By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 22, 2014 at 3:01PM
Though there’s still a couple of days and a few high-profile premieres to come, things are starting to wind down here in Cannes. So while that means a chance to catch up on reviews and on stuff we missed earlier in the festival, it’s also a opportunity to have a breath and take stock of what’s come over the last week or so. And, we say with a semi-heavy heart, to start to work out which of the big Croisette premieres might stay the distance all the way through to the upcoming awards season.
Yes, it's only been a couple of months since the last Oscar campaign came to an end, but publicists are gearing up once again, people like Harvey Weinstein are already talking up their slates, and some of the first major hopefuls (if you exclude “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which was released a couple of months ago) were unleashed at Cannes. So what films look like real players, and what died on the vine?
Let’s deal with the latter first: the festival opened with “Grace Of Monaco,” which picked up some of the most toxic reviews anyone could remember for a Cannes opener (our own included). With Olivier Dahan, of “La Vie En Rose” fame, directing Nicole Kidman, Harvey Weinstein had clearly bought the film with the intention of making an awards run, for Kidman if nothing else. But he’d been feuding over final cut of the film with Dahan (although final cut is only one of the movie’s problems), and yanked it from not one, but two release dates before now. To be honest, it seems like Harvey had already given up on this (he skipped the premiere to go on a charity trip to Syria), and the film certainly backs this up: the very, very best it could hope for is a Golden Globe nomination for Kidman, as the HFPA love nominating movie stars, but otherwise, this is territory for the Razzies rather than the Academy.
Another Croisette return for an acclaimed French director whose film won Oscars came with "The Search," Michel Hazanavicius’ follow-up to “The Artist,” and while it’s not as bad as “Grace Of Monaco,” it’s still pretty bad, as our review indicated. Seemingly made by Hazanavicius with the motivation “well, if they loved my slight little silent comedy homage, they’ll LOVE my serious war melodrama!,” it certainly hopes to court awards, but the reviews have been weak for the most part.
It might play better with audiences, but it’s hardly a crowd-pleaser, closer to Angelina Jolie’s “In The Land Of Blood And Honey,” which came up short in awards season too. And it’s notable that, even now, no U.S. distributor has stepped up: if it was something that felt like a strong awards run, a big dog—not least the Weinsteins who had “The Artist”—would have snapped it up by now.
Don’t expect much play for Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall,” which is far from the best from a director who’s never been Academy-friendly, or for David Cronenberg’s “Maps To The Stars,” which is lots of fun, but also a David Cronenberg film. And while Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” and the Dardennes’ “Two Days, One Night” are major Palme d’Or contenders, they’re unlikely to figure in to awards beyond being strong front-runners for the Canadian and Belgian selections for Foreign Language (even if Marion Cotillard wins Best Actress at the festival for the latter, if she couldn’t get a nod for “ Rust & Bone,” she won’t get one for her lower-key turn here).
Out of competition, “How To Train Your Dragon 2” had its big premiere, and while the film is a step down from its Oscar-nominated predecessor, it’s still very solid, and beautifully crafted, and in a year where its only real studio competition are “The Lego Movie,” “The Boxtrolls” and “Big Hero 6,” it’s locked for a Best Animated Film nomination at least.