’s making a return to fantasy-free, low-budget fare in 2014 — really for the first time since 1994’s “Ed Wood” (which is perhaps his most critically acclaimed film). Could it mean a trip to the Croisette? With a script from “Wood” screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, “Big Eyes” takes on the true story of husband and wife artists Walter and Margaret Keane (Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams), the former of whom rose to fame in 1950s for his paintings of big-eyed kids. It sure sounds great on paper, and here’s hoping — Cannes or no Cannes — it makes us completely forget about “Dark Shadows” and anticipate a whole new era of work from Burton.
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Inarritu’s past films to have gotten into the Cannes Film Festival have been grim, foreign-language dramas that tackle issues of global and social importance. His upcoming film “Birdman,” on the other hand, is an American comedy starring Zach Galifianiakis, Emma Stone and Michael Keaton about an actor trying to regain his former glory on Broadway when his days playing a famous superhero have long been gone. But whether the acclaimed director makes an independent drama or a studio comedy, there’s little doubt that Inarritu has enough artistic integrity to get even the most mainstream of films into Cannes.
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
Directed by Olivier Assayas
After choosing the Venice route instead for his last film “Something in the Air,” Olivier Assayas could very well return to Cannes with his latest film “Clouds of Sils Maria” (in fact, it seems like a certainty at this point). And if/when he does, he’ll bring along some American celebrities that we’re sure will make the folks at Cannes’ red carpet happy. Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace-Moretz join Juliette Binoche in this English language film about an established actress (Binoche) and her loyal assistant Valentine (Stewart) who isolate themselves in the small Swiss town of the film’s title. It’s definitely a new direction for Assayas, and one that could potentially do a lot of good to the careers of Stewart and Grace-Moretz.
Directed by Zhang Yimou
It’s quite an achievement if you’re the person behind the first Chinese film to be nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. Yimou did just that with his his 1990 film “Ju Dou” and then again in 1992 (with “Raise the Red Lantern”) and 2002 (for “Hero”). And while he received mixed reviews for his last film, the historical drama “The Flowers of War,” starring Christian Bale, this year Yimou will be returning with “Coming Home,” about a man who is forced into a labor camp after escaping to America to avoid a marriage.
Directed by Mia Hansen-Love
At only 33, Mia Hansen-Love has already established herself as a director to watch. She won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for her drama “The Father of my Children.” Her latest project, “Eden,” follows the life of a French DJ who’s credited with inventing “French house” or the “French touch,” a type of French electronic music that became popular in the 1990s. Best of all? It stars “Frances Ha” star Greta Gerwig.
“Everything Will Be Fine”
Director: Wim Wenders
Following up his remarkably successful, Oscar nominated 3D documentary “Pina,” Wim Wenders returns to narrative filmmaking, but we’ll still be wearing the 3D glasses. From a script by Bjorn Olaf Johannessen, the film tells the story of a writer (James Franco), who loses control of his life after a car accident which kills a young boy. It follows him over a period of 12 years as he tries to find self-forgiveness, with Rachel McAdams (in a role originally set for Sarah Polley) playing his girlfriend Kate. While clearly the plot does not sound like your typical 3D fare, leave it to Wenders to offer us an entirely new utilization of the format (as he did with “Pina”).
“Maps to the Stars”
Director: David Cronenberg
A near certainty for Cannes 2014, David Cronenberg’s follow up to his divisive “Cosmopolis” once again teams the director with Robert Pattinson, this time alongside a dreamy ensemble including Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Carrie Fisher (as herself!). Said to be a “vicious look at a twisted Hollywood dynasty” and a takedown of the industry altogether, “Maps” sure sounds juicy. It’s already been rated by the MPAA (and given an “R,” which is clearly no surprise given Cronenberg’s history), so it should be just a matter of waiting for Cannes to announce the lineup at this point.
“A Most Violent Year”
Directed by JC Chandor
After garnering a screenplay nomination for the vastly underrated 2011 Wall Street drama “Margin Call”, Chandor returned this past year with a subtler, but nonetheless acclaimed film, “All is Lost,” starring a relatively silent Robert Redford. Once again proving that he’s a versatile director to contend with, Chandor will be releasing his latest film, crime drama “A Most Violent Year,” later this year. The film will star Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis” and Jessica Chastain and focuses on 1981—one of the most violent years in New York’s history.
