The Cannes film festival is the single most prestigious film festival in the world. Known for fostering and cultivating cinematic auteurs from every region of the globe, it is a festival that commonly rewards films with high aspirations towards what the art of cinema could and should be. The festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or, has been bestowed on such lofty films as Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup, Lars Van Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, and Cristian Mungui’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.
It may come as no surprise then, given Cannes’ inclination towards high-brow world cinema, that the Oscars and the Croisette don’t often cross paths in terms of which films they consider deserving of awards. In fact, only once has the Academy’s selection for Best Picture coincided with the Palme d’Or winner, and that came in 1955 when both rewarded the originally designed to be TV movie, Marty, with their highest honor. (Note: If you count the first year of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, when they rewarded a multitude of films with their highest honor, Billy Wilder’s 1945 portrait of alcoholism, The Lost Weekend, would also be a case of agreement between the two famed film institutions.)
Even though the Academy and the jurors of Cannes haven’t crowned the same champion are very many occasions, the two organizations taste aren’t as mutually exclusive as you might think. Particularly when Cannes has rewarded American filmmakers (or even just movies in the English language), the Academy has been fairly kind to Palme d’Or winners. Films such as Friendly Persuasion, MASH, The Conversation, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, All That Jazz, Missing, The Mission, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, Secrets and Lies, The Pianist, The Tree of Life, and Amour have all taken their success as Palme d’Or winners and translated it into Best Picture nominations, while other Croisette champions such as The Third Man, The Go-Between, Pelle the Conqueror, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Wild at Heart, and Barton Fink managed to get a foothold into the Oscars through nominations in some major categories. Films that played at Cannes but did not come away with its top prize, such as No Country for Old Men and The Artist, have done fairly decently at Oscar ceremonies as well.
This is why if you’re an Oscar hound such as myself, it is important to pay attention to the proceedings at the Croisette. Especially considering that the last two Palme d’Or winners managed to pull off somewhat surprising Best Picture nominations with the Academy, this year’s Cannes proceedings may offer us a window into next year’s Oscar ceremony. Here then is my list of the top five films to pay attention to at Cannes as potential Oscar competitors, as well as a bonus “wildcard” film that could really go either way.
This article was first posted on May 15, 2013