Oh, have times changed.
In the wake of last weekend's 62nd Cannes Film Festival, one thing was redundantly clear: Oscar passed by the croissette this season. It's been decades since a Palm d'Or winner has gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (The Envelope's Tom O'Neil studiously notes that hasn't happened since "Marty" in 1955). However, the films and performances at Cannes have had a major impact on the Awards Season race in the past few years.
Before expanding on how dreadful this year was, here's a quick rundown of festival selections who eventually received Oscar nods over just the past three years alone:
"Changeling," "The Class," "Waltz with Bashir," "Vicky Christina Barcelona"
"No Country for Old Men," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Sicko," "Persepolis"
"Babel," "Volver," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Marie Antoinette," "Indigenes"
This snapshot features one best picture winner (out of two nominees), two best actress nods and a supporting actress winner last year with Cruz for "Barcelona." This year the festival will be lucky if it can get more than two best foreign language film nominations out of its selections. That's pretty much it.
Leading the pack of foreign film contenders is Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon," which won this year's Palm d'Or and runner up "A Prophet" by Jacques Audiard. American critics went gaga for "Fish Tank," but there is no guarantee it will hit U.S. screens this year or is anything more than Indie Spirit fodder. Early buzz was positive for Ben Whishaw in Jane Champion's "Bright Star," but the consensus on the film was that it was a pretty mediocre period flick (which is still an improvement for Champion who has fallen far since 1993's "The Piano"). Christoph Waltz was universally praised for his role in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and won a best actor prize from the Cannes Jury, but anyone guaranteeing he's a lock for a best supporting actor when nominations are announced next January is already deluding themselves. Only one thing is certain, Cannes recognition or not, Charlotte Gainsbourg isn't coming anywhere close to a best actress nod for her role in Lars Von Trier's mostly reviled "Antichrist." Disappointingly though, neither "Basterds" (Wolf excepted) nor Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" made enough waves to create awards buzz for the fall (although this writer is still looking forward to Lee's latest when it hits screens in August).
So, where does that leave the 12-months-a-year awards season race at this stage in the game? Sundance Film Festival jury and audience award winner "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" is still going to be a player (and I will place money on Mo'Nique getting a best supporting actress nod) as is Sony Classics' pickup "An Education." Both pictures begin limited runs in the fall.
Intriguingly, even the usually sullen summer season even has a number of qualified candidates. June reveals "The Hurt Locker" which premiered at last year's Venice Film Festival and is a powerful thriller that if shepherded right, could get play in the directing and screenplay categories (bizarrely Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie received Indie Spirit Award nods for best actor and best supporting actor last year which could hurt them this season). Word has it Judd Apatow's "Funny People" may surprise people for being a much more accomplished feature than you'd expect of an Adam Sandler flick and the always creative Michael Mann may deliver with "Public Enemies." Beyond that, it's a sparse number of quality indie releases such as "Cheri" and "Away we Go" which probably won't have enough to sustain them until the heavy hitters arrive in September and October (more on the frontrunners down the road).
And, of course, your runaway leader in the best animated feature film category is this weekend's major opener, "Up." No pun intended but an up-set at this point for the latest Pixar instant classic is almost unthinkable although August's "Ponyo" from Japanese legend Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away") could be a dark horse. Moreover, a question already being raised (at least with my awards friendly buddies) is will there be enough qualified entries to expand the field to five nominees instead of three? It hasn't happened since 2003 and 16 paid submissions are required for the additional two nominees (not an easy order these days). If the field is not expanded, a few of these potential nominees : "9," "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Coraline," "Monsters vs. Aliens" or "The Princess and the Frog," are all in danger of being shafted. And sadly, these are all pictures that would be potential shoe in's any other year (assuming the unseen don't suck of course). Who was that who said there wasn't any drama in the animated categories again?
It's almost June, in a month most awards season planning will be ramping up. Enjoy the break consultants, publicists and prognosticators, considering all the questions regarding this upcoming season, you'll need it.
Want more scoop on Oscar, Awards Season and those classy prestige pics? Follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at twitter.com/HitFixGregory.