Confessions of a Cannes nerd…

Judging from my last couple of posts, you’ve probably already figured this out, but, for the record…yes, I am a total Cannes Film Festival nerd. Sure, I get excited about Sundance and Toronto and even the Los Angeles Film Festival — the only one I’ve ever actually attended! — but nothing for me is as exciting as Cannes.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because those cinema-mad Frenchies are such big fans of some of my favorite writers and directors.

Only a handful of American films have ever won the Palm d’or, and almost across the board, they were made by some of the coolest, most idiosyncratic filmmakers in Hollywood. Robert Altman (“Mash”), Martin Scorcese (“Taxi Driver”), Francis Ford Coppolla (“Apocalypse Now”), Bob Fosse (“All That Jazz”), the Coen Brothers (“Barton Fink”), Quentin Tarrantino (“Pulp Fiction”) and David Lynch (“Wild at Heart”) are just a few of the American winners to date, and the list of cool foreign films that snagged the top prize is even more impressive.

Unlike the Oscars, who’s crusty old members will throw a Best Picture Award at bloated schlock like “Crash”, Cannes juries are more discriminating and the movies they screen and honor with awards at the festival are much more interesting because of it.

For instance, aside from a Best Original Song nomination for Bjork, Oscar voters totally ignored modern classics like “Paris, Texas” and “Dancer in the Dark”, but not Cannes, baby. “Texas” and “Dancer” both won the Palm in their respective years and the Cannes jury even gave Bj√∂rk a well-deserved Best Actress award.

And one of my all-time favorite writer/directors, Jim Jarmusch — who shockingly, has never even been nominated for an Oscar! — has been in the running for the Palm d’Or a whopping six times. And that’s just the nominations, Jarmusch’s list of Cannes wins could fill books.

Aside from taking home the lesser, but still prestigious, Camera d’or for his seminal “Stranger Than Paradise”, Jarmusch also won a Grand Jury award for “Broken Flowers”, a short-film Palm d’or for “Coffee and Cigarettes III” and a special award for “Best Artistic Contribution” for his seriously-underrated “Mystery Train”. As my French friends would say…incroyable!

And the writing awards at Cannes are even more eclectic. They doesn’t give out a screenplay award every year, but when they do, the juries at Cannes pick some really amazing scripts…stuff that is often totally overlooked by other festivals, the Academy and hell, even the WGA.

Genre-bending classics like “Nurse Betty”, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”, “Henry Fool”, “Volver” and even James Schamus’s pitch-dark swinger dramedy “The Ice Storm” are just a few of the rocking good screenplays to win at the Cannes Film Festival.

So, while I haven’t ever climbed the grand staircase at the Palais du Cinema in real life, I have followed the festival for years from abroad, and man alive, what a nerdtastic trip it’s been!

Vive le cinema! Vive le Festival de Cannes!

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