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Awards Update: Post-Cannes Realignment

June 18, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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Welcome to an ongoing series where I cover the 2024/2025 awards season. On a regular basis, I will update my Oscar predictions, taking into account the new information that has been received since the last update. Full predictions in every category can be found on the Home and Awards page.

Two of the Big Five (plus Telluride as the unofficial sixth member) film festivals have concluded for the year, which means it's time to take stock of where we are in the Oscar race. 

The chants of "U-S-A!" rang throughout the Palais a few Saturdays ago as Sean Baker’s New York-set Anora took home the Palme d’Or, the first American film to reign victorious since Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life in 2011. Having attended the festival and seen the film for myself, I can say that Anora is Baker’s best shot yet to gain some Oscar recognition. It’s his most commercial film, a laugh-out-loud comedy that manages to instill some social and political commentary along the way. It’s also overlong and not his most incisive work, but the sheer amount of fun it incites makes up for that.

Given the recently announced October 18 release date by Neon, the film will most likely replicate the rollout strategy of Red Rocket. Splashy appearances at Telluride and the New York Film Festival are almost a given, with the biggest question being the possibility of a stop at TIFF. You’d have to go back to 2008’s The Class to find a Palme d’Or winner that didn’t make an appearance at TIFF, with, coincidentally, The Tree of Life being the exception as it released in theaters in June. You’d then have to go back to 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to find a film that premiered in Cannes and then went on to win the TIFF People’s Choice Award. Parasite came close in 2019 as it won the Palme d’Or and then placed in the second runner-up position at TIFF. Given my audience’s reaction to Anora, and that of critics, I think there’s a strong possibility that it places well at TIFF, if it decides to show. Neon has taken each of their four previous Palme d’Or winners (Parasite, Titane, Triangle of Sadness, Anatomy of a Fall) to TIFF, with three of them earning a Best Picture nomination later down the line (Titane was never going to be serious Oscar player).

As for nomination outcomes Anora could replicate, I’d look towards the strictly above-the-line, overall low-nomination players such as Licorice Pizza, Women Talking, and Past Lives. An Original Screenplay nomination feels like a lock at this point, with Best Director being in the mix. I was hesitant about both Jonathan Glazer and Justine Triet last year, so Baker finding his way into the final five would not surprise me.

Staying within the winner’s circle, Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine as Light marked a triumphant return for India to the Croisette after a nearly thirty-year absence. Janus Films holds the domestic distribution rights, the same company that guided Drive My Car’s hugely successful and influential underdog campaign in 2021. The reactions out of Cannes for Kapadia’s film are just as high as they were for Hamaguchi’s. We’ll just have to wait and see how much the critical enthusiasm for the film survives until later in the year, as Drive My Car didn’t announce itself as a serious Oscar player until it won the Best Picture prize from all three major U.S. critics groups (LAFCA, NYFCC, NSFC). There’s also the problem of Kapadia not being a popular figure by the Indian government, which dampens the film’s chances of being submitted for Best International Feature.

The French/Mexican production Emilia Perez will surely find itself submitted by the former country, save for the unlikely possibility of another French film stealing the spotlight during the fall festivals. Netflix made the splashiest acquisition of the festival when it scooped up the domestic distribution rights, a move that bodes well for the number of eyeballs that will be fixated on this Spanish-language crime musical. At the moment, I’m still questioning what kind of Oscar player it will be. I could equally see a scenario where it nabs a half-dozen nominations, including Best Picture, and a scenario where it just finds itself with a single ho-hum placement in Best International Feature.

While I certainly didn’t envision Yorgos Lanthimos’ Kinds of Kindness to be as dominant as The Favourite and Poor Things, I did think the vibe would have been a little more Oscar-friendly. The good-but-not-great reactions and quick release don’t bode well for the film, which is making me lower its overall nomination total from six (including Best Picture), to just a namecheck nomination in Best Original Screenplay, which I’ll likely drop once the fall festivals reveal more contenders.

I can confidently say that Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis will not be an Oscar player in any category, as most of the negative aspects of my mixed review stemmed from the film’s poor production values and acting. Its recent acquisition by Lionsgate doesn’t add any strength to its chances, but it does make me happy that more people will be able to see it.

Still stuck in destitution hell is Ali Abassi’s Donald Trump biopic The Apprentice, of which I was a big fan. I’d still be a bit skeptical of the film’s awards chances if it had landed a distribution deal at the festival, so the lack of one really puts a dent in any hope one might have for it.

Mohammad Rasoulof’s The Seed of the Sacred Fig was certainly my Palme d’Or prediction going into the final day, so walking away only with a Special Prize of the Jury certainly felt like a disappointment. I’m sure Neon felt the same way as they picked up the film midway through the festival. The critical reception is still quite high, so there’s a chance it could find some critics' group love later in the year. Iran will not be submitting it for Best International Feature, and I’m not sure Neon will be giving it the push it needs now that its eggs are firmly in the Anora basket.

The rest of the summer season will be spent evaluating likely below-the-line players such as Twisters, Deadpool & Wolverine, and Alien: Romulus. We’ll also be getting a steady dripping of fall festival rumors and lineup announcements. I’ll have another update in a few months before the fall festivals commence.

'Twisters' Review

Is it a good or bad sign if the most interesting aspect of a disaster movie is the humans?

'Longlegs' Review

There’s definitely enough going on to burrow in your head and go home with you.

'Fly Me to the Moon' Review

A winning combination of heart and humor aimed squarely at adults

'MaXXXine' Review

If Ti West's X trilogy will be remembered for anything, it's how slippery it got after the first film.

'Mother, Couch' Review

Larsson may have had a lot of confidence in what he was doing, but I’m pretty sure he’s the only one who will get anything out of this.
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