While the betting on who will win the Palme d’Or has only just begun, speculation about which Cannes Film Festival debuts could go all the way to the Academy Awards is also about to heat up. But in recent years, several Cannes bows that had prognosticators swooning failed to live up to big Oscar expectations, leaving producers and studios worrying that the festival can be a risky launching pad for awards hopefuls.
Jeff Nichols’ Loving (2016) was critically praised but earned only one nomination (for lead actress Ruth Negga); 2015’s Carol — whose director, Todd Haynes, will try again this year with Wonderstruck — was nominated for six Oscars but walked away empty-handed; and in 2014, Foxcatcher scored five noms but won zilch.
“What happened with Carol is very disappointing because I personally think the film is a masterpiece,” says Peter Watson of HanWay Films, which handled its international rights. “But I don’t think the fact that a film is recognized in Cannes in any way is going to somehow impact on how it progresses through the nomination and awards seasons. There’s just something in the air each year around the Oscars that you can’t account for.”
The challenges of debuting at Cannes and then keeping the momentum going for nine months has led some filmmakers to prefer the fall festivals of Venice and Toronto. And while sources say that some major studio films nervously shied away from Cannes this year, insiders still insist the fest works for certain types of projects, especially foreign films that need a splashy debut to catch the world’s attention. Witness the 2016 trio of The Salesman (which won the best foreign-language film Oscar), Elle (best actress nominee Isabelle Huppert) and Toni Erdmann (best foreign-language film nominee).
Cannes can also be a smart choice for debuting a film that’s still looking for distribution, says Mike MacMillan, producer of Critics’ Week entry Mobile Homes, from director Vladimir de Fontenay. “The nice thing about Cannes is, after your premiere, you have a couple of months to get your ducks in a row — to plan your awards strategy,” he says.
More from: The Hollywood Reporter