Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the coveted Palme d’Or for Winter Sleep. Although the film divided critics – some saw it as transformative, some saw it as a 196-minute chore – it was not a surprise that Ceylan won. It’s seemingly the only award that Ceylan hadn’t won at Cannes yet. Ceylan had won the Grand Prix (second place) twice at the festival, in 2011 for Once Upon Anatolia and in 2002 for Distant. He’d also won the Best Director award in 2008 for Three Monkeys.
Some higher star-wattage awards went to Foxcatcher (the Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo bizarro true crime chronicle of a rich man, his Olympic wrestling training facility and the tragedies therein) in the form of Best Director for Bennett Miller. And to Julianne Moore for Best Actress in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, a deranged psychosexual comedy set amidst Hollywood scandals.
Most of the buzz around Foxcatcher was that it officially kicked off the Academy Awards discussion for Miller, Carell and Tatum (maybe by the eventual 23 Jump Street we could see an arty trailer for dual Academy Award nominees Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum). By winning a top prize Foxcatcher can kickoff their awards campaign by adding olive branch “winner” emblems to its poster and trailer.
Each year, however, there are a number of films that play at Cannes that need those olive branches on their posters and trailers to gain distribution in North America. While the competition slate generally slots already anointed internationally acclaimed directors, there are always some fresh faces – such as 25-year-old Canadian Xavier Dolan who broke into the competition this year with Mommy – sprinkled in.
Dolan had three previous films debut at Cannes outside of the main competition. The areas where his previous films debuted, in the Directors’ Fortnight and Un Certain Regard sections, is where you will find future Cannes competitive directors, exciting genre fare or established directors who don’t have quite the shiny sheen required to bump royals out of their competitive slots. Once a director gets into the competitive field, it’s almost like a 10-year free pass. Cannes is very loyal. Sometimes insufferably loyal. By most accounts, Canadian director Atom Egoyan hasn’t made a decent film since winning a Cannes prize for The Sweet Hereafter over a decade ago, but he still found himself in competition again this year for the poorly receivedThe Captive.
This year many of the films that had less buzz before they screened sounded particularly exciting to CraveOnline. After the full list of competition winners (which you also should get excited about), please jump to our slideshow of films that we weren’t even aware existed prior to their Cannes screenings but now can’t wait to see. Many of them lack current distribution. But those Cannes olive branches go a long way – they’ll find a way to your art house theatre or home living room soon enough.
Brian Formo contributes to CraveOnline's Best Movie Ever, The Big List, and does occasional mop-up duty for film reviews and interviews. He's also at Collider, IGN, and Complex. But if you REALLY want to know his thoughts on movies go to www.brianformo.com/year-ends-project.