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Why No One Can Win "Best Picture" This Year

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Cannes Diary: Three Palme d'Or Contenders and My Pick for "Best Actress"

Diana Drumm is reporting from Cannes for The Film Experience... 

With the festival dwindling away (as well as this writer’s sanity -- blame the multiple transit strikes, weather and barely affordable lodging), we are closing in on the more probable awards contenders. Out of the hubbub heard in person and online, along with opinions from mine own wonky eyes, here are three that could possibly take home either the Palme d’Or or Best Actress. (Juliette Binoche in Sils Maria I have yet to see...)

Mommy, Two Days One Night and Maps to the Stars after the jump...

Two Days One Night
The Dardennes brothers are no strangers to the Croisette, with two Palme d’Or wins behind them (1999’s Rosetta, 2005's L’Enfant). Their latest Two Days, One Night is a very strong bid for a third. Falling within the Dardennes oeuvre of Belgian social realism, the film follows Sandra (Marion Cotillard), a working-class woman, canvassing her coworkers to keep her job at the local solar-panel factory. Realizing that the company could get on without her, the boss decides to put it to a vote amongst the workers as to whether to keep her on and forfeit their bonuses to pay her salary or to downsize her and give them each their
1000 bonus. 

After a tainted vote, the boss is convinced to recast the vote the following Monday. With the film starting on Friday afternoon, that leaves Sandra only two days and one night to convince the majority in her favor (9 out of 16 co-workers). She goes door to door over the weekend, fighting for her job, pleading. Responses vary from apologies to the earlier vote, refusal to speak with her, punches thrown, etcetera. It’s a panorama of the human condition from sympathy to greed to apathy. All the while, Sandra, who is still recovering from a recent bout with depression and popping more than her prescribed amount of Xanax, is on the verge of a real breakdown. If she loses her job, not only will she have to go back on the dole, and her family will lose much more.

As bizarre as this reads, Two Days, One Night is something like a naturalistic, socially conscious, current-day European take on High Noon meets Rocky, highlighted by its lead’s remarkable resolve through both downturns and upturns with the support of specific members of their community. And as with both of those movies, it hinges entirely on whether the central character can overcome the obstacles and vulnerabilities.

Garbed in light-washed jeans and neon tank tops, the makeup-free  Cotillard overcomes her glamorous looks to give us a heartrending performance of a working class woman on the edge. Sandra is not comfortable in her own skin, let alone asking other people to save it.  Along the way, she discovers a newfound worth and becomes prepared for whatever’s next, thanks to the unexpected kindness of acquaintances and family. Cotillard has tackled other uneasy women before (La Vie en Rose’s Edith Piaf, The Immigrant’s Ewa Cybulska, Nine’s Luisa Contini, etc.), but this is possibly her most authentic feeling; one without the trappings of face-altering makeup, sepia-tones or show tunes. This is raw Cotillard, not just physically but also emotionally. Spanning only three days, Cotillard is able to strike to the core of Sandra (encompassing her self-doubt, apprehension and lackluster confidence) and then convey the shift of that very being into a redemptive ending, with Sandra still Sandra just more optimistic.  

Maps to the Stars 
In another more bizarre, twisted, satirical, jaw-droppingly “wouldn’t that be awesome in a weird way” Palme corner is David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. Cronenberg has also made his way down the Croisette, with Maps to the Stars being his fifth Palme d’Or contender and having won the Jury Special Prize for 1996’s Crash. Tackling the Hollywood scene head-on and filled with eerie pseudo mythos bordering on the poetic machinations of Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada, or Ardor (including a recitation-turned-motif of Paul Eluard’s “Liberty”), Maps to the Stars follows a vivide ensemble including a powerful family on the rise, two twenty-somethings on the cusp of breaking out, and an actress on the decline.  

The family includes a darkly-dressed, possibly guy-linered John Cusack as a maniacal self-help guru-author-therapist-yogi (or as Cusack describes him, “Elmer Gantry meets Colonel Parker”), the eerily cold yet emotional Olivia Williams as a show biz mother, and Evan Bird as their too-famous-for-his-own-good son (or, as Bird describes him “kid from Home Alone meets Justin Bieber”) who is the face of a $750 million franchise and on his way to a Narcotics Anonymous chip. The two twenty-somethings are Mia Wasikowska as a fresh-from-Florida would-be writer who came to Hollywood on the suggestion of twitter friend Carrie Fisher (played by real-life Carrie Fisher and with a Debbie joke thrown in for good measure) and Robert Pattinson (in his second Cronenberg collaboration, after last year’s Cannes contender Cosmopolis) as a chauffeur by day and actor by all-too-rare hire. Finally, as the over-the-hill actress, Julianne Moore not only links all of the above characters together but steals the entire movie in a tour-de-force performance. 

