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Predictions for the 75th Cannes Film Festival Awards

The Palme d'Or is displayed prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. The Cannes film festival runs from July 6 - July 17, 2021. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

*Editor’s Note: Much like last year, Robert did an excellent job with these predictions, which I’m sure will be more accurate than my own. His are below, with a very thorough write-up, followed by my quick, comment-free ones, for comparison. I wrote here about what might emerge from the fest as an Oscar player, so it’ll be interesting to see if they’re represented at all in the awards this weekend. Enjoy!*

75th Cannes Film Festival Predictions (Robert)

Another Cannes Film Festival is nearing its conclusion, or I guess the Tom Cruise Appreciation Festival, if the opening ceremony was anything to go by? Hey, it’s all good by me; I’m pretty sure I’ll be talking about this more in a future article, but there’s something especially poignant about the once-maligned matinée idol being publicly celebrated by fancy cinema organizations now of all times. But anyway! What can we glean from this year’s festival, one of the most prestigious international film festivals in the world that introduced us to what eventually became two Oscar-nominated arthouse hits, one ya-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it body horror sleeper hit, and Joey’s favorite film from last year? Speaking of last year, Joey and I were not terribly accurate in our predictions, though I was able to peg Best Actress winner Renate Reinsve and both of us were generally correct that the actual Palme winner would walk away with a major prize from the jury… even if we were equally surprised it won the prize.

This time, the President is France’s own prolific Cannes Best Actor-winning Titane Macarena Me, Daddy Vincent Lindon. He has been called upon to lead a jury made up of Academy Award-winning Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi (who has been in some unfortunate hot water lately), British actress and shoulda-been Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Rebecca Hall, French writer-director Ladj Ly, American writer-director Jeff Nichols, Indian actress Deepika Padukone, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, Academy Award-nominated Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier, and Italian actress Jasmine Trinca.

Here’s where I’m predicting they’ll fall tomorrow at the awards ceremony, based solely on the early critical reception and how the jurors themselves were rumored to have received them:

Prix du scenario: Holy Spider – Ali Abbasi and Afshin Kamran Bahram

Huh. Interesting. In last year’s Cannes article, I incorrectly (but thankfully, considering how disappointed I was when I finally caught up to the thing) predicted Mia Hansen-Løve’s trite art-imitates-life piffle Bergman Island would take the Best Screenplay award from the festival, but I noted the two “other likely contenders” were Drive My Car and The Worst Person in the World, one of which not only would ultimately be the winner here, but both of those “other likely contenders” would go on to be nominated for Best Screenplay (the former for Adapted, the latter for Original) at the Academy Awards the following year! Will a similar coincidence occur this time around? Eh… probably not? At least if I’m correctly predicting Ali Abbasi’s bleak crime thriller Holy Spider will take the prize this time around. Movies about serial killers are rarely Oscar favorites, and with one major exception, they haven’t recently been all that into movies about pervasive systemic misogyny and sexual violence. That’s immaterial to this particular prediction, though, as this detective procedural has been praised as meticulous and intelligently-plotted if deeply upsetting, and its reported narrative gearshifts and thematic focus expanding from chasing a single monstrous individual to an entire societal indictment seems like exactly the kind of writing that would attract this kind of award. Other likely contenders for this prize include Ruben Östlund for Triangle of Sadness and Park Chan-wook for Decision to Leave.

Prix de la mise en scène: Cristian Mungiu – R.M.N.

Okay, so last year, I believed (with some historical precedent, in my defense) that this would be the award that Spike Lee’s jury would feel most comfortable bestowing on Julia Ducournau’s now-infamous body-horror family drama, out of a belief that this is where Main Competition juries tend to want to recognize the more “out there” efforts. I was wrong then, so in a possibly counterintuitive move, I’m going to predict that Romanian filmmaker and frequent Cannes award-winner Cristian Mungiu will become only the sixth person to win Best Director a second time from this festival. While this would be a rare and special feat, I have observed that the positive notices have been specifically focused on the prodigious feat of direction Mungiu supposedly accomplished with this small town wartime thriller – including what has been reported as a corker of a single-take action sequence – that would make him an especially attractive candidate for this award if my instincts are right and the jury is probably more taken with another film for the Palme… but more on that later. Other likely contenders for this prize include Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for Tori and Lokita and Jerzy Skolimowski for EO.

