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A Brief History of Oscar and the Cannes Film Festival and Who Might Win This Year

Wonderstruck, Happy End, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Beguiled will all be vying for top honors

The 70th Cannes Film Festival kicks off this week (Thursday, to be exact) but did you know that only Cannes Palme d’Or winner has ever won the Best Picture Oscar? 1955’s Marty is still the only Best Picture Oscar winner to first strike gold at Cannes. Incidentally, 1955 was the first year of the designation of the Palme d’Or as the festival’s highest prize.

Although the Palme d’Or name wasn’t officially introduced until 1955, the Cannes Film Festival has always given out a top honor, they simply just used a different name. From 1939-1954 it was called the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film (Grand Prize of the International Film Festival), was changed to the Palme d’Dor (Golden Palm) from 1955-1963, then back to Grand Prix du Festival International du Film from 1964-1974 and then back yet again to the Palme d’Or in 1975 where it has remained ever since. The festival also a Grand Prize and a Jury Prize (you can sometimes read into that as 2nd and 3rd place) as well as acting and screenplay awards. A single film is not allowed to be awarded more than two prizes and if you win the Palme it can be a film’s only win. This change happened after 1991’s Barton Fink (from the Coen Brothers) won the Palme, Director and Actor prizes.

2012’s Amour is the most recent Palme winner to be Best Picture nominated at the Oscars and interestingly enough its director, Michael Haneke, is one of only eight multiple Palme winners (well, nine since the Dardenne brothers are two people). Haneke could break that record if Happy End wins this year. You’d have to jump back 10 years to 2002’s The Pianist for the last Best Picture nominee and that film got close, winning the Best Director, Actor and Adapted Screenplay Oscars. Going back once more, 1994’s Pulp Fiction landed a Palme win and Best Picture nomination, winning the Original Screenplay Oscar. The 90s actually saw a big cross-section of Palme winners and Best Picture nominees that also included 1996’s Secrets & Lies and 1993’s The Piano.

So, knowing that, is it ‘good’ to root for a film to win the Palme or should you hold out for a lesser prize and put your chips in for it at the Oscars?

This year’s list of In Competition films does seem to have a few that I think could be in the running for Oscar nominations. The biggest is Wonderstruck from Todd Haynes and starring Julianne Moore, Millicent Simmonds, Michelle Williams and Oakes Fegley. At the moment, the Gold Rush Gang has the film #1 in their Best Picture predictions and Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions are planning a major awards campaign for the film, including a very awards-friendly October 20th release date. Two Haynes films have been up for the Palme in the past; Carol in 2015 (which was Best Picture snubbed) and Velvet Goldmine in 1998. Each of those films did win prizes at the festival, just not the big one. Rooney Mara tied for Best Actress, which meant the film couldn’t win the Palme. There could be a sense of ‘this is the time’ to reward Haynes.

As mentioned above, Michael Haneke returns to the Cannes Film Festival with Happy End, his seventh In Competition film. He won in 2012 for Amour and in 2009 for The White Ribbon. The film stars Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant and is a drama about a family set in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop. It’s set for release this fall from Sony Pictures Classics. A win for Haneke is not out of the question unless we see a third Best Actress win for Huppert or a second for Trintignant (he won back in 1969 for Z).

Yorgos Lanthimos, who was just Oscar-nominated this year in Original Screenplay for The Lobster, returns to the festival with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. His last two efforts, The Lobster and Dogtooth, both came away with Cannes wins so all eyes will be on this Colin Farrell/Nicole Kidman thriller about a teenager’s attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family. While it seems that Lanthimos’s films are probably too dark for Oscar’s top prize, he certainly has more visibility now with the Academy. The film is being distributed by A24 (this year’s Best Picture winning studio for Moonlight) and they’ve given it is killer November release date so it could be a major contender.

Nicole Kidman’s other film in competition, Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, could be a player. It’s her second in competition film, the first being her take on Marie Antoinette. While that film won the Cinema Prize of the French National Education System, it was controversial and booed by many French critics during the press screening. This could mark a big comeback for the Oscar winner. The film comes out on June 23rd from Focus Features. For more on my Oscar thoughts for the film go here.

