Several films with high Oscar buzz were in competition at this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival. But the big prize of the festivities, the coveted Palme d’Or, ended up going to the Swedish film “The Square” from Ruben Ostlund. The film’s win here could catapult it into serious Oscar consideration. Since 1955, 37 winners of this top honor have amassed a total of 127 Academy Award nominations, with 28 Oscar wins spanning 16 films. And 15 Palme d’Or champs scored Best Picture nominations: “Marty” (1955), “Friendly Persuasion” (1957), “M*A*S*H” (1970), “The Conversation” (1974), “Taxi Driver” (1976), “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “All That Jazz” (1979), “Missing” (1982), “The Mission” (1986), “The Piano” (1993), “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “Secrets & Lies” (1996), “The Pianist” (2002), “The Tree of Life” (2011) and “Amour” (2012). “Marty” is the only film that has won both prizes.
However, given the spotty Oscar track record record of foreign-language winners of the Palme d’Or, the prospects for Ostlund in the main Oscar races may not be as promising as they would otherwise seem. Five Palme d’Or champs have gone on to win the Foreign-Language Film Oscar: “Black Orpheus” from France (1959), “A Man and a Woman” from France (1966), “The Tin Drum” from West Germany (1979), “Pelle the Conqueror” from Denmark (1988) and “Amour” from Austria. And eight others were nominated for that Oscar: “Keeper of Promises” from Brazil (1962), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” from France (1964), “Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior” from Japan (1980), “Man of Iron” from Poland (1981), “When Father Was Away on Business” from Yugoslavia (1985), “Farewell My Concubine” from Hong Kong (1993), “The Class” from France (2008) and “The White Ribbon” from Germany (2009).
If Ostlund were to score a victory in the Best Foreign Language Film race, it would sweet revenge for him. His previous film, “Force Majeure,” which won the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard in 2014, was submitted by Sweden for the 87th Oscars. It made the shortlist for the Best Foreign Film category but shocked many when it did not get nominated.
The film with the highest Oscar profile this year, “The Beguiled,” earned the Best Director prize for Sofia Coppola. Coppola, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2003 for “Lost in Translation,” became the second woman to win the directing honor at Cannes after Soviet filmmaker Yuliya Solntseva claimed it for “The Story of the Flaming Years” back in 1961. But only six of the helmers who prevailed here went on to contend at the Oscars: Robert Altman for “The Player” (1992); Joel Coen for “Fargo” (1996); David Lynch for “Mulholland Drive” (2001); Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Babel” (2006); Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007); and Bennett Miller for “Foxcatcher.” Both “Fargo” and “Babel” earned Best Picture nominations.
The star of “The Beguiled,” Nicole Kidman, received the Special Prize in honor of the festival’s 70th anniversary. She appeared in four total projects at this year’s event: “The Beguiled,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” (Un Certain Regard) and “Top of the Lake: China Girl” (Out of Competition). However, films or individuals who have been singled out for prizes in honor of a major anniversary have a spotty record at the Oscars as well. In 2007, in honor of the 60th edition of the festival, the jury awarded a prize to Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park,” but that film went nowhere during awards season. However, five years before that, in 2002, Michael Moore‘s “Bowling for Columbine” took the prize in honor of the festival’s 55th edition. Moore would go on to claim the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
Joaquin Phoenix’s victory as Best Actor for Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here,” could give him a good boost towards his fourth Oscar nomination. Phoenix has already earned bids for Best Supporting Actor (“Gladiator” in 2000) and Best Actor (“Walk the Line” in 2005 and “The Master” in 2012). Fifteen winners of that award at Cannes have been nominated by the academy and five have taken home Oscar: Ray Milland for “The Lost Weekend” (1945); Jon Voight for “Coming Home” (1978); William Hurt for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1985); Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds” (2009, Supporting); and Jean Dujardin for “The Artist” (2011).
Best Actress winner Diane Kruger is no stranger to awards attention in the States. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 2009 SAG Awards for “Inglorious Basterds” and won as part of the movie’s ensemble. Twenty past Cannes champs for Best Actress received nominations from the academy, and four won: Simone Signoret for “Room at the Top” (1959); Sophia Loren for “Two Women” (1961); Sally Field for “Norma Rae” (1979); and Holly Hunter for “The Piano” (1993). The fact that Kruger gives her performance in another language (German) isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker either. In addition to that win by Loren (Italian), Melina Mercouri (“Never on Sunday” in 1960) and Penelope Cruz (“Volver” in 2006) both earned Best Actress nominations for performances in Greek and Spanish, respectively.
“120 Beats per Minute” by French director Robin Campillo won the Grand Prix prize at Cannes. The drama about AIDS activism in Europe during the early 1990s was well received across the board and could be a player in Best Foreign Language Film, should France submit it. Thirteen past Grand Prix winners went on to earn 22 total Oscar nominations with five films scoring seven wins. Each of that quintet — “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” from Italy (1970); “Cinema Paradiso” from Italy (1989); “Burnt by the Sun” from Russia (1994); “Life is Beautiful” from Italy (1998); and “Son of Saul” from Hungary (2015) — won Best Foreign-Language Film. “Life is Beautiful” also won Best Actor (Roberto Benigni) and Original Dramatic Score.
The Jury Prize, which went to Andrey Zvyagintsev’s widely praised “Loveless,” has a little Oscar correlation. Zvyagintsev’s last film “Leviathan” won Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2014 and went on to be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, and it won that prize at the Golden Globes. Eleven films that have won the Jury Prize have amassed 35 Oscar nominations and nine total wins. Among those wins were one for Best Picture (“All About Eve” which played at Cannes in 1951, the year after its six Oscar wins) and two for Best Foreign Language Film (“Mon Oncle” in 1958 from France and “Z” in 1969 from Algeria).
The prize for Best Screenplay was a tie between two English-language films: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou) and “You Were Never Really Here” (Lynne Ramsay). If either gets Oscar traction it would buck the trend of English-language winners here not getting Oscar recognition. But four screenplay winners at Cannes did go on to the Foreign Language Film Oscar: “Mephisto” from Hungary (1981), “No Man’s Land” from Bosnia and Herzegovina (2001), “The Barbarian Invasions” from Canada (2003) and “The Salesman” from Iran (2016). And two others were nominated: “Footnote” from Israel (2011) and “Leviathan” from Russia (2014).
Even with the awards being very spread out, which is stipulated by the rules of the Cannes Film Festival, several very well-received movies did go home empty-handed. Among the movies left out of the closing ceremonies were “Wonderstruck” by Todd Haynes, “A Gentle Creature” by Sergey Loznitsa, “L’Amant Double” by Francois Ozon and “Good Time” by Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie.