CANNES — If it's opening day at the Cannes Film Festival that means it's time for another awkward press conference with the competition jury. Typically, a Cannes jury is comprised of nine directors, actors and artists from all over the world who have often never met each other beforehand and have no intention of tipping their hands that they might actually already be looking forward to seeing particular films in the competition. The good news is that you can always count on a few members of the international press corps to ask some silly questions or get their facts so inexplicably wrong (guys, "Mad Max: Fury Road" isn't in competition) you wonder how they got credentialed in the first place.
CANNES — It doesn't take long to understand the important message Emmanuelle Bercot wants to convey with her new drama "La tête haute" (Standing Tall)." Effectively, she wants you to know that the juvenile court system can be used to positively affect the lives of troubled youth, but if and only if the people involved care enough to stick by their kids. To Bercot's credit, it's a particular point of view that you rarely hear of outside of documentaries and hour-long news programs. Unfortunately, "Standing Tall" takes way too long to reach its happy ending.
Angelina Jolie, Kristen Stewart or Ryan Gosling won't be walking the iconic red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Nor will Lionsgate be holding another glamorous shindig with J-Law, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth on hand to celebrate it's blockbuster "Hunger Games" franchise. And, thankfully, we won't have the "Expendables" crew pretending to drive a tank down la Croisette. That being said, the 68th Festival du Cannes may have more recognizable Hollywood or Hollywood-adjacent stars on hand than in recent memory. There are at least eight English-language films in competition and studio fare such as Pixar's "Inside Out," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and Woody Allen's latest, "Irrational Man," are screening as well. Basically, if you're a movie fan, you should pay attention because many of the films we'll be reporting on won't just hit your local art house, but mega-multiplex as well.
OK, we have more than a half a year of movies to go, so "win" is hyperbole. But thanks for clicking all the same. What I'm saying is George Miller's latest is such a nuts-and-bolts marvel of the form that not only should it be up for consideration in a number of areas, it really ought to be the impetus that drives the Academy to finally add a certain new category that has long been championed in some industry circles.
Two years after his Oscar-winning juggernaut "Gravity" opened the Venice Film Festival, director Alfonso Cuarón has been tapped to preside over the International Jury for the upcoming 72nd edition of the fall festival season kick-off.
John Seale was retired. Then George Miller dangled a "Mad Max" movie in front of his face and, well, how can an Aussie say no? The 40-year veteran jumped right into the maelstrom Miller and his team were conjuring in the desert of west Africa and, along with killer second unit teams, captured one of the most innervating experiences of the year in "Mad Max: Fury Road." Oh, and he turned 70 years old while doing all of this.
Last year's edition of the Cannes International Film Festival brought with it the usual early awards possibilities. Some went the distance (Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" in a number of categories). Others fell short (Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner"). But while Sundance is certainly stepping up its awards-relevance game, the Croisette is where people really start pondering how the film year will shake out once the Oscar drums start banging late in the fall.
Before Oscar-winning cinematographer John Seale shuffled off to retirement, only to be lured back into the fray by director George Miller for the virtuoso stylings of "Mad Max: Fury Road," he clocked a lot of hours working with filmmaker Anthony Minghella. The two collaborated on three major productions: 1996's "The English Patient," 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and 2003's "Cold Mountain."
The 1999 entry is, full stop, a masterpiece of modern cinema. With shades of latter-day Hitchcock pulsing through a narrative wound uncomfortably tight, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" might be the finest work Minghella, who passed away in 2008, ever committed to the screen. It features more than just evocative, but rather outright palpable atmosphere and a detailed sense of place. Minghella coaxed incredibly layered performances out of actors like Matt Damon, Jude Law (Oscar nominated for his work), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett and, as ever, told the story visually in captivating ways.
If at first you don't succeed…
Last year's big Universal Pictures/Angelina Jolie (Pitt) prestige fall/winter release, "Unbroken," didn't exactly make Oscar season waves upon arrival. But the actress/filmmaker was hard at work on her follow-up throughout, so I'm sure that did a lot to take her mind off how many nominations the film wasn't receiving (and how many nasty things were being said about her in hacked corporate emails). And so she and the studio will give it another go later this year with "By the Sea," starring Jolie and husband Brad Pitt.