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I thought Fast & Furious 6 was pretty fantastic.  The hyperbolic bombast led to a sense of ridiculous fun all too often forgotten in summer blockbusters.  I’ve got plenty of thoughts on the film, but as the opening credits rolled, I came to a surprising realization.  (Caution: one minor spoiler below.)

Guess how many people from the film are proud Spirit Award nominees?

This swaggiest of Hollywood sequels contains at least four!

Director Justin Lin was nominated for the John Cassevetes award for Better Luck Tomorrow.  He lost to the team behind The Station Agent, a film I find quite wonderful.

Michelle Rodriguez won Best Debut Performance for her role in Girlfight.  Other nominees included Rory Culkin, Mike White, and the simply amazing Emmy Rossum.

John Ortiz returns to the franchise in this installment.  He was nominated for the truly horrible Jack Goes Boating, losing out to John Hawkes’s performance in Winter’s Bone.

And Thure Lindhardt was up for Best Male Lead in the most recent Spirit Awards for his turn in Keep the Lights On, also losing out to John Hawkes (The Sessions).

Now that you’ve read the pick by pick breakdown of our fantasy Cannes draft, let’s see what everyone’s strategy and thoughts were:


I struggled throughout with balancing what I actually thought could be good with what I felt the Frenchies at Cannes would actually think was good. I’m generally really pleased with my slate and with one lone exception, and presuming they turn out to be halfway decent, would be interested in seeing them. I used IonCinema’s countdown as my guide for these picks.


Team Name: The Long and Winding Refn

Going into the draft, my strategy was to lean towards the buzzworthy and Francophone. I wanted films from directors who seemed to be veterans of the film festival circuit, and perhaps due for a win or two. All told, I’m a little worried that I drafted with too strong an American bias, passing up great native performances for movies that belong more to this continent either in content or in casting. That said, I am happy with many of the movies in terms of their PR campaign and ability to seize the moment, and I look forward to the competition to find out if they are able to capitalize.


Earning admission to walk the Croisette is already the mark of a certain quality, so I was looking for things that set the films apart.  I grabbed the only female- and African-helmed movies in competition, for example.  Not sure I loved having last pick.  I don’t mind my first-rounder, but picking on the end means I really couldn’t try to game the draft too much.  I had a sneaking suspicion that Grisgris would have fallen back to me in round 3, for example, but didn’t make sense to risk it.  I would be remiss if I didn’t link to Neil Young’s Cannes odds, which broke a tie or two for me.  Ian also points out IonCinema’s two sets of odds, from Blake Williams and Nicholas Bell.  And Guy Lodge’s series at InContention has been fantastic, and if it had a set link, I’d use it.

After the rousing success of fantasy Sundance, we are back with fantasy Cannes – Cannestasy as Ian so cleverly puts it.  Point values are:

5 points – Palm d’Or

4 points – Grand Prix and Prize of Un Certain Regard

3 points – Jury Prize

2 Points – Director (including Camera d’Or), Actor, and Actress awards

1 Point – All other awards, including Palm Dog (which goes to the best dog in a film.  Duh.)

The festival starts May 15th.  You can find the list of films here, though I’ll note the list changed slightly during our draft (which, like all good drafts, was snaking).  The awards are largely limited to the Competition and Un Certain Regard categories, so we only drafted movies in those programs.

Ian and Gavin joined in with Brian, John, and yours truly.  And everyone was kind enough to contribute some thoughts about their picks.  Except Gavin, who stayed silent in honor of Adam.  To the draft!


GavinThe Past (trailer)
BrianInside Llewyn Davis (trailer)
Going with an American film with my top pick was a huge risk, especially one that is distinctly American in setting, but the Coen brothers have had success at Cannes in the past. It also looks good and has strong buzz. I strongly considered Only God Forgives, but was sorely disappointed by Drive and really have no desire to see it. Since the stakes in this contest are so high, I wanted to be able to root for my films.
JohnLike Father, Like Son
I steered away from big-name directors. After that, I just picked whatever seemed artsy fartsy but still approachable. I used Neil Young’s Cannes odds page as a guide. This family drama fit all the criteria.
IanOnly God Forgives (trailer)
My first pick, may have been an early pick, but I actually had it even higher, at the top of the board. I don’t see nearly the amount of movies as the rest of my leaguemates, so I didn’t know much about the content of Drive. However, I do know a little bit about the hype cycle, and it seems to me from the outside that both Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling are ready to explode if Only God Forgives lives up to its pre-festival billing. They seem to be at a precipice for success, and I’d be surprised if the movie, director, and star aren’t all in contention for major awards. I also see a lot of the indie awards potentially headed their way, if these associations look to stay on trend. And hey, maybe it could win the Palm Dog.
JaredThe Immigrant
Cannes appears to be the only place that loves James Gray. But man, do they love themselves some James Gray, as this film is Gray’s fourth Palm d’Or nomination. Originally titled Lowlife, the film is set in 1920 New York, with Marion Cotillard playing a Polish immigrant who becomes a prostitute at the hands of Jeremy Renner and then falling in love with magician Joaquin Phoenix. The film has been buzzing, Gray seems a good candidate to step forward and reach his awards potential, and the cast should be strong play here as well.


Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s prior effort, A Screaming Man, was nominated for the Palm d’Or in 2010 and won the Jury Prize. This one tells the story of a paralyzed man who dreams of being a dancer only to get involved with gasoline smugglers. Awards bait. The film is, I believe, the only one in competition with an African pedigree (the director is from Chad), which I think could help set it apart.
IanJimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
Could do similarly well, although there’s no way that title is making it to the States. Arnaud Desplechin is an auteur who’s been out of the game for a while, and who has frequently shown at Cannes without winning to date. If he isn’t due himself, then the jury could also see fit to throw a bauble Benicio del Toro’s way, since del Toro has reached the point of his career where every performance demands attention. The story appears to be structured as a two-hander with Mathieu Amalric, which sounds as though it has the ability to be arty, intense, and actor-driven. Also, there’s a chance that Benicio del Toro’s character has a faithful dog by his side.
JohnYoung & Beautiful (trailer)
“A contemporary portrait of a teenage girl, in four seasons and four songs.” Sounds appropriately artsy with an interesting conceit but not necessarily overly experimental. Plus Francois Ozon seems to have the requisite pedigree to win. Maybe one of the actresses can pick up an award.
BrianHeli (clip)
Perhaps a reach, but the plot intrigued me (drug cartels, police corruption, sex espionage and a disappeared father)… FATHERS AND SONS, guys. And director Amat Escalante has had huge success with his first two films. Borrowing a page from fantasy football, where 3rd year wide receivers are always worth keeping an eye on, I figured the same held true for filmmakers. Also, really wanted Ian’s pick (Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian) to fall to me.


GavinA Touch of Sin (trailer)
BrianBlue is the Warmest Color
This felt the most Cannes-baity for me. A sexually confused15-year-old French girl? Sure, sounds like a winner to me.
JohnThe Great Beauty (trailer)
Only thing I read about it says it looks a little like “Tree of Life,” which could be good or bad.
IanMichael Kohlhaas
Wasn’t a movie I was expecting to draft (I was hoping that Blue is the Warmest Color would slip), but again, I’m betting on a hot actor, in this case, Mads Mikkelsen, to make this movie’s case to the jury. Mikkelsen has been the best reviewed part of several recent projects, won the prize just last year for The Hunt, and is certainly the most compelling reason to watch Hannibal, so maybe placing him in a sweeping historical epic will create movie magic. I’d also trust Denis Lavant to give a knockout performance, and perhaps the jury may wish to make up for blanking last year’s visionary Holy Motors. Also, I see horses in the still photo from the film, so perhaps there is room for a dog as well?
JaredA Castle in Italy
This film is the only one competing for the Palm directed by a woman. So, you know, girl power! Director Tedeschi won a Special Jury Prize six years ago for her last directorial effort, but she’s actually been quite busy in the meantime, as acting is her day job. Details about the plot are still trickling out, but it appears to be about a well-off Italian family who sells their home.


JaredOnly Lovers Left Alive
Oh, you know, just your typical arthouse vampire flick. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch has been nominated for the Palm a whopping six times without coming away with the big prize, so by the due theory, he should be hitting any time now. Plus it is tough to ignore a cast led by white hot actors Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, and Mia Wasikowska.
IanFruitvale Station (trailer)
I picked this first off the board from the Un certain regard category after it carried me to victory recently in the Sundance fantasy draft. Most of the comments I made then still hold true, especially after it was received so well. Now, the movie, already a festival favorite, has the weight of Harvey Weinstein thrown behind it, which is certainly no negative when it comes to awards. Michael B. Jordan, in particular, now has to be considered an Oscar contender, and certainly a Spirit Award lock. I do wonder somewhat whether an American tearjerker will play well with a more experimental French-based jury, but I look to last year’s Sundance darling, Beasts of the Southern Wild, for inspiration. Beasts cleaned up in the non-competition jury prizes, although that movie is literally and figuratively fantastic and daring while Fruitvale Station appears to be more earthbound. Even so, I think it’s possible that Oscar owned a dog.
Middle East. Dramatic moral ambiguity. Figured I’d move to Un Certain Regard instead of slumming at the bottom of the main lineup
BrianVenus in Fur
Considering I contemplated picking this with my first pick, I was shocked he fell this far. The French love Roman Polanski, for all of his horrifying glory. My team name will most definitely play off this…but my main theory as to why this fell to me: it’s a two person film that doesn’t sound very captivating. And one of the actors is Polanski’s wife. Could be instantly forgettable…which may make it even more Cannes-worthy.
GavinBorgman (trailer)