Netflix has caused quite a stir this year, finding itself with two in competition films but also in hot water with French movie theaters about the streaming company’s 36-month release window. So controversial was this that the festival recently announced no film would be considered for competition without an official French release. So what does that mean for Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories? Although it’s a jury (led by Pedro Almodovar and featuring Jessica Chastain, Maren Ade and Park Chan-wook) I can only imagine the uproar if one of these films were to win the Palme. From my perspective, only Baumbach’s film seems to have any possible Oscar traction but it’s early so far only his The Squid and the Whale have earned him any Oscar attention (a nomination for Original Screenplay).

What other films in this year’s competition do you think have a chance to be only the second film ever to win both Cannes and Oscar’s top prize?

Here’s the full list of Cannes Film Festival top prize winners from 1939-2016 (via Wikipedia) plus multiple Palme winners.

Grand Prix du Festival International du Film (1939–54)

Year Film Original Title Director(s) Nationality of Director
(at time of film’s release)
1939 Union Pacific* Cecil B. DeMille  United States*
1946 The Turning Point Velikij perelom / Великий перелом Fridrikh Ermler  Soviet Union*
Men Without Wings Muži bez křídel František Čáp  Czechoslovakia*
The Last Chance Die Letzte Chance Leopold Lindtberg   Switzerland*
Iris and the Lieutenant Iris och löjtnantshjärta Alf Sjöberg  Sweden*
Portrait of Maria María Candelaria Emilio Fernández  Mexico*
Rome, Open City Roma, città aperta Roberto Rossellini  Italy*
Lowly City Neecha Nagar / नीचा नगर Chetan Anand  India*
Brief Encounter David Lean  United Kingdom*
Pastoral Symphony La symphonie pastorale Jean Delannoy  France*
The Lost Weekend Billy Wilder  United States
The Red Meadows De røde enge Bodil Ipsen and Lau Lauritzen, Jr.  Denmark*
1949 The Third Man Carol Reed  United Kingdom
1951 Miss Julie Fröken Julie Alf Sjöberg  Sweden
Miracle in Milan Miracolo a Milano Vittorio De Sica  Italy
1952 The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice Orson Welles  United States
Two Cents Worth of Hope Due soldi di speranza Renato Castellani  Italy
1953 The Wages of Fear Le salaire de la peur Henri-Georges Clouzot  France
1954 Gate of Hell Jigokumon / 地獄門 Teinosuke Kinugasa  Japan*

Palme d’Or (1955–63)

Year Film Original Title Director(s) Nationality of Director
(at time of film’s release)
1955 Marty § Delbert Mann  United States
1956 The Silent World Le monde du silence Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle  France
1957 Friendly Persuasion William Wyler  United States
1958 The Cranes Are Flying Letyat zhuravli / Летят журавли Mikhail Kalatozov  Soviet Union
1959 Black Orpheus § Orfeu Negro Marcel Camus  France
1960 The Sweet Life § La dolce vita Federico Fellini  Italy
1961 The Long Absence § Une aussi longue absence Henri Colpi  France
Viridiana § Luis Buñuel  Mexico
1962 Keeper of Promises § O Pagador de Promessas Anselmo Duarte  Brazil*
1963 The Leopard § Il gattopardo Luchino Visconti  Italy

Grand Prix du Festival International du Film (1964–74)

Year Film Original Title Director(s) Nationality of Director
(at time of film’s release)
1964 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg Les parapluies de Cherbourg Jacques Demy  France
1965 The Knack …and How to Get It Richard Lester  United Kingdom
1966 A Man and a Woman Un homme et une femme Claude Lelouch  France
The Birds, the Bees and the Italians Signore e signori Pietro Germi  Italy
1967 Blowup Michelangelo Antonioni  Italy
1968 No award this year because of the May 1968 events in France. N/A N/A N/A
1969 If…. Lindsay Anderson  United Kingdom
1970 MASH Robert Altman  United States
1971 The Go-Between Joseph Losey  United Kingdom
1972 The Working Class Goes to Heaven § La classe operaia va in paradiso Elio Petri  Italy
The Mattei Affair § Il caso Mattei Francesco Rosi  Italy
1973 The Hireling Alan Bridges  United Kingdom
Scarecrow Jerry Schatzberg  United States
1974 The Conversation Francis Ford Coppola  United States

