Two potential Oscar contenders premiered early at this year's Cannes Film Festival among the indie and foreign fare, that has, frankly, fared better. There are still several major premiered (Mad Max already a hit) left of potential Oscar films, but so far they have failed to make a huge impact.
First on deck is Woody Allen's latest Irrational Man, which many of us were hoping would be a major improvement on Magic in the Moonlight. First, I think it is safe to say that the initial reaction has been much better than its predecessor. Of the major publications covering Cannes, the response has been pretty good. Not raves, not Annie Hall or even Midnight in Paris/Blue Jasmine, his last two films to have tremendous success, but most of the reviews seem to indicate that it is still a pretty solid effort from Allen, a twisty tale like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point, and is bolstered by strong performances. Of particular note seems to be Emma Stone, who could be the one that garners the most awards attention for the film. Allen has always done well with his actresses, and while none of the early reviews make it seem like Stone is another Cate Blanchett, she looks like she carries the film with sincerity.
The second major contender to premiere did not fare so well as Irrational Man. Early reports were that Gus Van Sant's latest The Sea of Trees, starring Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanbe was booed by the Cannes audience. This is not neccessarily an indicator, as that audience has been known to boo projects that went on to be great successes (The Tree of Life comes to mind). But then the reviews started trickling in. And boy are they bad. Not even mixed, just plain bad. Is the McConassaince over? Probably not, but this is not another Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar, or Mud. Van Sant has always seemed to end up on either end of the spectrum. Either his films or winning the Palme D'Or or Oscars like Elephant, Good Will Hunting, or Milk, or they are duds like Promised Land and Restless. But this one seems to be a particular misfire.
As always, early reviews can morph as the studios moves it stateside, and both films could have different trajectories by summer's end. But either way, Cannes is seemingly never boring, and this year proves to be no exception. Check back in the coming days for more updates as new films land.