Cannes: Official Selection Packed With Potential Awards Season Contenders

Only God Forgives Ryan Gosling - P 2012
The Weinstein Company

Only God Forgives Ryan Gosling - P 2012

Competition films from Alexander Payne, Roman Polanski, Nicolas Winding Refn and the Coen Brothers are in the mix for early awards season buzz.

Directors with Oscar pedigrees are especially prominent in this year's Cannes lineup, an indication that the 66nd Festival could be a bellwether of the 2014 awards season.

Oscar winners included in Competition this year include the Coen Brothers with their 1960s folk music drama Inside Llewyn Davis, which stars Justin Timberlake and Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education); Alexander Payne, a two-time best adapted screenplay winner with The Descendants and Sideways who will premiere the father/son road trip Nebraska in Cannes and Roman Polanski, Cannes Palme d'Or and best director Oscar winner with The Pianist, who debuts his French-language Venus in Fur on the Croisette this year.

And then there’s Iran's Asghar Farhadi, winner of the 2011 best foreign language Oscar for A Separation, whose Cannes Competition entry is The Past, a French-language drama starring Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo of The Artist. 

All eyes will also be on Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, whose new crime drama Only God Forgives, his latest collaboration with Ryan Gosling, will premiere in Cannes Competition. Refn's Drive was arguably the breakout hit in Cannes two years ago, where Refn won the best director prize. But despite major critical kudos and Cannes heat, Drive only picked up a single Oscar nomination (for sound editing). Only God Forgives, in which Gosling plays a drug smuggler in Bangkok, could see Refn translate Cannes glory to a tilt at Oscar gold.

And the jump between Cannes and 2014’s Academy Awards doesn’t stop there.

While the main focus of attention will be on Cannes' Competition lineup, a number of films not competing for the Palme d'Or this year could also be awards contenders. These include All Is Lost from J.C. Chandor, whose debut, Margin Call, received a best original screenplay nomination this year. The drama features a dialogue-less performance by Robert Redford as a man struggling to survive after his sailboat capsizes in the ocean.

Another star-driven drama that could attract attention is Oscar winner Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, the opening film of Cannes' Un Certain Regard sidebar, which features Harry Potter alumna Emma Watson as one of a gang of fan-obsessed teenagers who use the Internet to track celebrities' movements in order to rob their homes.

Among the other out of Competition titles to watch is the documentary Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight from twice Oscar nominated British director Stephen Frears (The Queen), which examines Ali's battle with the U.S. government over his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War.

And there are two foreign language films from veteran European directors that may garner enough heat and attention from the U.S. contingent in Cannes to merit a tilt at the Oscars.

The Great Beauty from Italy's Paolo Sorrentino, who directed the Oscar-nominated Il Divo, and Jeune et Jolie from acclaimed French director Francois Ozon (8 Women) will look to ape the run Michael Haneke’s Amour had earlier this year -- translating winning the Palme d'Or into a best foreign language Oscar.

But one of the most-talked-about titles for its inclusion in Competition this year, Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, will air as a TV movie on HBO and so will not qualify for the 2014 Oscars.