Blonde-dyed, botoxed and busting at the mental seams, Moore’s character Havana Segrand is a famous actress, or at least known well enough for teenage stars to joke that she’s a G.I.L.F. (aka “Grandmother I’d Like to Fuck”). After a few not-so-successful years, including a T.N.T. gig for the money, Segrand is desperate for a decent role and willing to claw however deeply for it, and I mean claw deeply (read: kinky shenanigans). Almost intentionally taunting any semblance of sanity, Segrand is pursuing a role in an upcoming indie remake of her dead mother’s classic film. In a genius fucked up turn, Segrand is not only haunted by her mother’s legacy (with her classic film playing and referenced throughout) and their dysfunctional-bordering-on-abusive relationship but this figurative haunting becomes a manifestation and takes physical albeit ghostly form in the blonde, lithe Sarah Gadon. While grappling with this, Segrand hires Wasikowska’s twenty-something as an assistant, resulting in one of the most perversely hilarious employee-employer relationships ever (slaying The Devil Wears Prada for the title) riddled with bitchiness, competition and faux-sisterhood (e.g. in an already much tweeted about moment, Segrand asks the assistant for a laxative mid-constipation on the toilet).  

Moore is no stranger to transformative roles, but as Segrand, she manages to be both a satirical caricature gone mad and a vulnerable vindictive woman on the edge. She captures the blustered bimbo but also gives her the heart, depth and meaning lacking from those very same women in real life (or at least the C-list and Real Housewives variety we see on television all too regularly and to which we’ve become nullified). Although Cronenberg and Moore deny that she is based off of anyone in particular, let’s just say Moore manages an amalgam of all of the worst traits of your favorite has-been actresses without making you boo her off the screen. Quite the feat, and one only Moore could have done with such rabid panache. (I encourage you to hazard a few guesses for actress influences in the comment section below.)

Our third Palme D'or option today is the “pretty, pretty please with sugar on top," because this-is-so-good, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy. At only 25 (same age as Orson Welles during Citizen Kane, just sayin’), Dolan is also a veteran of the Croisette, having won the Queer Palm (for 2012’s Laurence Anyways), the Regards Jeunes Prize (for 2010’s Les amours imaginaires retitled Heartbeats Stateside) and a triple crown of sorts with the Prix Regards Jeune, C.I.C.A.E. Award and SACD Prize (all for his 2009 debut I Killed My Mother). Taking place in the not-so-distant future of 2015 Quebec, Mommy is about a widow Diane “Die” Despres (Anne Dorval, a frequent Dolan collaborator) grappling with her unruly, A.D.H.D.-ridden son Steve (Antoine Oliver Pilon), who was just kicked out of boarding school/detention center after starting a fire in the cafeteria. 

Following the thematic suit of Dolan’s semi-autobiographical debut I Killed My Mother, Mommy looks at an intensely close mother-son relationship with near-blood-curdling, expletive-laced screams, paired with an ear-popping soundtrack (Dido, Counting Crows, Celine Dion) and intimately intricate use of aspect ratio (will not spoil other than write that the whole of the Lumiere clapped at one particular moment). Looking like Prince Geoffrey (the middle one) from Lion in Winter melded with Lord Darnley (blonde Timothy Dalton) from Mary, Queen of Scots, tow-headed Steve is a younger, off-Ritalin maniacal combination of those two, with his cocky charisma, manic behavior and violent outbursts. With the strung-out, frizzle-haired stress of Marisa Tomei and cool strength of Diane Lane combined with Sandra Bernhard’s foul mouth, mother Despres stands toe-to-toe with Steve. Stubbornly making sure he has some sort of future, she works a not-so-glamorous gig to pay for homeschooling supplies, relents in letting their stammering, former highschool teacher neighbor (Suzanne Clement, also a frequent Dolan player) take over in order to take on more work to pay the bills, and flirt-enlists a semi-creepy lawyer neighbor to help Steve’s upcoming school fire legal case. Dorval spits slings of expletives and hurling hugging words of reassurance with the same intensity. Her embroidered-jeaned, brunette with blonde tiger-streaks mommy is a force to be reckoned with. Neither Dorval or Dolan shy away from Mommy's crassness, vulgarity and unadulterated boldness.  

My Vote... If I Had One...
With under 30 credits to her name (and mostly known for her work with Dolan), Dorval is not a household-name like Marion Cotillard or Julianne Moore, but that could actually bolster her dark horse possibility for Best Actress with Jane Campion's jury. Isn’t it better to reward new talent than give yet another trophy to Oscar darlings (however deserved)? Out of these three actresses, Dorval’s tears were the most palpable as she runs ragged and jagged as a woman with divergent maternal and survival instincts.  
Cotillard’s Sandra wanes noble with her working class values and Moore’s Havana slips mesmerizingly into moments of unadulterated evil - they're worthy choices, too. All three films craft multi-faceted characters, and the actresses do them admirable justice, but Dorval transcends offering a gut-wrenching, eye-sobbing, gaggle-laughing range of emotions. All three films are superb but Dolan’s Mommy has an extra kick (both emotionally and stylistically) that knocked its first viewing into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Cannes Diary: Day 1 Arrival & Opening Night | Day 2 Grace of Monaco | Day 3 Mr Turner & Timbuktu  | Day 4 Amour Fou & The Blue Room | Day 5  The Homesman Press Conference and The Homesman Review |  Day 9 Foxcatcher &  Sils Maria 

Diana Drumm, who recently completed a stint as one of 8 young critics to take part in the 2nd annual NYFF Critics Academy became a member of our team this February. You can follow her on Twitter or visit her home page. See her previous posts for The Film Experience here.


