by Jim Keller
In this installment, For Your Consideration kicks off the 2013 Oscar season with a look at the films to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. This year’s festival, overseen by Jury President Steven Spielberg, will open on May 15with Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, which will screen out of competition.As I’ve stated in the past, the festival serves as the first of a series of jolts to the Academy Awards race and unless you’re an industry insider or a celebrity, you won’t be getting in. So for those of us not in attendance, here’s a look at some of the festival’s films from the Official Selection. My list is comprised of highlights and films with considerable pedigree behind them, to wind up in the throes of Oscar come March:
The Great Gatsby (director: Baz Luhrmann):
This is the latest silver screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel in which a Midwestern war veteran is drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor. The film, much like its title character, appears larger than life and is sure to be even more so, having been shot in 3D.
For Your Consideration (FYC): While Luhrmann scored big with Moulin Rouge! in 2001 (read: eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and two wins in the technical categories), his last film, Australia (2008), went down in flames after a costly campaign that dovetailed with that of Tourism Australia. Still, the film may find footing in its stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan—even if the former is frequently overlooked by Oscar (see 2008’s Revolutionary Road, 2011’s J. Edgar, and last year’s Django Unchained). Mulligan has become somewhat of a staple in the Oscar wheelhouse, beginning with her leading role in 2009’s An Education, and she narrowly missed supporting nominations for Drive and Shame in 2011. While I’m at it, having read the novel, I’ll mention that Isla Fisher has a small role, which could translate awards-wise.
Only God Forgives (director: Nicolas Winding Refn):
The film concerns itself with a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, whose life gets more complicated when he’s compelled by his mother to seek out and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s death.
FYC: If you happened to pay attention to the films that premiered on the Croisette in 2011, you might recall a little film called Drive from Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, which went on to secure both a Palm d’Or nomination—the top prize at Cannes—as well as the Best Director win. The same film nearly earned Oscar nominations for Winding Refn and for supporting actors Albert Brooks and the aforementioned Mulligan. What’s more, this film sees Winding Refn reunited with Gosling—a man with his own set of chops, having earned leading actor nominations for 2006’s Half Nelson and who many believe was snubbed for 2010’s Blue Valentine. Finally, playing his mother is Kristin Scott Thomas, nominated for The English Patient way back in 1996 and who has been overlooked by Oscar ever since (see her riveting performance in 2008’s I’ve Loved You So Long).
Inside Llewyn Davis (director: Joel and Ethan Coen):
A singer-songwriter navigates the 1960s folk music scene in New York’s Greenwich Village in a pre-Bob Dylan world.
FYC: I won’t bother filling up this space fawning over Carey Mulligan (as I am apt to do) because I’ve already given a rundown of her work. So instead, I’ll say she appears here in a supporting role and that the Coen brothers are a force to be reckoned with having earned no less than nine nominations (two of them Best Picture) and four wins (including Best Picture) across five films in 16 years. You do the math.
Nebraska (director: Alexander Payne):
An aging boozehound of a father and his son trek from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million-dollar Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes prize.
FYC: When last we saw Payne in 2011, his film, The Descendants, garnered four nominations (including Best Director and Best Picture) and won Best Adapted Screenplay. Payne’s previous Oscar nomination haul includes Sideways (2004) and Election (1999). Bruce Dern, who stars in this film, was previously nominated for Coming Home back in 1978.
The Immigrant (director: James Gray):
The film stars Marion Cotillard as an innocent immigrant woman tricked into burlesque and vaudeville until a magician (Jeremy Renner) tries to save her and reunite her with her sister who is being held on Ellis Island.
FYC: Gray’s films The Yards, We Own the Night (2000 and 2007, respectively), and, most recently, 2008’s Two Lovers, have all been nominated for the Palm d’Or. Cotillard won best actress for 2007’s La Vie En Rose and found herself in the midst of the Oscar race with last year’s Rust and Bone, but a crowded field left her on the outside of nominations. Renner has been nominated for his work in The Hurt Locker (2010, leading) and The Town (2011, supporting) and Joaquin Phoenix, also in the film, was nominated last year for The Master (leading) after earning supporting and leading nominations for The Gladiator (2001) and Walk the Line (2006), respectively.
While FYC provides Oscar food for thought, Cannes isn’t primarily known as a vehicle for Oscar. The Un Certain Regard category recognizes young talent and encourages innovative, daring works by presenting the winner with a grant to aid his or her film’s distribution in France. This year’s lineup opens with Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring—a drama inspired by actual events, which stars Emma Watson and follows a group of fame-obsessed teens who use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts to rob their homes. (Coppola’s Marie Antoinette was nominated for the Palm d’Or in 2006.) Also appearing will be Ryan Coogler’s Sundance hit, Fruitvale Station along with As I Lay Dying from James Franco, and the latest from Claire Denis, Les Salauds.
Screening out of competition this year will be J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost and Gillaume Canet’s Blood Ties as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s newly-restored Vertigo—part of Cannes Classics. The film’s star, Kim Novak, will make a special appearance to commemorate the restoration.
Other films to screen include: Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra—soon to be an HBO mini-series in the U.S., Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the Broadway play, Venus in Fur, Stephen Frears’ Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, and Le Passé from Asghar Farhadi who directed the 2012 Best Foreign Language Film winner, A Separation.
This year’s closing night film is Jérôme Salle’s Zulu, which is based on Caryl Férey’s French crime drama of the same name and stars Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom. The film explores the difficult tasks faced by a chief of homicide and an officer—who grew up on opposite sides of South Africa’s apartheid laws—as they work together to solve the mystery behind a new drug claiming the lives of Cape Town residents.
Last year only Amour and Moonrise Kingdom premiered at Cannes and vied for Oscar attention. Who could predict that the two would go head-to-head for the final slot in the Best Picture nominations? While Moonrise was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Palm d’Or winner Amour went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film after earning nominations in four other categories including Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay.
What stories await us this year? Will any of those in Cannes’ Official Selection find themselves in the Oscar conversation? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess, but the fat will certainly be trimmed when Cannes’ winners are announced on May 26!