Oscar Circuit: Can Cannes Bring Spike Lee Back to the Oscars?

The Cannes Film Festival kicked off on Tuesday, May 8 and there’s been plenty to get excited about.  There have been acquisitions, applauses, and protests to glue the unofficial kick off into the awards fray as we get into the summer blockbuster season.

Monday night saw the premiere of “BlackKklansman” from Oscar-nominee Spike Lee.  Being released by Focus Features in August, the film that stars John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Topher Grace seems to be one of the best-reviewed films in years for a Spike Lee joint.

Cannes has been the launching pad for many successful Oscar films for decades including “L.A. Confidential” (winning 2 Academy Awards for Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress for Kim Basinger), “Inglourious Basterds” (netting a Supporting Actor Oscar for Christoph Waltz), and “No Country for Old Men” (which went on to win 4 Oscars including Best Picture).  The last Spike Lee film to debut at Cannes was 1991’s “Jungle Fever” which won two awards at Cannes but went on to an Oscar shutout on nomination morning.  Could Spike finally has his long-overdue bout with the Academy following a big omission in 1989 for “Do the Right Thing” and even bigger loss in 1998 for the Documentary Feature “4 Little Girls.”  Lee, who won an Honorary Oscar in 2016, has been hit-or-miss with the Hollywood community over the years.

Some of Lee’s last feature film releases have been “Chi-Raq” in 2015 (virtually ignored and unseen), “Old Boy” (universally panned), “Red Hook Summer” (split down the middle), and “Inside Man” (one of the best popcorn outings of his career).  In between it would seem Lee has tried to appeal to Oscar’s sensibilities with films like “Miracle at St. Anna” but ended up missing the mark.  The internet has generally got behind his efforts like “25th Hour,” which boasted one of Edward Norton’s very best works but no one seemed to bat an eye.

Acquisitions are also in full force as reported by multiple outlets.  Some of the big ones have included:

Photo taken from – TOP SHOT – French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard addresses a press conference through a mobile phone video link, from his home in Switzerland, on May 12, 2018 for his film “Le Livre d’Image (Image Book)” at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read LAURENT EMMANUEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Dean Taylor’s “The Intruder” with Dennis Quaid and Meaghan Good landed at Screen Gems while Jean-Luc Godard’s “The Image Book” was taken in by Kino Lorber.  “Skyscraper Escape” (formerly “Crystal Inferno”) with Claire Forlani and Jamie Bamber found the room at High Octane Pictures while “Siberia” from director Matthew Ross and stars Keanu Reeves and Molly Ringwald will be distributed by Saban Films.

Documentaries like “Breaking Habits” and “Cranked Up” received U.S. distribution from Good Deed and Salon Pictures respectively while divisive filmmakers like Gaspar Noe found a home at A24 with his controversial film “Climax.”

One of the biggest deals was by Sony Pictures Classics picking up Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum,” which will be positioned in December, just in the thick of the Oscar season, making it a prime candidate for the Foreign Language award and perhaps more.

The coming weeks bring everything from “First Reformed” (already played at multiple fests and a potential play for Lead Actor Ethan Hawke) to “Deadpool 2” (an opportunity to finish what its predecessor started in Makeup and Hairstyling and perhaps a few other techs).  Bleecker Street is hoping to put some fire behind “On Chesil Beach” and Saoirse Ronan while “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” finally drops for viewers to see. And in the middle of this, a little film called “Solo: A Star Wars Story” will make a play for money and below the line categories.

June will bring “Hereditary” and with it, a Best Actress campaign for Toni Collette, “Hearts Beat Loud” for Nick Offerman, and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” the probable frontrunner for the Documentary Oscar at this writing.  Oh yeah, and “Incredibles 2”  hoping to steal thunder from Fox Searchlight’s “Isle of Dogs.”

After all this, Venice, Telluride, and Toronto will be in eyesight and then we’ll begin getting serious about the year’s contenders.  Until then, the Oscar Predictions section has everything ranked but please know, it’s still super early.  There’s plenty yet to come.

Share your thoughts about the Cannes Film Festival and what you’re looking forward to in the comments below.

What do you think?


Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.

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