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    Response: Fiesta24HProject
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Reader Comments (23)

Wow, I'm really looking forward to all of this actressing! I'm a big fan of all three of them and am torn on how I would like to see win. I love Cotillard and it would seem appropriate for her to finally win after delivering three acclaimed performances in a row at Cannes. On the other hand, I would cheer for Moore if she won. It would be wonderful because she would've received all three of the major festival awards: at Berlin for the Hours, at Cannes for Maps to the Stars and at Venice for Far From Heaven. Finally, as a Québécois, I would be delighted if Dorval won. She's always been a favorite of mine, I've loved her in a couple of québécois TV shows and movies, especially for J'ai tué ma mère (she's not as much as a newbie as you may think, she's worked a lot in Québec. She is an abslute unknown everywhere else, I will give you that.) It would be even more significant for her career than it would be for Cotillard and Moore, who will remain famous and get amazing offers by auteurs no matter what!

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel

Gabriel -- same thing here. For some reason I wasn't that excited abotu any of these movies until this week and this post helped.

in the grand Cannes tradition, I think Marion Cotillard should lose (haha) if only to get critics to stop claiming she's a sure thing every year. THERE ARE NO SURE THINGS AT CANNES. when will people learn?

May 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

My guesses for tomorrow:

Pame d'Or: Leviathan
Actress: Marion Cotillard
Actor: Timothy Spall

Dolan will take the Jury Prize or Screenplay, Alice Rohrwacher takes Best Director.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I predict that it will go this way:

Golden Palm: "Winter Sleep"
Grand Prix: "Two Days, One Night"
Jury prize: "Timbuktu"
Best director: Leviathan
Best screenplay: Mr. Turner
Best actor: Foxcatcher
Best actress: Mommy

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSomeone

So is it just me, or does Mommy sound like I Killed My Mother just taking place a couple years later, with his character just getting worse as he gets older? I enjoyed IKMM for what it was, but not sure I want to sit through it again in a different form.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I would love a Julianne Moore win...

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark

marion coming for that... snub!

but seriously, I'm interested in all three movies.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

If the movie starts on Friday and the vote is on Monday doesn't that make it three Nights and two days ?

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterConfused

Can't wait to see all three of these! Julianne Moore exceling in a darkly comedic role from an auteur... the sooner the better! Cotillard is surely among the best examples of using an Oscar to build an incredible career, and Dorval was so wonderful in I Killed My Mother. I recently saw Tom at the Farm and I'm really glad Dolan has turned into a director that impresses so consistently.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese


Friday night and all of Saturday and Sunday.
I think that's what they mean by "Two days and one night."

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRene

Is it wrong that i hope TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT walks away empty-handed solely because the Dardennes Brothers win so often? It's my least favorite thing about Cannes. It's like the film awards version of the Emmys.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R


May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Suzanne -- this is the perfect comment.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

One of the great joys of Cannes is the idiosyncracies of a given jury, so I don't even like to try to guess what will win what - I'd rather be surprised. Some years you get exactly the consensus, some years you have these wildly contrarian departures, and it all counts equally in the history books. Love it.

Nat, I'm kinda with you on the Dardennes, but I'm also torn - they're so good so consistently that I totally get the impulse to keep giving them awards, but do they really need them? Probably not.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I would love the Moore win because after 20 years she needs major prizes then the academy can say "sorry we forgot about you being amazing here's an Oscar to make up!!!

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Hearing Sils Maria is a Kristen Stewart showcase, but my money would be on Anne Dorval, even if I'm rooting for Marion Cotillard. Not just because I adore her, but girl will probably strangle the actress who beats her and I'm not ready to lose one of these wonderful women like that.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

mark, if Julianne Moore wins at Cannes an Oscar would just be a nice bonus. Prix d'interprétation féminine >>>> an Academy Award, IMO. ;)

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Watch Hilary Swank win...and the inevitable exploding of the internet.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

I very much hated I Killed My Mother and stubbornly have refused to catch Dolan's work since seeing it. That ended last night when I went to the evening screening of Mommy. There are no words to describe how much I love this film. By far the best one I saw at Cannes (granted, I didn't catch everything), I wish I could give it all the awards.

And yes, Julianne is awesome in Maps to the Stars. Ditto Cotillard in the Dardenne film.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

@Aaron Swank is wonderful in The Homesman and a worthy contender. (Yes, really!)

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

It's be a great moment for Julianne Moore, but I doubt it.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Melanie Griffith as the inspiration ? Jamie Lee Curtis?

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermatt

I think that Best Actress will go to Mommny and Best Actor can be given to the trio of male performances in Foxcatcher.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel B.

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