It's a long way from May in France to February in Los Angeles, but the Cannes Film Festival has often been a breeding ground for Academy Awards campaigns.
The Oscars aren't much on the minds of the filmmakers or attendees in Cannes; the festival is its own achievement, with nearly as much spectacle and prestige as the Academy Awards. Oscar potential, though, is often born in Cannes, and some early handshaking with the Hollywood Foreign Press, which puts on the Golden Globes, is sometimes sneaked into busy schedules.
Not since 2011's The Artist has a Cannes Palme d'Or winner gone on to win best picture. And, if anything, the fall gauntlet of festivals — Telluride, Toronto, Venice, New York — has recently only reasserted itself as the premiere path to the Oscars. Such was the road of most of the recent best-picture winners, including Moonlight, Birdman and 12 Years a Slave.
Still, Cannes last year kick-started eventual nominees like the best-picture candidate Hell or High Water, Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), The Lobster (which scored a screenplay nod) and foreign-language winner The Salesman. The 2015 Cannes accounted for nearly 20 nominations, including Mad Max: Fury Road, Carol, Inside Out and Son of Saul.
This year's festival, which concludes Sunday with the Palme d'Or presentation, might not produce such a haul as that. But standing ovations on the Croisette appear likely to lead to awards consideration for a number of big names — some of whom aren't the usual suspects.
Adam Sandler — When Sandler has waded into drama, he's often won raves. But even more than his turns in Punch Drunk Love and Spanglish, Sandler's tender, rumpled performance as a recently divorced father in Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) was hailed as a new high point for the Sand Man. The Netflix release could also earn some attention for Dustin Hoffman, who with typical distinction plays the prickly father of Sandler in the film.
Nicole Kidman — It's less a question of whether Kidman will be back in the Oscar hunt than for which film. She had two in competition in Cannes: Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster follow-up The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled, a remake of Don Siegel's 1971 Civil War thriller. While the nod for The Lobster suggests considerable support for Lanthimos' grandly demented comedies, the handsome period piece The Beguiled — in which Kidman plays the headmaster of a Virginia girls' boarding school — is probably the more likely shot. If the movie, which opens June 30, earned enough buzz, it could lead to attention for others, too, like Colin Farrell (Kidman's co-star in Sacred Deer), Kirsten Dunst and Coppola's directing.
Robert Pattinson — Pattinson's former Twilight co-star, Kristen Stewart, has used Cannes to show a new side to herself in films like Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. Now, Pattinson has, too. His scruffy, scuzzy performance as a Queens bank robber in Benny and Josh Safdie's Good Time was immediately hailed at a career-best for the 31-year-old actor.
Wind River — As the writer of Hell or High Water and Sicario, Taylor Sheridan's Texas tales have already earned him a reputation for intense and weighty crime dramas. Wind River, which first premiered at Sundance in January, makes it three in a row for Sheridan, now making his directorial debut. The film is about a murder investigation on an Indian Reservation and its lead, Jeremy Renner, is also a standout.
The Florida Project — Sean Baker's previous film, Tangerine, didn't make it to the Oscars, but it nearly did, landing on top-10 lists and taking critics awards — all despite being shot on an iPhone. For The Florida Project, Baker switched to 35mm for this story about a pair of poor 6-year-old girls living in Orlando budget motels and in the shadow of Walt Disney World. It was one of the few runaway hits of the festival.
Wonderstruck — Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck might not boast awards-friendly lead performances like Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in his last film, Carol. But Wonderstruck, Haynes' adaptation of Brian Selznick's young-adult book, is every bit as finely crafted in stitching together two parallel story lines between 1927 and 1977. Large parts of the film are also mostly wordless — there have been The Artist comparisons — with Haynes using all his cinematic abilities to weave his magic. Carter Burwell's score, at the least, should be an automatic.
Others — Cannes entries will surely help fill the foreign-language category, and early possibilities include the French AIDS drama 120 Beats Per Minute; Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan follow-up, Loveless; and Ruben Ostlund's The Square. And it would be difficult to ever count out Tilda Swinton, who — as she did in the Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar! — plays twin sisters, this time in Bong Joon-ho's Okja.
Few would have guessed that Huppert or, for that matter, Mad Max, would become such an awards force coming out the last two festivals. But with eight months to go until the Oscars, the bounty from Cannes surely holds more surprises in store.