Muppets Most Wanted - Miss Piggy

Godzilla in action

Need For Speed


Noah - Russell Crowe


Cannes competition: Don't look now, but the awards season's coming back to life.

Like the villain at the end of a horror thriller, the awards business just won't die. After finally ending Mar. 2 with the Oscars, it's rebooting now as the 67th Cannes Film Festival begins 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.

Last year, Bruce Dern won best actor at Cannes for his performance in the drama "Nebraska" and Alexander Payne was a Palme d'Or nominee for directing it. Dern's Cannes victory instantly put him on the awards map, paving the way for key best actor noms in the Oscar, Golden Globes (musical or comedy), British Academy (BAFTA's) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) races.

Payne also benefited from his Cannes nom, winding up with best directing Oscar and Golden Globes nominations.

Last year's festival also put the awards spotlight on the French language drama "Amour," whose director, Michael Haneke, won the Palme d'Or. Haneke later received best directing noms in the Oscar and BAFTA races.

"Amour" was named Oscar's best foreign language film (official selection of Austria) and BAFTA's best film not in the English language.

Although its lead actress, Emmanuelle Riva, didn't win at Cannes, she also benefited from the festival heat. Riva received a best actress Oscar nod and at age 85 was the Academy's oldest actress nominee ever. She won the best actress BAFTA and France's best actress Cesar.

The black & white silent romantic comedy drama "The Artist" is another example of awards lightning striking at Cannes. In 2011 the film's star, Jean Dujardin, won best actor and its director, Michel Hazanavicius, was a Palme d'Or nominee. Dujardin, who was virtually unknown before this, was suddenly on the Hollywood awards map. He went on to win best actor in the Oscar, Golden Globes, BAFTA and SAG races.

Hazanavicius won best director in the Oscar, BAFTA and Directors Guild of America (DGA) races and scored Golden Globe noms for directing and screenplay.

As for "The Artist," all that love at Cannes made it a serious awards contender. It ended up winning best picture in the Oscar, Golden Globes (comedy or musical) and BAFTA races.

There are many more examples of Cannes victories translating into Oscar gold, but these illustrate how it works when it works. 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.

It's not easy to keep that awards momentum going because so many months pass between Cannes in mid-May and mid-December when Oscar competition really heats up. Awards marketers try to make the most of other film festivals in late summer and the fall in places like Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York to keep their films in front of Academy members. But it always helps to start with a victory at Cannes.

Here's a quick look (in no particular order) at some of the high profile titles playing in competition this time around. One film you won't find on the list, by the way, is Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' 3D sci-fi action adventure "Godzilla," which will hold the spotlight at this weekend's boxoffice.

"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 boxoffice 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.

Many films playing at Cannes are also hoping to put together domestic distribution deals, but that's not the case with "Foxcatcher." Directed by Bennett Miller ("Moneyball," "Capote"), the Annapurna Pictures production is already 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.

Dahan is best known for his 2007 French musical biographical drama "La Vie en Rose," for which Marion Cotillard won the best actress Oscar, Golden Globe (comedy or musical), BAFTA and Cesar for her portrayal of Edith Piaf.

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." He also was a Palme d'Or nominee in 2010 for "Another Year," in 2002 for "All or Nothing" and in 1993 for "Naked."

Leigh's 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.

Egoyan's previous Cannes honors include Palme d'Or noms in 2008 for "Adoration," in 2005 for "Where the Truth Lies," in 1999 for "Felicia's Journey," in 1997 for "The Sweet Hereafter" and in 1994 for "Exotica."

"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.

Cronenberg was a Palme d'Or nominee in 1996 for "Crash," which won a Special Jury Prize. He also was a Palme d'Or nominee in 2012 for "Cosmopolis," in 2005 for "A History of Violence" and in 2002 for "Spider."

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.

Assayas was previously a Palme d'Or nominee in 2004 for "Clean," in 2002 for "Demonlover" and in 2000 for "Les Destinees Sentimentales."

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 ("How to Train Your Dragon"), its voice talents include Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig and America Ferrera.

DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek," directed by Vicky Jenson & Andrew Adamson, was a Palme d'Or nominee in 2001 and went on to win the Oscar for best animated feature. "Dragon 2" is likely to be a best animated feature nominee given its high profile Cannes launch.

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