Will Cannes hit ‘Youth’ bring Michael Caine, Jane Fonda back to Oscars?

Two years ago, Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino won the Foreign-Language Film Oscar for “The Great Beauty.” His second English-language feature, “Youth,” unspooled at Cannes on Wednesday to a rousing reception. Fox Searchlight acquired the title last month and plans to release it in the fourth quarter, perfectly positioned for awards season.

Two-time Oscar champ Michael Caine (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” 1986; “The Cider House Rules,” 1999) plays a conductor holidaying at a Swiss spa with his long-time friend, a director (Harvey Keitel) determined to make one final film. While Caine’s character is visited by his daugher, 2005 Supporting Actress winner Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”), Keitel’s is content to spend time with a gaggle of screenwriters who are plotting his screen comeback. 

Another two-time Oscar winner, Jane Fonda (“Klute,” 1971; “Coming Home,” 1978), has a small but pivotal role as a fading film star. In a case of art imitating life, this screen legend ruminates on a career path that is taking her to television. Fonda is a strong Emmy contender this year for the freshman season of the Netflix laffer “Grace and Frankie.” (Make your Emmy predictions below and enter our contest to win $1,000.) 

One of our leading Oscarologists, Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) waxes poetic about the picture: “‘Youth’ is a melancholy look at aging and love. It tells its story with epic sweep, even though it takes place in a singular location — a spa in the hills of Switzerland. The canvas is the internal world of the actors who move through emotional ups and downs while the camera catches them at their best and worst moments.” Read the rest of her rave here

Despite making more than 100 movies, Caine has only been to Cannes once before — with “Alfie” way back in 1966. That film earned him the first of his half dozen Oscar bids to date. In a testament to his longevity, those nominations have been spread out over five decades with his other three Best Actor nominations coming in 1972 (“Sleuth”), 1983 (“Educating Rita”) and 2002 (“The Quiet American”).

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At 82, Sir Michael would be the oldest Best Actor nominee in Oscar history, a record currently held by Richard Farnsworth, who was 79 when he contended in 1999 for “The Straight Story.” The oldest Best Actor winner to date was Henry Fonda, who finally won at age 76 for 1981’s “On Golden Pond.”

That picture was produced by his daughter, Jane, and marked her only entry in the Supporting Actress race; she lost to Peggy Ashcroft (“A Passage to India”). Ashcroft was 77 when she prevailed with her first Oscar bid but ill health prevented her from attending the ceremony. That is the same age that the fighting fit Fonda is now. She turns 78 in December and would be the oldest-ever winner of the category. 

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