Cannes: Julianne Moore, Timothy Spall, Bennett Miller Get Awards Season Boost (Analysis)

1:52 PM PST 05/24/2014 by Gregg Kilday
Courtesy of Festival de Cannes
"Maps to the Stars"

While the Palme d'Or went to a Turkish film, "Winter Sleep," English-language movies "Foxcatcher," "Mr. Turner" and "Map to the Stars" all took home key trophies that will raise their awards-season profiles.

The seal of approval that the Cannes Film Festival bestowed on director Bennett Miller, actor Timothy Spall and actress Julianne Moore at its closing awards ceremony Saturday night will give a big boost to each of the three when the Hollywood awards season begins in earnest later this year.

Cannes’ awards don’t often translate into Oscar wins, but they do raise a film and a performer’s profile, serving notice that serious attention must be paid. And that can only help three of this year’s Cannes winners since they are all involved with films, which, though they were critically applauded on the Croisette, could present challenges to less adventurous awards season voters.

The Academy, of course, had no problem nominating Miller’s first two pictures -- 2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball -- for best picture. His new film, Foxcatcher, stars Steve Carell as du Pont heir John du Pont, who develops a fatal attraction to Olympic wrestlers Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum, and his brother David Schultz, played by Mark Ruffalo. It’s a somber film, a character study that slowly builds to a grim ending -- it’s the opposite of a triumph-over-adversity tale.

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“We couldn’t be more thrilled that Bennett received the best director award,” says Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which will open the film stateside Nov. 14. While SPC will be urging best actor consideration for both Carell and Tatum and supporting for Ruffalo, the Cannes win for Miller, Barker says, acknowledges that the film “is a masterful directorial achievement, and it’s great to have that acknowledgement early on.”

SPC will also be releasing Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, which stars Spall as the 19th century English painter J.M.W. Turner. Turner, more interested to the light than the people around him, isn’t a particularly lovable character, and Spall portrays the obsessive artist with a series of grunts and harrumphs. The fact that Cannes singled out Spall for an acting kudo “really honors the 33-year relationship” between Spall and Leigh, Barker says. And it also helps guarantee that Mr. Turner will become a must-see.

When it comes to playing to the Academy’s taste, David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars has to be considered especially problematic. The blacker-than-black satire skewers Hollywood types, but Julianne Moore beat out stiff competition at Cannes to take the best actress prize. And so now Hollywood awards groups will have to check out her fearless performance as an aging actress trying to hang onto her career. "Vive Los Angeles, vive David Cronenberg, vive Julie Moore et vive la France," the film's screenwriter Bruce Wagner said as he accepted Moore's trophy for her in her absence.

Of the other movies that the Cannes jury, headed by Jane Campion, chose to honor, a few could surface in the race for the foreign-language film Academy Award if they can jump through the various hoops in the foreign-language selection process.

The Palme d’Or was presented to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, a nearly 3½-hour long Turkish film about the clash between rich and poor. Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders (Les Merveilles), a coming-of-age tale set in the Italian countryside, won the runner-up Grand Prize, while the jury prize was shared by the relatively new Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan for his provocative Mommy and veteran cinematic provocateur Jean-Luc Godard for his 3-D essay Goodbye to Language.

Leviathan, a study of corruption in a small Russian town that SPC picked up for distribution less than 24 hours before the awards ceremony claimed screenplay honors for Andrey Zvyagintsev, who also directed, and Oleg Negin. The French film, Party Girl, about an aging nightclub hostess, directed by Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis, won the Camera d’Or for best first feature.

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