Which Cannes films have the best Oscar chances?
CANNES, France — Last year at the Cannes Film Festival, one question was on everyone’s lips: “What’s the next ‘Parasite’?” You can see why people wondered, since this Bong Joon Ho film used its Palme d’Or to kick off a historic Oscar campaign.
But whether last year’s festival had a “Parasite” heir, it turned out to be highly unlikely.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s gossipy drama “Drive My Car” didn’t win the Palme d’Or (it settled for a Best Screenplay honor) and no one suspected the biggest contender to emerge from Cannes. Still, after the year-end review groups went big, “Drive My Car” earned huge Oscar nominations for Picture, Directing, and Adapted Screenplay in more than one for Best International Film, the category it won.
As this year’s Cannes draws to a close with no film standing out from the rest, I think that rather than looking for the next “Parasite”, it would be wiser to ask: what is the next “Drive My Car “? In other words, which film from this year’s Cannes crop could continue to generate buzz and capitalize on the academy’s growing international user base to land major Oscar nominations?
I see three notable contenders. Chief among them is “Close,” which is hotly tipped to win a major prize at Saturday’s festival. It’s the second feature from Belgian director Lukas Dhont, and it follows two 13-year-old boys as their intense friendship begins to unravel. Some crucial reviews in Variety and IndieWire were particularly mixed, calling it one of the movie’s melodramatic twists, but Oscar voters never bothered the melodrama — in fact, they often crave it, and most ardent fans of “Close” consider it to be the festival’s four-handkerchief entry. A24 bought the film on the eve of its premiere, so expect a robust drop.
South Korean director Park Chan-wook deserved Oscar notice for his twisty 2016 masterpiece “The Handmaiden,” and while his new Cannes flick “Decision to Leave” isn’t quite up to par. this tier, it’s still a well-run affair that could see a lot of attention to rewards. A Hitchcockian romantic thriller, “Decision to Leave” stars Park Hae-il as a detective investigating the widow of a murdered man (Tang Wei) who, in her femme fatale fashion, seems to welcome the implantation. After “The Handmaiden’s” explicit sex scenes, it’s surprising how chaste the director’s follow-up is, but that may actually work in the film’s favor with older Oscar voters.
Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or in 2018 for his sensitive drama “Shoplifters,” which went on to compete for the International Film Oscar; although it lost to the Netflix-funded “Roma” juggernaut, I suspect a movie like “Shoplifters” would play better today and compete for more nominations in different categories. Keep an eye out for Kore-eda’s “Broker,” then: This affectionate character study stars “Parasite,” Song Kang Ho, one of two good-natured criminals trying to sell an abandoned baby. At times, the movie is so sweet it borders on gooey, but I doubt the “CODA” wing of the academy will complain.
Other Cannes nominations could pop up throughout awards season, including director James Gray’s ‘Armageddon Time’, about a middle-class Jewish family whose progressive attitudes mask a willingness to climb a few rungs at the expense of the lesser. privileged. Gray is highly regarded in France and can win a trophy here, but Oscar voters have yet to break for him in any meaningful way. The stars Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkins will at least attract attention.
Vicky Krieps should already have an Oscar nomination under her belt for ‘Phantom Thread’: Since she was snubbed, voters might be able to catch up for ‘Corsage,’ in which she’s fun and prickly as a Empress Elisabeth of Austria. I’d also be thrilled if groups of critics rally around Léa Seydoux as a single mother attempting a delicate romance in Mia Hansen-Love’s “One Fine Morning,” my favorite festival entry.
Seydoux is also quite good in David Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future,” where she stars alongside Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, but the film may prove too outlandish for voters; ditto “Triangle of Sadness,” from “The Square” director Ruben Ostlund, though this classy comedy provides some of the year’s grossest sequences and contains a memorable supporting turn from Woody Harrelson.
What about expensive Hollywood movies that premiered at Cannes? “Elvis” comes from director Baz Luhrmann, who scored an Oscar breakthrough with “Moulin Rouge” but whose last film, “The Great Gatsby,” was nominated only for its costumes and production design. The scintillating “Elvis” looks likely to continue that trend: Reviews have polarized, and while young Austin Butler impresses as Elvis Presley, young dudes generally face an uphill battle in the lead actor category. (And the less said about Tom Hanks’ poor supporting performance as Elvis’ manager, the better.)
The last time George Miller was at Cannes, he created ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ which went on to earn 10 Oscar nominations (including for cinematography and director) and ultimately won six statuettes. Action movies rarely do so well with an Oscar, but Miller broke the mold, and he did something else unique with “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” his new film about a djinn (Idris Elba) , a scholar (Tilda Swinton) and the only love that blooms between them. There’s drama, fantasy, romance, comedy…and you’ll either be thrilled by it all, or find it a bit overloaded. The film’s technical elements are worth noting, but other categories could be a long shot.
And then there is “Top Gun: Maverick”, launched on the Croisette with a flyover of fighter jets and an opaque conversation with star Tom Cruise. This long-running sequel is getting rave reviews and expert-led. If the academy is serious about pushing well-made blockbuster material into the best picture race, this could be the summer’s biggest hope. “Drive my fighter jet”, anyone?