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Harvey Weinstein has been using the Cannes Film Festival to position The Weinstein Company's awards hopefuls nicely the last few years. How are things shaping up for the 66th annual? First, a brief history...
In 2011, a few months after finally landing a post-Miramax Best Picture Oscar for "The King's Speech," he made a big splash in acquiring last-minute Cannes addition "The Artist" and "The Iron Lady" (which screened five minutes of footage on the market) out of the 64th annual fest. We all know how that turned out: the black-and-white French silent skipped like a stone on festival waters throughout the rest of the year, building an army of audience appreciation and, eventually, top honors at the 84th annual Academy Awards in 2012. And Meryl Streep won her third Oscar to date.
A few months after the 2012 Oscars, Weinstein was back in France bigtime, this time to generate chatter around his latter-year releases "Django Unchained," "The Master" and "Silver Linings Playbook" with a somewhat unusual footage presentation event. It was a nice taste-tester moment to get people looking ahead, but he also had an eye toward acquisitions.
Plenty was made of the pre-fest pick-up of "Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden" (née "Code Name: Geronimo"), which would hit theaters before "Zero Dark Thirty" but fade away instantly. But Weinstein also picked up a few other titles, including Wayne Blair's "The Sapphires," which he also took to a number of festivals throughout the fall -- including Telluride and Toronto -- before finally releasing it in theaters last month. And that's before we get to the two films he brought directly to the fest, John Hillcoat's "Lawless" (acquired at the fest a year prior) and Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly."
Of course, Weinstein has enjoyed a healthy history with Cannes, to say the least. Films that either came to the south of France in the Miramax stable or were soon picked up by the distributor, from "sex, lies and videotape" to "The Piano," "Pulp Fiction" to "Fahrenheit 9/11"* -- Palme d'Or winners all -- have been landmarks in cinema history.
So…what does Weinstein have on the horizon for the 66th annual fest?
It has already been announced that he'll be teasing footage of a fall release once again, this time with Olivier Dahan's Grace Kelly biopic "Grace of Monaco," starring Nicole Kidman. In the Competition line-up, he'll have James Gray's "The Immigrant" (née "Lowlife," and potentially something to look for in the craft and performance departments in the awards season), as well as, via the RADiUS-TWC label, Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives" (with Kristin Scott Thomas poised to pounce on the season). Not only that but, as he did with "Blue Valentine" in 2010, he's landed an Un Certain Regard spot with Sundance player "Fruitvale Station" (née "Fruitvale").
My instinct on that one is that it's probably a bit small for Oscar (meaning for a third straight year, Weinstein will be a big player at the Independent Spirit Awards), but who knows? People will definitely be talking about performances from Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer. And beyond all that, anything can happen in the acquisitions department.
Suffice it to say, Cannes has become a new sandbox for Mr. Weinstein. He's finding ways to position his films, sometimes to awards season success, sometimes not. But ever the hustler, the man is -- and has been -- back in the game in a big way. And the Croisette is clearly a part of that strategy.
Guy and Greg will be covering from the south of France this year. Be sure to check out all the coverage next month.
The 66th annual Cannes Film Festival runs May 15 - May 26.
*"Fahrenheit 9/11" was a special case (to say the least) of a Miramax film that Disney blocked from being distributed by the company.
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