We almost never pay attention to the Academy Awards around these parts. When the weirdest film to get a “Best Picture” nomination in 2008 is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, you know you’re dealing with one weird-hating Academy. The last film “Best Picture” winner with even smatterings of weird was Midnight Cowboy (1969). Just a pinch of weirdness, or even a mild, sub-weird flirtation with the experimental, is usually the kiss of death to Oscar.
The international and less commercial-minded Cannes Film Festival, on the other hand, has been much kinder to innovation in film. In 2000 Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark managed to win the highest prize, the Palme d’Or, despite containing musical dream sequences. Acknowledged weird classics like Wild at Heart (1990) and Barton Fink (1991) have also managed to break realism’s stranglehold on the top awards.
On May 24, 2009, Cannes announced the recipients of its jury prizes. Let’s see how Cannes did in recognizing cinematic weirdness this year:
PALME D’OR: The White Ribbon [Das weiße Band]. Black and white film set in Germany on the eve of World War I. The synopsis says, “Strange accidents occur and gradually take on the character of a punishment ritual. Who is behind it all?” Although it appears to have a weird element in the form of an unsolvable mystery, at heart it looks like a standard allegorical art film.
GRAND PRIX (I.E., PALME D’OR RUNNER UP): The Prophet [Un Prophete]: An illiterate young Arab man is thrown into a French prison and becomes a gang kingpin. Sounds about a weird as a plastic couple on a wedding cake.
JURY PRIZE (I.E., THIRD PLACE): This year was a tie. The first film recognized was Fish Tank, an unweird drama about a British teenager, her promiscuous mom, and her mom’s lout of a boyfriend. The second awardee shows a little more promise: Thirst [Bakjwi], Chan-wook Park‘s take on the vampire legend, although reviews suggest the oft-weird director takes a conventional approach to the subject this time out.
OTHER FILMS IN COMPETITION: A few interesting, potentially weird films were screened Continue reading OSCAR WON’T, AND IF CANNES CAN’T, MAYBE MEXICO?