The Oscars may be the end-all film awards show for most of us, but the Cannes festival, a highly influential European tradition, is only growing in popularity as of late. The festival highlights more artsy and international pictures, and this year there are a staggering eight English-language movies competing for the Palme d’Or, the best picture equivalent. Not all of them have release dates yet, but you can expect them to hit theaters stateside by the end of 2012. Most of these movies competing for the jury’s attention are what we might be talking about later this year:
1. “Moonrise Kingdom” by Wes Anderson
With his heartfelt tones and distinctly quirky humor, Wes Anderson is popular among film lovers and hipsters. His latest film is about two young lovers who flee and prompt a search party to look for them. The movie stars Anderson regulars like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman as well as intriguing actors such as Edward Norton, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand.
Based on the trailer, “Moonrise Kingdom” looks like it might be one of Anderson’s best movies yet, along with “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” The May release date, however, might not help the movie much at the Oscars, since the Academy tends to go for movies released in the fall. Nonetheless, the screenplay, written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, has gotten strong advance buzz and could end up competing in the Original Screenplay category like “The Royal Tenenbaums” did 10 years ago.
2. “Cosmopolis” by David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg is best-known for his body-horror movies such as 1986’s “The Fly,” but his recent work is more accessible. Don DeLillo is one of America’s most celebrated authors, and “Cosmopolis” is the first of his novels that has been adapted for film. If Cronenberg can pull this off, as the visceral trailer suggests he can, this movie might end his dry run at the Oscars.
“Cosmopolis” is about a young billionaire (surprisingly played by Robert Pattinson), who travels across the city in a white limousine one day to get a haircut. If Cronenberg trumps the novel’s narrative oddities (there is an extensive part in which the main character discusses how he wants to shove a bottle up a woman’s parts) and wins the Palme d’Or, the critical acclaim and Cronenberg’s fanbase in the Academy may be enough to nab him a Best Picture nomination just as Terrence Malick did with “The Tree of Life.”
3. “Lawless” by John Hillcoat
John Hillcoat sees Pattinson and raises him with Shia LaBeouf. Yeah, seriously. Adapted by Australian rock star Nick Cave, the movie is based on Matt Bondurant’s well-received historical novel “The Wettest County in the World.” It’s about three brothers getting in trouble with gangs and Amish women while running a bootlegging business during the prohibition.
The trailer’s period and Western crime mood evokes the Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men,” but the movie’s Oscar success is most likely to come in the form of its distributors, The Weinstein Company, who distributed both “The King’s Speech” and won a few Oscars for a black-and-white silent film filled with French actors, so this movie certainly has a solid shot as well.
4. “The Paperboy” by Lee Daniels
Lee Daniels utilizes the popularity of Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey in this film. However, the actor getting the most buzz in this movie is Nicole Kidman, who could win Best Actress at Cannes and compete in that category come Oscar time.
Aside from that, there’s no trailer to go by, so it’s difficult to predict if this movie is Oscar-worthy. Despite the mystery that shrouds this release, Lee Daniels headed “Precious,” which was one of the big Oscar players a few years ago, so you can’t count him out. Not to mention that Pete Dexter adapted his own bestselling novel about a team of people looking for evidence to exonerate someone on death row, so if this becomes an “issue movie” then the Academy could go for it.
5. “Killing Them Softly” by Andrew Dominik
Not much is known about this movie either, but it’s a crime film directed by the man who made the well-received Western “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” five years ago. The cast is solid, with Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Sam Shepard and Richard Jenkins. The primary reason to watch out for this, though, is because it has the same backer as “Lawless,” namely, the Weinstein Company.
6. “On the Road” by Walter Salles
After a long road (pun) to the big screen, “On the Road” is finally a movie. Walter Salles is a Brazillian director, but his previous film, “The Motorcycle Diaries,” nabbed two Oscar nominations at the 77th Academy Awards. Since this movie is based on the classic Jack Kerouac novel and has a huge cast of English-speaking stars like Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi and more, it could be special enough to be a serious competitor at the Oscars.