Calm down, it’s not time to talk seriously about the Oscars just yet. But we are approaching the halfway point of 2015, and already there are a number of films and performances that could land squarely in the awards race this fall. Right now, though, let’s just focus on the Cannes Film Festival, which marks 2015’s second major film festival and offers a partial preview of the awards race to come.
The reception to films at Cannes doesn’t always equate over here in the states. Some movies land with a thud overseas, then launch successful awards campaigns back home once Oscar season begins in earnest. And other times films go over like gangbusters in France, but don’t make much noise with the Academy. So when considering the most recent crop of Cannes contenders, it’s important to keep in mind that the reception at the festival doesn’t always translate to how the film will perform in the heat of the Oscar race.
That being said, the film that probably has the biggest crossover potential from this year’s Cannes Film Festival is Todd Haynes’ drama Carol. The film stars Cate Blanchett as a married woman in 1950s New York who strikes up an affair with a young department store clerk (Rooney Mara). The picture itself drew rave reviews from critics and even comparisons to Brokeback Mountain, and Mara went on to share the fest’s Best Actress award. Haynes has been nominated for an Oscar once before for his Far From Heaven screenplay, and Blanchett won Best Actress two years ago, so this one has the pedigree and warm reception to give it some serious potential.
Another film that went over extremely well is Justin Kurzel’s violent adaptation of Macbeth, with stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard drawing strong notice. While the Academy may be a sucker for period dramas, it remains to be seen if they’ll bite for something as aggressive as Kurzel’s take on Macbeth. It’s certainly one to keep an eye on nevertheless.
Speaking of aggressive, Prisoners and Enemy director Denis Villeneuve’s thriller Sicario was a huge hit at Cannes and Stephen Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning drug trade drama Traffic was mentioned more than a few times. The picture was singled out for Emily Blunt’s lead performance, Villeneuve’s bold direction, and Roger Deakins’ unsurprisingly noteworthy cinematography, so if the Academy takes to something a bit more complex than your standard biopic or period drama, Sicario could find itself in the heat of the Oscar competition. If anything, you can probably go ahead and pencil Deakins in for a nomination.
And Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language film The Lobster was a festival favorite, enjoying heaps of praise for the Colin Farrell-fronted film. Comedy isn’t always the Academy’s strong suit and the picture may be too “small” to make much of a splash, but if a smart campaign is launched, it could be a player.
On the flip side, Gus Van Sant’s anticipated drama The Sea of Trees was one of this year’s biggest bombs. The introspective picture stars Matthew McConaughey as a man who ventures into a forest famous for suicides, but the movie elicited loud boos (as is the Cannes tradition) and scathing reviews. Looks like the McConaissance is gonna have to take a year off.
As far as Cannes awards go, they don’t normally line up with the Oscars, so the head-scratching choice of the French pic Dheepan for this year’s Palme d’Or (as chosen by a jury headed up by Joel and Ethan Coen) doesn’t necessarily mean we can expect that film to be an Oscar player. Indeed, last year’s Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep wasn’t even nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Academy Awards.
So these are just a few films to keep in mind as the year rolls on. No doubt we’ll have a better idea of which movies are really gunning for it once the campaign season begins, but the fact that The Weinstein Company is distributing Carol probably means you can bet on seeing Blanchett and Mara heavy on the Oscar trail this fall.