Prix d’interprétation masculine: Song Kang-ho – Broker

Oh, Simon Rex. You didn’t win this award as I predicted last year, but you did win the Spirit Award and, more importantly, the Radar Award for your magnificently scummy, high energy love-to-hate-him adult film star/hustler performance in Red Rocket. I don’t know if I would have deviated from predicting him if I had learned of the reactions to Nitram earlier, but I do know that acclaimed Korean actor Song Kang-ho (who should have been a Best Supporting Actor nominee for Parasite) has been getting raves for his performance in what is being described by a decent plurality of critics as another tender chosen family drama by Hirokazu Kore-eda. I’m not at all confident that Lindon’s jury will award a second Palme to a film that reportedly is very similar to (and according to some detractors, an inferior version of) Shoplifters, but this would be a good opportunity for them to recognize a universally-beloved international thespian in a performance that has been praised even from those who otherwise disliked Broker. In many ways, Song is very much like the Main Competition Jury President in his longtime consistent output and “everyman” appeal. I’m sure plenty of critics and other festivalgoers would have different preferences as far individual performances up for this award – in particular the also-acclaimed Marin Grigore in R.M.N. and Park Hae-il for Decision to Leave – but would anyone really object to seeing this man up on the Croisette stage with the same elation he had at the Oscars when Parasite won Best Picture? I certainly wouldn’t. 

Prix d’interprétation feminine: Tang Wei – Decision to Leave

Hey, this is the one I got right last time! Okay, so… reaching out with my psychic powers… and… I’m actually quite a bit less certain this time around because there have been a lot of raves surrounding multiple performances from women at this festival, and interestingly, not from the contenders who entered the week with the most pre-festival hype, like Marion Cotillard in the pretty widely-panned familial melodrama Brother and Sister and Alyona Mikhaylova in the lavish but reportedly turgid Tchaikovsky’s Wife. Instead, nearly all of the “keep your eyes on her!” notices have been centered on performers like Mbundu Joely in Tori and Lokita, Lee Ji-eun in Broker, Zar Amir Ebrahimi in Holy Spider, and Dolly De Leon in Triangle of Sadness. So I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that this will be the award that Decision to Leave wins, despite also being pegged as a strong contender for the Screenplay, Director, and Best Actor awards from reporters at the festival. My spidey sense zeroing in on Tang Wei’s acclaimed performance as the beguiling widow and murder suspect at the center of what is being described as a sensual suspense mystery thriller is partially motivated by personal bias: I’m still very angry that she wasn’t even nominated for the Best Lead Actress Oscar she so richly deserved for her phenomenal breakout in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and even angrier that China effectively blacklisted and nearly destroyed her career for over a decade due to the explicit sex scenes of that film. So yes, I’d like to see her recognized in a big way for what is being hailed as her long overdue comeback in one of the few competition films receiving across-the-board good reviews. Of all the awards, and all the contenders, this is the one I am the least-confident of.

Also, it’s entirely possible that Michelle Williams will do something amazing in Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up, not yet screened as of the publishing of this article, and none of this caveat-leaden dithering from me will even matter.

Prix du Jury: Tori and Lokita – Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Just like every one of these articles I’ve ever done, including last year, we’ve now reached the point where I’m engaging in full-on guesswork, because it’s never clear at all just how the jury is going to parse out what is effectively their Third, Second, and First Prizes of the festival. I was only one-for-three last year, but I’m sticking with my guns in believing that if I get any of these three correct, that’s a “win” even if the exact placements I predict are off. Especially considering my reasoning for the Jury Prize going to Tori and Lokita.

For one thing, it is almost never a good idea to bet against the Dardenne Brothers at the Cannes Film Festival. They have, in their nearly-quarter-century of competing here, won two Palme d’Ors, three Ecumenical Jury Prizes, Best Screenplay, the Grand Prix, and the Best Director Award. The Son won the Best Actor award for Olivier Gourmet twenty years ago and their 1999 Palme d’Or winner Rosetta also walked away with Best Actress for Émilie Dequenne. Literally the only award none of their films have won yet… is the Jury Prize. So, am I being weird for thinking that perhaps this lauded-but-brutal refugee polemic will be the movie that will complete the Belgian duo’s dominance of this festival like no one ever before? Yes, most definitely. But luckily, this festival has a knack for being weird.

