Which Cannes films have gained momentum for next year's Oscar race?

The biggest Oscar contender has to be Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as faded showbiz figures navigating 1960s Hollywood.
The biggest Oscar contender has to be Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as faded showbiz figures navigating 1960s Hollywood.PHOTO: COLOMBIA PICTURES

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - Though most Oscar contenders do not debut until later this year, last year's Cannes Film Festival launched several films that became award-season players, including Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman and Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War.

With this year's edition of Cannes sewn up last weekend, which films should Oscar-watchers look out for?

The biggest contender has to be Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as faded showbiz figures navigating 1960s Hollywood.

For its spot-on re-creation of that era, Oscar nominations in production and costume design are almost assured, and the film has a good shot at cinematography as well.

The biggest question is how Sony will handle DiCaprio and Pitt, two of the biggest stars in the industry and just about evenly split in terms of screen time.

Sony may try to classify Pitt as supporting. DiCaprio's washed-up actor has the biggest emotional arc, and Pitt's stuntman character is in his employ and thus technically subordinate to him.

It would be bunk, but after Mahershala Ali won a supporting actor trophy just months ago for what was essentially a co-lead performance, the gambit would at least give Pitt a strong shot at his first acting trophy.

 
 
 

In the supporting-actress category, Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate has an affecting second-act scene in which she sneaks into a theatre to watch herself on the big screen.

But the character is more of a symbolic presence than a really fleshed-out role and Robbie does not speak her first line until at least an hour into the movie.

She will need to hope that Oscar voters respond so strongly to Tarantino's film that it cracks the picture, director and screenplay categories, a show of force that would help sweep her in.

Actors from other Cannes films with a shot at being nominated include Willem Dafoe, who chews scenery with aplomb as an old-time seaman in The Lighthouse, and Taron Egerton, who delivers a spirited turn as Elton John in Rocketman.

But he may be hamstrung by Rami Malek's recent, too-similar Oscar win for playing Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Also keep an eye on Antonio Banderas, who is subtle and moving in Pedro Almodóvar's Pain And Glory, in which he plays a thinly veiled stand-in for his director.

Banderas has never been nominated for an Oscar but he charmed the Cannes press with funny and emotional stories about his long career. If the 58-year-old actor hits the awards circuit with that same gusto, he will be irresistible.

And then there is the winner of the Palme d'Or, Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.

No Korean film has been nominated for the international Oscar before, but Parasite is so strong it could even blow past that category to factor into directing and screenplay races, if upstart distributor Neon plays its cards right.

An urgent story of class struggle told in the most sensationally entertaining way, Parasite is Bong at his best, and the academy must take note.