*Editor’s Note: Much like last year and the year prior, 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!*
The 76th Cannes Film Festival draws to a close this weekend and… hey, before we go any further, where the hell is Catherine Deneuve’s Honorary Academy Award? One of the “Grand Dames” of French Cinema, appearing in several enduring classics of the medium, this cultural icon is turning 80 later this year and only has a single Academy Award nomination to her name (for one of her least-memorable performances, to add insult to injury)! Anyway… now that I’m all worked up, congratulations to Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford for their Honorary Palmes. As for the Main Competition, we’ve got an interesting mix of prior champs Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ken Loach, Nanni Moretti, Wim Wenders, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan competing with almost-there heavy hitters like Alice Rohrwacher and Aki Kaurismäki.
Joey and I will be sending out our psychic powers to read the mind of Jury President Ruben Östlund, along with the minds of Paul Dano, Julia Ducournau, Brie Larson, Denis Ménochet, Rungano Nyoni, Atiq Rahimi, Damián Szifrón, and Maryam Touzani. Keep in mind that, despite my higher degree of interest in the internal politicking and vibes of these international film festivals, Joey actually bested me the last time we went head-to-head, both correctly predicting their Best Actor award but he had the foresight to see Zar Amir Ebrahimi winning Best Actress while I was writing dumb shoulda-been Oscar winners fan fiction. Sure, you could say I correctly pegged EO making it among the top three, but Joey came closer with Triangle of Sadness while I was confident they were going to write that dark comedy off entirely.
So. Here we are again in a rematch. These are what I’m predicting the jury for the Main Competition will formally recognize 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: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola – Asteroid City
Starting out of the gate with probably my riskiest bet, as Wes Anderson has not had the best luck competing at this festival. Actually, scratch that, he’s had pretty abysmal luck despite being one of the last truly singular auteurs to have been able to do His Thing virtually unhindered to this day. He has not won a single competitive award at Cannes, and this will be his third direct attempt to break that dry spell. So why do I think his fortunes will change tomorrow? It certainly can’t be due to critical reception; the initial reaction to Asteroid City’s premiere was fine but hardly rapturous. The film itself hasn’t generated the kind of intrigue that other contenders I’ll talk about a little later have been able to do. But then again, neither did last year’s competitor Cairo Conspiracy. Or Chronic from a few years back. Or Footnote even further back.
But those movies – along with Drive My Car, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and The Salesman – were all acknowledged as intricate and loaded with narrative gambits and intellectually rigorous ideas. Asteroid City has been described in those terms almost unanimously, with the framing device alone apparently being a T.V. special about a play within a play recreating an event that may or may not have actually happened, depending on how you interpret each “tier” of storytelling… I feel dizzy after just typing that sentence. Also, I may as well not leave this merely implied: as Stars at Noon and The White Ribbon demonstrate, having at least one member of the jury who has worked with you before does help. Other likely contenders for this prize include Justine Triet and Arthur Harari for Anatomy of a Fall and Yûji Sakamoto for Monster.
Prix de la mise en scène: Jonathan Glazer – The Zone of Interest
Arguably the most critically-acclaimed film in the Main Competition slate, Jonathan Glazer’s long-awaited follow-up to his eerie sci-fi horror masterpiece Under the Skin not only didn’t come off as offensively tone-deaf as I feared it would be, but apparently his specific approach to depicting a love triangle between three Nazis who all live and work within walking distance of one of the most infamous sites of systemic cruelty in human history is exactly why this movie has been the critical darling of the festival. Serves me right for doubting his ability to elevate a questionable premise with his originality of vision.
But critics don’t pick the award winners. A jury of nine distinguished international film professionals do, and though The Zone of Interest has been praised across the board, many critics also reported feeling sort of baffled by it at first before finding themselves unable to shake it from their minds even days afterward. I’m not saying this jury isn’t capable of coming to the same conclusion. However, most of the Main Competition juries in the past haven’t when evaluating movies that develop a reputation for “sneaking up on you.” That was certainly the case with the likes of Decision to Leave, Cold War, The Assassin, and Heli. These movies are unconventionally heady, and all of them fell short of the Palme but were honored in the Best Director category by juries that maybe weren’t comfortable going all in on them but still wanted to recognize their unique and indelible executions. In fact, Heli might be the single most apt predecessor to where I think The Zone of Interest will end up tomorrow night. Other likely contenders for this prize include Todd Haynes for May December and Aki Kaurismäki for Fallen Leaves.