GavinBehind the Candelabra (trailer)
BrianThe Bastards
At this point I almost wholly deferred to IONCinema. Claire Denis is in their words, “one of the best directors working today.” Her debut film, Chocolat (no not that one), got her nominated for Best Director at Cannes. I figured it was a good try for a second chance.
JohnMy Sweet Pepper Land
Middle East. Dramatic moral ambiguity.
IanThe Bling Ring (trailer)
Is a pet pick, of course, and risky as heck considering that the great Marie Antoinette got booed out of Cannes. In between that time, however, Sofia Coppola directed Somewhere, which is probably one of the top five films of this century, and she seems to have developed a mastery of subject and craft. (An aside, but since I have the floor: how great would Sofia Coppola’s The Great Gatsby have been? I love Sofia’s movies for the same reason that I love Fitzgerald’s books, and I’d have been fascinated to see the marriage of the two.) Emma Watson also seems like an actor in line to start being taken seriously and awarded as such. It might be a stretch to imagine a “frivolous” feminine and feminist subject such as this one actually making a case for itself at Cannes for serious hardware, but this film is opening the Un certain regard competition, and I am hopeful that a jury will one day recognize her for an unparalleled body of work. Also, I know for sure that Paris Hilton owns a dog.
This film is based on the true story of a family in Argentina who unknowingly lives with Josef Mengele and a girl who falls in love with him. Can you imagine if Jerry Springer could pull a reveal like that on his show? I’m counting it as that awards baitiest of awards bait, a Holocaust movie. Writer-director Lucia Puenzo achieved some acclaim (including a Cannes’s critics prize) for her freshman effort, XXY.  Also, I kinda was hoping the Claire Denis movie would fall.


JaredL’image manquante
The synopsis on the Cannes page of this Cambodian-French production is nearly unintelligible, which I think is a good sign. Writer-director Rithy Panh was nominated for the Palm nineteen years ago and more recently won an award there for his documentary S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine.
IanStraw Shield (trailer)
I definitely had no intention of taking this movie, which seems like pulpy genre fare mixed in with far more high-minded cinema, but the allure of taking a film In Competition this late in the draft was too great. I’m not particularly hopeful with this one, but Takashi Miike seems to have a scattershot reputation, and this film could be at the high end of the bell curve, having already exceeded expectations by being selected in the first place. There’s also an excellent probability of a dog appearing in this film.
JohnSarah Prefers to Run (trailer)
Could capitalize if the jury wants to award a quirky indie.
BrianGrand Central (clip)
I picked it for all the same reasons as Blue. It’s French, it’s about young love — it even stars the same young ingenue. Add in some political commentary about the nuclear industry, and sure why the heck not at this point.


GavinMiele (trailer)
BrianL’Inconnu du lac
More French love. The synopsis from IONCinema: In this love story, two men meet in a nudist resort on the banks of a lake, but one of them is a murderer.
Just trying to avoid any Jim Jarmusch or 4 hour-plus Filipino films
IanLa jaula de oro
This is a total shot in the dark, and I had difficulty finding any information about the movie at all. Left to rely mostly on the country of origin, my reasoning is that Mexico has become tremendously fertile ground for great films, whereas for the Filipino movies, merely being selected may be its own reward at this point in its industry. (James Franco is American, but is also Franco.) And politically, there aren’t many more relevant stories right now in this climate than the insanity that is border crossing and American immigration policy. The lack of information about the movie may also mean that it is entirely about a dog.
JaredAs I Lay Dying (trailer)
I think we can all agree that James Franco has pretty much turned into the worst, but as someone who owns Whatever It Takes on DVD, I had to take this one. Plus, you know “Danny McBride – Cannes actor” has a nice ring to it. I haven’t read the book since high school, but it does seem like it has potentially to be rather interestingly done, in the hands of a confident director. I also think the casting of Beth Grant as Addie is inspired.

Undrafted – Manuscripts Don’t Burn (directed by Mohammed Rasoulof, this movie was on the list, then off, and now appears to be back on again), Death March (directed by Adolfo Alix, Jr.), and Norte, The End of History (directed by Lav Diaz).

May 2013