Cannes: Winning Films Unlikely to Yield Many Oscar Nominees

Wonderstruck Still Julianne Moore - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Palme d’Or recipient 'The Square' might only be a foreign-language contender as the films that impressed the jury may not play as well with the Academy.

As the 70th Cannes Film Festival limped to its end May 28 — by critical consensus, one of the weakest in years  — no one film proved a guaranteed awards contender like Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name did at Sundance. And this year's Cannes prize winners actually may have less Oscar potential than some of the competition entries that the jury ignored.

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund's The Square, which Magnolia Pictures has in the U.S., was crowned with the Palme d'Or. But the 142-minute comedy about a liberal museum director (Claes Bang) who runs afoul of racial and social prejudice, which most critics complained was about 20 minutes too long, may have its best Oscar shot as a foreign-language submission. (Ostlund's Force Majeure made the foreign-film shortlist in 2014 but failed to score a nom.) Similarly, the runner-up grand prix winner, Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats Per Minute, about AIDS activists in Paris in the '90s, which The Orchard will distribute, could figure in the foreign-language race if France submits it. Loveless, a grim portrait of a divorcing Russian couple, from Leviathan director Andrey Zvyagintsev, which won the third place jury prize and was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics during the course of the fest, could be a formidable contender if Russia opts to enter it. And while Diane Kruger won best actress laurels for playing a woman facing down Neo-Nazi terrorists in Fatih Akin's In the Fade, that film's best hope may be as a German foreign-language submission.

Sofia Coppola made history as only the second woman to receive the fest's best director prize (following Russian director Yuliya Solntseva way back in 1961) for The Beguiled, about a Union soldier (Colin Farrell) cooped up in a women's boarding school during the Civil War. The film was less warmly received by critics, though Coppola could generate awards attention via a campaign by distributor Focus Features, which also showed off clips for such upcoming Oscar catnip as Judi Dench as Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul and Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Joaquin Phoenix scored the best actor prize for playing a hitman trying to save a teen from prostitution in Amazon's You Were Never Really Here. But Amazon may find that Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck, which the jury overlooked, has more awards potential. Tracking two deaf children decades apart, it's sure to be a serious contender in the crafts category, where cinematographer Edward Lachman, composer Carter Burwell and costume designer Sandy Powell all drew praise. But Julianne Moore, who appears in a dual role, may not have enough screen time to stake a supporting actress claim.

And while Netflix's logo was met with boos at press screenings and CEO Reed Hastings protested "the establishment [is] closing ranks against us," Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories may well play better with the Academy, with Dustin Hoffman getting supporting actor consideration for his turn as a sculptor, bitter that his career has not been bigger, and Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller earning solid notices for appearing as his rivalrous sons. As for Bong Joon-ho's satrical Okja, the other Netflix entry the jury cold-shouldered, Okja herself — she's described as a giant pig, but also is part lovable hippo and loyal pug — could become a visual effects winner for VFX supervisor Erik De Boer.

Amid the festival's sidebars, The Weinstein Co.'s chilly murder investigation Wind River, which debuted back at Sundance, got a boost when the Un Certain Regard jury named Taylor Sheridan its best director. SPC picked up the cowboy drama The Rider, from director Chloe Zhao, which took top honors at Directors' Fortnight. And while it didn't pick up any prizes, Fox Searchlight Sundance acquisition Patti Cake$, directed by Geremy Jasper, got added exposure by closing out Directors' Fortnight, and Sean Baker's The Florida Project, which focuses on a couple of young girls living in Florida's budget motels and which was quickly snapped up by A24, had critics exclaiming that Baker had more than lived up to the promise of his award-winning 2015 Tangerine.

Nicole Kidman, omnipresent this year in Cannes, was honored with a specially created 70th anniversary prize, but her performances in Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and How to Talk to Girls at Parties, which demonstrated both her impressive range and an eagerness to seek out challenging parts, aren't automatic awards fodder, and her turn in Sundance TV's Top of the Lake: China Girl, directed by Jane Campion, might have to wait until next year's Emmys for recognition.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.