Prix d’interprétation masculine: Kōji Yakusho – Perfect Days
Possibly another risky bet, as it seems like the consensus is that the frontrunner is Jude Law’s physically committed and grotesque approximation of King Henry VIII as he faces his mortality in Firebrand, Karim Aïnouz’s biopic about his sixth and final wife Catherine Parr. But apparently his portrayal is so palpably intense that it could actually be a hindrance. In a reversal from how Academy voters respond to these kinds of performances, the Main Competition jury tends to shy away from “big” performances. The last time they bucked the trend and embraced one was all the way back in 2009, when they started Christoph Waltz’s steamroll through the Best Supporting Actor season for Inglourious Basterds. This is also the last time I’d say a supporting performance won the Best Actor prize at Cannes, because Cannes doesn’t make “lead” and “supporting” distinctions. They usually award leading roles, but during Barack Obama’s first term, they didn’t.
Okay, so it seems like I’m making a “if it could happen to Colonel Hans Landa, it could happen to Henry VIII!” but I bring that win up to highlight how 2009 was the exception, not the rule. A more consistent pattern at Cannes is the jury displaying a preference for longtime international performers who are not-quite-stars-but-also-have-distinguished-reputations-among-cinephiles delivering subtler, gentler work. Kōji Yakusho absolutely fills both of those commonalities with his performance as a serene janitor in Perfect Days. He has headlined box office successes and arthouse hits, including a previous Palme d’Or winner. He’s enjoyed a sterling reputation among directors from all over the world, including from the likes of Takashi Miike and Alejandro G. Iñárritu. He is to Japan what Song Kang-ho is to South Korea, Vincent Lindon is to France, and Mads Mikkelsen is to Denmark. All of whom won Best Actor awards for performances similarly described by initial reactions as what I’ve been hearing out of Cannes this week. One other likely contender for this prize could also be Charles Melton for May December.
Prix d’interprétation feminine: Sandra Hüller – Anatomy of a Fall
The consensus among pundits and critics is that May December’s Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore are the ones to beat this year and may even share the Best Actress award jointly for the first time since 2015 and for the same film for the first time since 2012. The latter feat is more common than you might initially assume (Volver actually won Best Actress for its entire ensemble of women!), though I’m going in a different direction. Despite wide praise as an intricate and harrowing legal thriller, I think the portrayal of Anatomy of a Fall’s accused murderer by Sandra Hüller will be the means by which the movie is recognized at tomorrow’s closing ceremony. She has been one of Germany’s most engaging and celebrated actresses for nearly twenty years, exploding onto the scene with Requiem back in 2006 and pretty much hitting home runs ever since. She’s not some perpetually-underrated character actress pining for overdue recognition, either: she’s already won a Best Actress award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
She’s competed at Cannes before, in what is still my personal favorite performance of hers, in Toni Erdmann, and actually won the European Film Award for Best Actress as a result of that one. But here, she’s in not one but two Main Competition entries (the second one being my predicted future winner of the Best Director prize) and nearly everyone is in agreement that she carries the lengthy runtime and challenging narrative shifts perfectly in Anatomy of a Fall. The jury may quibble with other aspects of Justine Triet’s fourth feature, but I can’t imagine them not unanimously admiring Hüller’s commitment to the same degree that the rest of the attendees have. That’s why I think Best Actress is most likely to fall (oh, I went there!) in her favor even more than two Oscar-winning American movie stars.
Prix du Jury: About Dry Grasses
Just like every year, the way these effectively 3rd, 2nd, and 1st Place awards shake out is like throwing darts at a dartboard to outsiders like me and Joey. Even if I somehow “knew” which three of the Main Competition entries they liked best, it’s impossible to know just precisely how much they like their three favorite competitors relative to each other. How the hell was I supposed to predict that Lukas Dhont’s acclaimed childhood tragedy would come in second to a two-and-a-half-hour-long comedy with an extended sea sickness puking scene?