Grand Prix: EO – Jerzy Skolimowski

Speaking of being weird, yes! Yes, I am predicting that “the donkey movie” will walk away with a major prize from the Main Competition, specifically the Grand Jury Prize. It hasn’t been getting unanimous raves, but with a few exceptions, most festivalgoers seemed to have really enjoyed this meditative semi-remake of Au Hasard Balthazar, and were impressed by how invested they were in a film with 90% of its focus on a single non-speaking animal escaping from the circus and just trying to get by and survive in a harsh world. Every year, there’s always at least one contender that the prognosticators underestimate. Last time it was Compartment No. 6 tying for the Grand Prix, but you also have “oh, I wasn’t expecting that” big wins from the likes of It’s Only the End of the World, Reality, On Tour, and The Mourning Forest. So while it’s tempting to ask “why would I predict the donkey movie for such a high-level award,” the question I keep coming back to when pondering my predictions is… why not the donkey movie?

Palme d’Or: Close – Lukas Dhont

I actually feel more confident that this will take the top prize to a more certain degree than any of the other awards at this festival. Which is odd, because this is the prize of the festival. I should feel especially nervous about which film will win this one. But not since Amour a full decade ago have I seen reviews of a Cannes Main Competition entry that unanimously amounted to “this movie destroyed me and left me a sobbing wreck, oh my god.” And this has not been a festival with much even approaching unanimity! The Eight Mountains, Armageddon Time, Nostalgia, Leila’s Brothers, Triangle of Sadness, and a lot of other entries have been getting loving and repulsed reviews in equal measure, and while that’s not a guarantee that they won’t be loved by this jury, there’s something to be said about one contender above all the others receiving love/love reactions in a sea of competitors getting love/hate reactions. It’s also worth noting that Lukas Dhont has already established himself as a beloved figure at the Croisette despite this being only his second-ever feature film. Because his first, Girl, left the 2018 Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard competition with not one, not two, but three awards: the FIPRESCI Prize, the Queer Palm, and the Caméra d’Or. Every single sign I’m looking at – from the critical adulation, to the audience reactions, to the pedigree of the filmmaker – points to this as not only the overwhelming favorite for the Palme… it might be the first film since Parasite and only the fifth film of the 21st century to be a unanimous verdict.

75th Cannes Film Festival Predictions (Joey)

NEON

Prix du scenario: Decision to Leave – Park Chan-wook (alternate: Holy Spider – Ali Abbasi and Afshin Kamran Bahram)

Prix de la mise en scène: Tori and Lokita – Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne (alternate: Armageddon Time – James Gray)

Prix d’interprétation masculine: Song Kang-ho – Broker (alternate: Anthony Hopkins – Armageddon Time)

Prix d’interprétation feminine: Zar Amir Ebrahimi – Holy Spider (alternate: Lee Ji-eun – Broker)

Prix du Jury: Crimes of the Future – David Cronenberg (alternate: EO – Jerzy Skolimowski)

Grand Prix: Triangle of Sadness – Ruben Östlund (alternate: Showing Up – Kelly Reichardt)

Palme d’Or: Armageddon Time – James Gray (alternate: Close – Lukas Dhont)

So what do you think, Awards Radar Community? Whose predictions do you think will ultimately prevail? Which of the Main Competition entries are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

Stay tuned to see who and what take home prizes from the 75th Cannes Film Festival!

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Robert Hamer
28 days ago

The cast and crew of the Main Competition films are not invited to attend the closing night awards ceremony if they aren’t slated to win an award. From what I’ve heard, here are the films that got the call:

Armageddon Time
Boy from Heaven
Broker
Close
Decision to Leave
The Eight Mountains
EO
Tori and Lokita
Triangle of Sadness

Robert Hamer
28 days ago
Reply to  Robert Hamer

Whoops, and just like that, my rumor mill was wrong! Please disregard this comment, I don’t know anything.

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Written by Joey Magidson

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