Previewing the Cannes Film Festival awards: What will win, and what should

Who will get the gold from Steven Spielberg and his fellow jurors?

<p>Can Michael Douglas win Best Actor at Cannes for an Emmy-bound performance?</p>

Can Michael Douglas win Best Actor at Cannes for an Emmy-bound performance?

Credit: HBO

CANNES - I say it every year: trying to predict the Cannes Film Festival awards is a fool's errand. Unlike, say, the Oscars, you aren't making educated guesses about a large, consistent body of voters with plenty of precedent and precursor information to go on. The Cannes jury is tiny, highly idiosyncratic and changes every year; you're effectively trying to read the minds of nine individuals with no voting track record. Who knows whether Nicole Kidman harbors a quiet passion for Mexican new wave cinema, or if Steven Spielberg is an unlikely Jim Jarmusch devotee? Perhaps not even them, until they see the films in question.

Every time you decide a certain Palme d'Or contender seems too obvious (Michael Haneke's "Amour") to win, that's precisely the route they'll go; every time the stars seem to have aligned perfectly for one film (Haneke again, with"Cache"), the jury will crown a far less talked-about title.

But here's something else I do every year: predict the Cannes Film Festival awards. Because, hey, it's fun, and absolutely nobody expects you to be right. Least of all this year, when the race for the Palme d'Or seems particularly open. In the last few days, one film (Abdellatif Kechiche's intimate epic "Blue is the Warmest Color") as emerged as the critical favorite of the festival, leading all polls and scooping the FIPRESCI Award -- but it hardly stands head and shoulders above the competition in a solid lineup where very few films misfired. (I think we can safely discount "Jimmy P." from the conversation.)

"Inside Llewyn Davis," "Like Father, Like Son," "The Immigrant," "The Great Beauty" and "The Past"are just some of the films that have found devoted bands of admirers on the Croisette in the last 12 days -- any one of them could be The One. Could Steven Soderbergh mark his supposed retirement with second Palme d'Or, 24 years after winning for his debut? Which Frenchwoman will emerge victorious in a highly Gallic-flavored Best Actress race -- or can an outsider elbow her way in? And how many awards will "Only God Forgives" rack up? Okay, we know the answer to that one. But never say never. It's Cannes.

Click through the gallery below for my thoughts on who will win -- and who should win -- in each of the seven Competition award categories. Who do you think is taking the Palme d'Or?

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Guy Lodge
Critic
Guy Lodge is a South African-born critic and sometime screenwriter. In addition to his work at In Contention, he is a freelance contributor to Variety, Time Out, Empire and The Guardian. He lives well beyond his means in London.
2013-2014 OSCAR NOMINATIONS
UPDATED: MARCH 2, 2014