In 2019, “Parasite” took the Palme d’Or in a celebration that saw audience members and media jumping from their seats in joy. Many thought it was a career achievement for Bong Joon Ho. But Oscar prospects? Well, sure, maybe it could be the first South Korean film to earn an International Film nomination, but more than that? Many dismissed its chances much too quickly. Some of us, however, saw a universal tale that was a clear Oscar contender. After “Roma,” anything was possible. A pandemic year later, and we’re back wondering if this year’s Palme d’Or champ, “Titane,” could pull off a similar feat.
The best thing about the Cannes win for “Titane” is that stamp of approval (with Spike Lee president of the Jury, no less) means a certain segment of Academy members will watch it and, hopefully, not give up after what is very tough to watch 30 minutes. A common refrain heard on the la Croissette was, “I almost walked out, but I’m glad I didn’t.” NEON, which also guided “Parasite” to Oscar gold, has to be aware that’s going to be an issue (honestly, it sounds like t-shirt material to me). But, if a studio finds enough tastemakers and key AMPAS members to recommend it, that should be enough. Even in “Titane’s” case. Can it duplicate “Parasite’s” Best Picture nod? We’re skeptical, but we also think Julia Ducournau is a legit contender for a Best Director nomination based on how that branch has selected multiple international nominees over the past few years. Original Screenplay, possible. International Film if it’s France’s submission? Very likely.
The other international NEON acquisition we actually think has a better shot at a nomination is Joachim Trier‘s “The Worst Person In The World.” Cannes Best Actress winner Renate Reinsve is a longshot for Academy recognition, but the film, its screenplay, and Trier’s direction could absolutely play. If you’re looking for a non-English speaking Best Picture nominee, that’s where we suggest you focus your attention.
Since “The Artist” won Best Picture in 2012, Cannes has had at least one Best Picture nominee every year outside of 2020 (no festival), 2015, and 2018. That’s actually a better track record than Sundance over that time span. If there is one film from Cannes that should fill that slot, we still think it’s Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch.” The Searchlight release will return to the fall festival circuit before its late October opening and will be a highly coveted watch. Despite some naysayers on the ground, it’s one of Cannes’ most critically acclaimed films, and Anderson has his fans in the Academy.
Other potential awards players include Cannes Best Actor winner Caleb Landry Jones for “Nitram” (always a tough category), Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket” for Original Screenplay (maybe), Mamoru Hosoda’s “Belle” for Animated Film, Leo Carax’s “Annette” for Original Song, Production Design and Cinematography and Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero” for Original Screenplay (although I personally think it’s the weakest aspect of the film). Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir Part II” was beloved by most critics, especially the Brits, but we’re not convinced its even breaks through with year-end critics groups.
On the International Film front, the aforementioned “A Hero” (Iran), “Worst Person in the World” (Norway), “Titane” (France), “Drive My Car” (Japan), “Evolution” (Hungary), “Compartment no. 6” (Finland) and “Casablanca Beats” (Morocco) all feel like shortlist players if officially selected by their respective countries.
The awards season will truly kick into gear with the Venice Film Festival, TIFF, and NYFF announcements (which inform Telluride, which most of us know about anyway) over the next few weeks. A note of caution, however. A source who has seen many of the films heading to screens this Fall says it may not be the banner year we’re all hoping for. Could it be a good one? Maybe, but don’t discount a potential Best Picture contender yet (“In the Heights” is still right there) because it might not be so easy for Academy members to fill those guaranteed ten slots. You’ve been warned.