A number of high-profile 2014 awards hopefuls -- and an eclectic group of Hollywood stars -- will make their way to the Cannes Film Festival this year, joining the annual parade of global auteurs.
Bennett Miller's fact-based wrestling tale "Foxcatcher," David Cronenberg's inside-Hollywood story "Maps to the Stars" and the Tommy Lee Jones frontier-drama "The Homesman" will all world-premiere in the coveted competition section, while Ryan Gosling directorial debut "Lost River" (formerly titled "How to Catch a Monster") will debut in the Un Certain Regard section.
That means the list of celebs making their way to the world's most prestigious movie gathering next month will include Steve Carell and Channing Tatum ("Foxcatcher" ) Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska ("Maps," with the former also appearing in David Michod's midnight selection "The Rover"), Hilary Swank and Meryl Streep ("Homesman") and Christina Hendricks and Eva Mendes ("River").
They join Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz, who star in French auteur Olivier Assayas' Europe-set actor drama "Sils Maria" and Ryan Reynolds and Rosario Dawson, who play in Aton Egoyan's new thriller "The Captive," both in competition.
Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2" will premiere in an out-of-competition slot, using the fest as a marketing catapult ahead of its June 13 release date in the U.S. and global rollout in the same period. Also premiering out of competition is Chinese super-director and Fifth Generation mainstay Zhang Yimou, whose "Coming Home," a relationship drama starring Gong Li, will also play in one of those slots.
Kicking off this year on May 14 with Nicole Kidman's Grace Kelly film "Grace of Monaco" directed by Olivier Dahan, the Cannes Film Festival is both a bellwether for the state of U.S. and global cinema and a key launching pad for movies with Oscar and other ambitions, layering a veneer of credibility on — and a bright target on the back of — pretty much any film that premieres there.
In past years Cannes has been an invaluable tool for awards campaigns, boosting movies such as "Nebraska" and "Blue Is The Warmest Color" last year and vaulting "The Artist" all the way to the Oscar best-picture podium three years ago.
This year, "Foxcatcher," "Homesman," "River" and "Grace of Monaco" will all look to establish themselves as awards contenders, with "Foxcatcher," "Monaco" and "River" set for release from Sony Pictures Classics, Weinstein Co. and Warner Bros., respectively, and "Homesman" the wild card seeking distribution and a head of steam coming out of the festival.
"Foxcatcher" has had an unusual journey, moving out of the 2013 awards race while Miller, who has been a juggernaut with previous movies "Moneyball" and "Capote," continued to work on the cut. (In that regard it follows festival opener "Grace of Monaco," the Nicole Kidman-starring Grace Kelly pic, which had been slated for a fall release as well before being postponed as the film went through an arduous editing process.)
"Foxcatcher," which tells of the notorious incident involving John du Pont's murder of the Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in the mid-1990s, stars Carell as du Pont, Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz and Tatum as Mark Schultz, Dave's brother and author of a memoir about the affair.
At a Paris press conference announcing the selections, festival director Thierry Fremaux said the opportunity to see actors reinvent themselves was part of the pleasure of the film, and urged filmgoers to try to avoid learning about the actors and their preparation before seeing the movie.
"Homesman," meanwhile, sees Jones make a move back to directing nine years after his well-received "The Three Burials of Melique Estrada" premiered at Cannes. Based on a novel from Glendon Swarthout, the new movie centers on a claim jumper played by Jones who must help a pioneer (Swank) get several women across Nebraska; Streep stars as a minister's wife to whom the women must be brought. "It's a Western — not a Western with cavalry and Indians but it tells a little about the conquest of the West," Fremaux said, adding that the movie suggests s Jones' "determination as a filmmaker to represent the existence of a certain kind of classic filmmaking."
This year's festival also marks the return to competition of French icon Jean-Luc Godard, who will debut the 3-D (!) picture "Goodbye to Language." Godard joins the usually robust list of French or French-language films, will also includes "The Search," the follow up from "The Artist" director Michel Hazavanicius, and Belgian Bros. the Dardennes' "Two Days, One Night" starring Marion Cotillard.
Other notable global entries in competition include the three-hour epic from Turkish helmer Nuri Bilge Ceylan, "Winter Sleep," the Russian Cannes returnee Andres Zvayagintsev's "Leviathan" and Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako's "Timbuktu," one of several African entries in the official selection. (The competition jury will be led by Australian filmmaker Jane Campion; the remaining members will be announced next week.)
Other longtime English-language Cannes mainstays making the competition cut include Mike Leigh,, premiering his art biopic "Mr. Turner" that stars Timothy Spall as JMW Turner, and Ken Loach, whose new movie "Jimmy Hall" centers on a 1930s Irish activist.
At the other end of the spectrum, this will mark the first time Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan will be in competition, as the 25-year-old brings his new movie "Mommy" to the festival. Dolan, whose previous work such as "Laurence Anyways" has landed in other sections, has been vocal about not being accepted to competition before. Fremaux said his lamenting was not a factor in his acceptance, though the festival was aware of his displeasure. Fremaux did note that if Dolan "keeps going at this pace in 20 years he'll have made 20 films."
(Competition hopefuls not present at the festival are Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu's Broadway drama "Birdman," Paul Thomas Anderson's 1970s crime tale "Inherent Vice" and Jon Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater." Terrence Malick's Christian Bale drama "Knight of Cups" also isn't present; Fremaux said he talked to Malick not long ago and the director told him the film wasn't ready. The festival will add titles in the coming days, Fremaux said, so don't be surprised if "Rosewater" or another high-profile pic still lands there.)
On the subject of Dolan, it was generally a strong day for Canada, with the director joining Egoyan, the Canadian icon Cronenberg (who with the child-actor exploration of "Maps" is actually making an unusually rare foray into U.S.-made film) and even the Canadian-born "Dragon 2" director Dean DeBlois.
Many U.S. eyes, however, will be on a different Canadian, as Gosling begins his attempted evolution from actor to filmmaker.
Shot in Detroit last year, "Lost River" has been one of the more anticipated projects in moviedom, both because of its director pedigree (Gosling does not star) and its plot line, which is said to concern a single mother and an underwater utopia. (Though slightly lower profile than the competition section, Un Certain Regard is often the home for first-time directors.) The movie does not yet have a U.S. distributor or release date, though you wouldn't guess it from the breathless Internet anticipation about the film.
On the subject of online phenomena, in an odd twist, Pattinson and his "Twilight" co-star/tabloid stable-mate Kristen Stewart will both be on the Croisette at the same time. It's the second time in three years that's happened, after they each debuted "Cosmopolis" and "On the Road," respectively, in 2012.
The festival will also see the unlikely presence of Josh Charles, fresh off his "Good Wife" death, as he stars in "Bird People," a multilingual relationship drama from French director Pascale Ferran that will play in Un Certain Regard.
Other titles in Un Certain Regard include Mathieu Amalric's "The Blue Room," Asia Argento's "Incompresa" and Ned Benson's "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," the last of which is the American first-timer's unusual twofer movie experiment about a relationship told from two separate perspectives. Cannes also aims for some topicality with Mohammed Ossama's "The Silver Water" and Sergei Loznitsa's "Maidan," which center on current events in Syria and Ukraine and will play as special screenings.
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