Directed by Mike Leigh
Four years after “Another Year,” Mike Leigh — who in our eyes has pretty much never failed — returns with this biopic about the life of controversial 19th century British painter and printmaker J.M. Turner (frequent Leigh collaborator Timothy Spall). Almost certain to head to Cannes (like “Another Year” did), if the film is anywhere near as good as Leigh’s last film set in the 1800s — 1999’s magical “Topsy-Turvy” (which also featured Spall), then it will be more than worth our time.
Ruffalo and Kitsch in ‘The Normal Heart’
“The Normal Heart”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Based on Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking 1985 play, “The Normal Heart” sounds primed to — like “Behind The Candelabra” last year — continue HBO’s presence at the Cannes Film Festival. Based on a screenplay by Kramer itself, it follows New York-based writer and gay activist Ned Weeks as he struggles to pull together an organization focused on raising awareness about AIDS. Mark Ruffalo plays Weeks in the film, and he leads a pretty dreamy cast that includes Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Taylor Kitsch, Denis O’Hare and Corey Stoll. It’s been a long while since we’ve seen an unflinching narrative take on the onset of AIDS, and HBO has a pretty stellar track record (see “Angels in America,” please), so we’re extremely excited to see how “The Normal Heart” turns out. And if not at Cannes, it debuts on HBO May 25th (just as the festival comes to a close — making us even more certain its debuting there first).
Directed by David Michod
Best known for “Animal Kingdom” — the Australian crime drama that secured Jacki Weaver her first Oscar nomination — David Michod once again uses his Australian background for “The Rover,” a futuristic crime drama with Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson (the latter of whom is quickly becoming the unexpected Prince of Cannes as of late). Pearce stars as Eric, a man who teams up with Rey (Pattinson), an injured criminal, to hunt down the gang that stole from him. A24 is releasing the film in America in June, and we’re sure they’d love the profile Cannes would give them beforehand.
“St. Vincent De Van Nuys”
Directed by Theodore Melfi
From his own Blacklisted script, filmmaker Theodore Melfi makes his directorial debut with “St. Vincent De Van Nuys,” which finds none other than Bill Murray playing the the title character, a misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who becomes an unlikely mentor to the boy who lives next door. Melissa McCarthy plays the boy’s mother, while Naomi Watts turns up as a Russian prostitute who develops a close relationship with St. Vincent. The script was compared to the likes of “As Good As It Gets” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” so they might wait for the more Oscar-appropriate Toronto to launch the film (it sounds much more like a Toronto film anyway). But the sooner the better, as far as we’re concerned.
Directed by Michel Hazavanicius
The only person on this list to have won the Academy Award for Best Director (it’s true!), Michel Hazavinicius remains one of the few French filmmakers to make a big splash stateside. He was nominated at Cannes a few years ago for his Oscar-winning “The Artist,” and may now return with another film. His latest, however, entitled “The Search” and starring Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening, is much darker and heavier than the lighthearted fare for which he got nominated the first time, taking us through war-town Chechnya where a woman working for a non-governmental organization forms a bond with a young boy.
“While We’re Young”
Director: Noah Baumbach
A year after “Frances Ha,” Noah Baumbach re-teams with “Greenberg” star Ben Stiller for a $10 million Scott Rudin production about an uptight documentary filmmaker (wait, Ben Stiller playing someone uptight?) and his wife (Naomi Watts) who try to loosen up a bit by befriending a free spirited younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). It’s a great cast, and Baumbach is clearly on a roll as of late. The film doesn’t have a release date yet (but is in post-production) — and Baumbach also is working on “Untitled Public School Project” with “Frances” star Greta Gerwig — but one way or another, we’ll get us some more Baumbach (or double the Baumbach) by year’s end — and maybe at Cannes as well? Though Venice or Toronto seems more likely the case.
Indiewire has listed films by Jon Stewart, Ryan Gosling and Tommy Lee Jones, also Peter Bogdanovich and the Dardennes. These are all wild cards, as are all of the films listed above, both as potential Cannes entries and films that might flap their wings in Oscar’s direction. But hey, nothing to do but speculate at this point and point out what’s coming.