ZAMM.COM: Cannes Competition

By Martin Grove,

Cannes competition: Don't look now, but the awards season is coming back to life. And like the villain at the end of a horror thriller, the awards business just won't die. After finally ending March 2 with the Oscars, it is rebooting now as the 67th Cannes Film Festival kicks off on May 14 and Hollywood starts positioning new films for Oscar consideration.

Cannes is the first big global media event on Hollywood's calendar that can put the spotlight on Oscar hopefuls. Media from around the world turn up every mid-May on Cannes' main thoroughfare, the Croisette, where the city's famous hotels and grand theatre, the Palais des Festivals, are located. For two weeks they focus global attention on the festival's stars and starlets, lavish non-stop parties, moguls' yachts moored in the harbor, round-the-clock screenings and also the endless deal-making in the companion film market.

Winning the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or--or any of its acting awards, is the perfect way to get an awards buzz going and put a film on Hollywood handicappers' radar. Of course, there also are times when success at Cannes just doesn't translate into Oscar noms. But even though there are no guarantees, competing at Cannes is clearly a great way to try to elevate a film's awards profile.

Here's a look at some of the high profile titles playing in competition this time around.

One film you won't find on the list is Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' 3D sci-fi action adventure Godzilla, which will hold the spotlight at this weekend's box office.

Godzilla, opening at about 3,800 theatres, isn't up for the Palme d'Or, but it's a safe bet to win lots of box office gold. It's tracking in double digits as an overall first choice for moviegoers and is doing best with under-25 males and nearly as well with men over 25.

While many films playing at Cannes are hoping to put together domestic distribution deals, that's not the case with Foxcatcher. Directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball), the film is set to open in the U.S. Nov. 14 via Sony Pictures Classics. It was to have been released late last year to qualify for Oscar consideration, but SPC moved it forward to give Miller more time to finish it.

Foxcatcher is the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and their relationship with the eccentric heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune, John du Pont (Steve Carell), that led to murder. Miller was a best directing Oscar, BAFTA and DGA nominee in 2006 for Capote. Foxcatcher is his first Palme d'Or nomination.

This is also a first time Palme d'Or nom for French-born director Olivier Dahan, whose drama Grace of Monaco is the festival's opening-night selection. The film, about the life of Hollywood star Grace Kelly after her storybook marriage to Monaco's Prince Rainier, is to be distributed domestically by The Weinstein Company.

Grace is already controversial because two different versions have been edited and TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and the filmmakers are seriously at odds over which cut should be released.

Published reports describe TWC's version as a light fairy tale with a strong dose of wish fulfillment. In contrast, the version done by Dahan and producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, is said to be a darker more melodramatic account that highlights Kelly's hardships upon her arrival in the monarchy. The opening night audience at Cannes will see the filmmakers' cut of the film.

Meanwhike, Mike Leigh, whose Mr. Turner is a Palme d'Or nominee, is no stranger to Cannes. Leigh won the Palme d'Or in 1996 for Secrets & Lies and won best director in 1993 for Naked. His new film, a biographical drama about the life of British artist J.M.W. Turner, stars Tom Wlaschiha, Timothy Spall and James Norton. It's being released domestically by Sony Pictures Classics. Leigh is 77 and it's been said this may be the last feature he makes.

Atom Egoyan is another filmmaker who's very familiar to Cannes festivalgoers. His new film, The Captive, is a Palme d'Or nominee. A thriller about a father seeking his kidnapped daughter, it stars Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson.

The Search, Michel Hazanavicius' first feature since The Artist, is a Palme d'Or nominee. The drama set in war-torn Chechnya stars Berenice Bejo, Annette Bening and Nika Kipshidze. Hazanavicius' first Palme d'Or nom was in 2011 for The Artist, which led to his best directing Oscar win.

David Cronenberg is another longtime Cannes participant. He's a Palme d'Or nominee this year for his R-rated drama Maps to the Stars, starring Carrie Fisher, Julianne Moore and Robert Pattinson. Maps, whose storyline revolves around a Hollywood dynasty family. It's being distributed domestically by eOne Entertainment.

Tommy Lee Jones' western drama The Homesman is his second Palme d'Or nomination. His first was in 2005 for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, for which he won best actor. Jones stars in Homesman with Hilary Swank and Grace Gummer.

Olivier Assayas is another familiar name to Cannes festivalgoers. His drama Clouds of Sils Maria stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche and will be distributed in the U.S. by IFC Films. Binoche plays an actress with a long theatrical career behind her who's unexpectedly offered a role that would bring her back to where her career began.

Playing out of competition, but still likely to benefit from its exposure at Cannes is DreamWorks Animation's 3D animated action adventure How to Train Your Dragon 2, opening domestically June 13 via 20th Century Fox. Directed by Dean DeBlois, its voice talents include Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig and America Ferrera.

Bottom line: What happens on the Croisette doesn't usually stay on the Croisette. Winning at Cannes can give Oscar hopefuls a big boost.

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