The biggest contender from the festival has got to be Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as faded showbiz figures navigating 1960s Hollywood. For its spot-on re-creation of that era, Oscar nominations in production and costume design are almost assured, and the film has a good shot in cinematography as well. The biggest question is how Sony will handle DiCaprio and Pitt, who are two of the biggest stars in the industry and just about evenly split in terms of screen time.
Which Cannes films will factor into the Oscar race?
(The Carpetbagger): Though most Oscar contenders don’t debut until the fall, last year’s Cannes Film Festival launched several films that became awards-season players, including Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” and Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War.” With this year’s edition of Cannes all sewn up last weekend, which films should Oscar-watchers look out for?
Studios rarely run two lead performances in the same category, so Sony may try to classify Pitt as supporting. DiCaprio’s washed-up actor has the biggest emotional arc, and Pitt’s stuntman character is in his employ and thus technically subordinate to him. It would be bunk, but after Mahershala Ali won a supporting-actor trophy just months ago for what was essentially a co-lead performance, the gambit would at least give Pitt a strong shot at his first acting trophy.
In the supporting-actress category, Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate has an affecting second-act scene in which she sneaks into a theater to watch herself on the big screen. But the character is more of a symbolic presence than a really fleshed-out role and Robbie doesn’t speak her first line until at least an hour into the movie. She’ll need to hope that Oscar voters respond so strongly to Tarantino’s film that it cracks the picture, director and screenplay categories, a show of force that would help sweep her in.
Actors from other Cannes films with a shot at being nominated include Willem Dafoe, who chews scenery with aplomb as an old-timey seaman in “The Lighthouse,” and Taron Egerton, who delivers a spirited turn as Elton John in “Rocketman” but may be hamstrung by Rami Malek’s recent, too-similar Oscar win for playing Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Also keep an eye on Antonio Banderas, who is subtle and moving in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory,” in which he plays a thinly veiled stand-in for his director. Banderas has never been nominated for an Oscar, but he charmed the Cannes press with funny and emotional stories about his long career, and if the 58-year-old actor hits the awards circuit with that same gusto, he’ll be irresistible.
“Pain and Glory” ought to be a strong contender for the international-film category (previously known as best foreign language film), too, if Spain submits it. The same goes for the Senegalese drama “Atlantics,” which Netflix acquired. Its director, Mati Diop, was the first black female director in Cannes competition and she took the festival’s second-place prize. Other laureled films like Brazil’s “Bacurau” and France’s lesbian love story “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” deserve consideration, too.
What of Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” which Fox Searchlight picked up for an eye-popping price of around $14 million? Malick hasn’t made a significant dent in Oscar season since his 2011 film, “The Tree of Life,” and reactions to his latest were somewhat split: Some pundits thought it was a whole lot of metaphysical woo-woo, while others found Malick to be back on track with the story of an Austrian farmer who refuses to fight for the Nazis. The size of the sale indicates that Fox Searchlight will push this one hard, but without big stars or a director willing to do press, can “A Hidden Life” go the distance?
And then there’s the winner of the Palme d’Or, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite.” No Korean film has been nominated for the international Oscar before, but “Parasite” is so strong it could even blow past that category to factor into directing and screenplay races, if upstart distributor Neon plays its cards right. An urgent story of class struggle told in the most sensationally entertaining way, “Parasite” is Bong at his best, and the academy must take note.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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