If About Dry Grasses wins the Grand Prix or even the Palme tomorrow, I wouldn’t necessarily be shocked, even if I still don’t feel incredibly confident in predicting it will end up among the top three at all. For one thing, it’s also very, very, very long. For another, the movie itself is reportedly a slow-burn character study about a surly teacher caught up in a situation that seems weirdly similar to The Hunt, a past Cannes competitor that ended up winning the Best Actor award. On the other hand, Cannes loves Nuri Bilge Ceylan, having bestowed a Palme d’Or and two Grand Prix awards to him in the past. Plus, from what I have heard, the movie ends on its absolute best scene, and finishing off strong goes a long way with even the most discerning audiences who may not have even liked most of the scenes leading up to it.
Grand Prix: Fallen Leaves
Of all the competitors for the Palme d’Or this year, I’d argue that Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki could make a strong case for himself as the most “overdue.” He’s been putting out minimalist character dramas about relatable people of paltry financial means trying to figure out unexpected setbacks to their lives or opportunities to better themselves with a distinctive deadpan tone that has made him an instantly recognizable voice in European cinema over a span of decades. And he has never won the highest honor from Cannes before. For a while, there was a belief that he never would, after he announced his retirement from filmmaking at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival upon winning the Silver Bear for Best Director for The Other Side of Hope six years ago.
Obviously that “retirement” didn’t last long, as Fallen Leaves is now upon us and has, interestingly, garnered some of the most consistently positive notices of the festival. Even The Zone of Interest has a small minority of detractors, but this extremely short (not even a full hour-and-a-half long!) bittersweet romance between two working-class people has enjoyed unanimous praise for its narrative economy and subtle commentaries on modern anxieties without losing its sense of levity. Granted, as we’ve seen repeatedly at this festival, “overdue” doesn’t mean nearly as much at Cannes as it does at the Oscars, and while past juries have gone for very light movies in the past… they’re almost never as light as this would be. Nevertheless, a movie that just about everyone enjoyed is almost certain to win at least something, and a Grand Prix feels like a way to congratulate and encourage a distinguished auteur for continuing to work.
Palme d’Or: May December
Of course I’m thrilled at the positive notices for the latest film from Todd Haynes. Of course I am. My heart does, purely emotionally, want to predict him winning the top award tomorrow because he deserves way more awards than he’s gotten so far in his quite literally revolutionary career as one of the vanguards of the New Queer Cinema movement. So yes, I’m somewhat biased in predicting it to make the final three, but I also think there’s some reverse-survivorship bias from pundits who are skeptical of May December’s odds outside of the acting awards. This skepticism isn’t always, but very much more often than not, hinges on an assumption that a movie exploring a subject so uncomfortable (as if Titane didn’t), too intricate in its familial dynamics (as if Shoplifters wasn’t), and too wry in its dark humor (as opposed to both of Östlund’s Palme d’Or winners) to be a serious contender.
But over time, pondering the final premieres and reactions to the Main Competition contenders, I found myself trying to come up with reasons why it wouldn’t be their choice for the Palme d’Or than acknowledging how much it actually has in its favor to win outright. It’s described as audacious but reportedly not off-puttingly so, apparently showcases great acting without any one cast member dominating the ensemble, and received uniformly positive but not overwhelming raves that would otherwise make me suspicious its path to the top award feels Too Good To Be True (as I probably should have detected with Close last year).
So while I do want one of America’s most creative and interesting living filmmakers to win the Palme d’Or, after wracking my brain in an attempt at “pure” objectivity… I’ve come around to the idea that he could really pull it off tomorrow.
What do you think, readers? Am I on to something, or will Joey beat me again? Let us know your predictions in the comments below.
76th Cannes Film Festival Predictions (Joey)
Prix du scenario: Club Zero – Jessica Hausner (alternate: Asteroid City – Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola)
Prix de la mise en scène: The Zone of Interest – Jonathan Glazer) (alternate: Monster – Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Prix d’interprétation masculine: Josh O’Connor – La Chimera (alternate: Jude Law – Firebrand)
Prix d’interprétation feminine: Natalie Portman – May December (alternate: Sandra Hüller – Anatomy of a Fall)
Prix du Jury: Monster – Hirokazu Kore-eda (alternate: The Old Oak – Ken Loach)
Grand Prix: Fallen Leaves – Aki Kaurismaki (alternate: May December – Todd Haynes)
Palme d’Or: Anatomy of a Fall – Justine Triet (alternate: The Zone of Interest – Jonathan Glazer)
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 76th Cannes Film Festival!
I appreciate how Joey and I both took a walk on the dangerous side with the Prix du scenario category.
For my money, it’s the one I always find hardest to settle on!
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