Palme d’Or (1975–present)

Year Film Original Title Director(s) Nationality of Director
(at time of film’s release)
1975 Chronicle of the Years of Fire Chronique des années de braise Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina  Algeria*
1976 Taxi Driver Martin Scorsese  United States
1977 Padre Padrone Paolo and Vittorio Taviani  Italy
1978 The Tree of Wooden Clogs § L’albero degli zoccoli Ermanno Olmi  Italy
1979 Apocalypse Now Francis Ford Coppola  United States
The Tin Drum Die Blechtrommel Volker Schlöndorff  West Germany*
1980 All That Jazz Bob Fosse  United States
Kagemusha Kagemusha / 影武者 Akira Kurosawa  Japan
1981 Man of Iron Człowiek z żelaza Andrzej Wajda  Poland*
1982 Missing § Costa-Gavras  Greece*
The Way § Yol Yılmaz Güney and Şerif Gören  Turkey*
1983 The Ballad of Narayama Narayama bushikō / 楢山節考 Shohei Imamura  Japan
1984 Paris, Texas § Wim Wenders  West Germany
1985 When Father Was Away on Business § Otac na službenom putu / Отац на службеном путу Emir Kusturica  Yugoslavia*
1986 The Mission Roland Joffé  United Kingdom
1987 Under the Sun of Satan § Sous le soleil de Satan Maurice Pialat  France
1988 Pelle the Conqueror Pelle erobreren Bille August  Denmark
1989 Sex, Lies, and Videotape Steven Soderbergh  United States
1990 Wild at Heart David Lynch  United States
1991 Barton Fink § Coen brothers  United States
1992 The Best Intentions Den goda viljan Bille August  Denmark
1993 Farewell My Concubine Bàwáng bié jī / 霸王別姬 Chen Kaige  China*
The Piano Jane Campion  New Zealand*
1994 Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino  United States
1995 Underground Podzemlje / Подземље Emir Kusturica  Serbia and Montenegro*
1996 Secrets & Lies Mike Leigh  United Kingdom
1997 Taste of Cherry Ta’m-e gīlās / طعم گيلاس Abbas Kiarostami  Iran*
The Eel Unagi / うなぎ Shohei Imamura  Japan
1998 Eternity and a Day § Mia aio̱nióti̱ta kai mia méra / Μια αιωνιότητα και μια μέρα Theodoros Angelopoulos  Greece
1999 Rosetta § Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne  Belgium*
2000 Dancer in the Dark Lars von Trier  Denmark
2001 The Son’s Room La stanza del figlio Nanni Moretti  Italy
2002 The Pianist Pianista Roman Polanski  France
 Poland
2003 Elephant Gus Van Sant  United States
2004 Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore  United States
2005 The Child L’enfant Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne  Belgium
2006 The Wind That Shakes the Barley § Ken Loach  United Kingdom
2007 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile Cristian Mungiu  Romania*
2008 The Class § Entre les murs Laurent Cantet  France
2009 The White Ribbon Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte Michael Haneke  Austria*
2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat / ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ Apichatpong Weerasethakul  Thailand*
2011 The Tree of Life Terrence Malick  United States
2012 Amour Michael Haneke  Austria
2013 Blue Is the Warmest Colour § La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 et 2 Abdellatif Kechiche  France
 Tunisia*
2014 Winter Sleep Kış Uykusu Nuri Bilge Ceylan  Turkey
2015 Dheepan Jacques Audiard  France
2016 I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach  United Kingdom

* denotes first win
§ denotes unanimous win

Multiple award winners

About Erik Anderson

Erik blames his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched them together since he opened his eyes. They also watched Miss Universe religiously every year (the pageantry!) and Erik came to the conclusion that the combination of these two things ultimately led him down the path to obsessing about awards and ACTRESSING. He began at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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One comment

  1. >>You’d have to jump back 10 years to 2002’s The Pianist for the last Best Picture nominee…

    “The Tree of Life”.

    >>What other films in this year’s competition do you think have a chance to be only the second film ever to win both Cannes and Oscar’s top prize?

    Well, I think that none of the 19 films has a real chance.