The 2008 Cannes Film Festival Awards Have Been Announced… Should You Care?

The 2008 Cannes Film Festival is over and the awards have been announced. Cue the crickets. Sorry, that was wrong, cue le crickets.
By  · Published on May 28th, 2008

The 2008 Cannes Film Festival is over and the awards have been announced. Cue the crickets. Sorry, that was wrong, cue le crickets.

By all accounts this was a very bland year at Cannes… no controversy and very little excitement. Unless you were there of course, as any film festival on a French beach is bound to titillate even the most jaded filmgoer/reporter. Maybe that’s just an assumption on my part, but it’s in France, on a topless beach, and is ground zero for attention whores the world over, so I have to believe the dirty internet pictures I’ve been clicking through are accurate representations of the festival shenanigans. But enough with the unofficial Cannes happenings…

The official news from Cannes focuses solely on the films, and the deals and awards that hopefully follow. This year’s winner’s list is a who’s who of international “who?”, which is typical for Cannes, even with a few recognizable faces on the jury. Sean Penn was this year’s jury director which many people thought would guarantee awards for any left-leaning political diatribes in competition. Michael Moore definitely missed an opportunity here. The beautiful and beguiling Natalie Portman and the equally beguiling (but not so beautiful) Alfonso Cuaron joined Penn, along with six other filmmakers from around the world.

A partial list of the big winners is below. Head over to the official Cannes website for a complete listing.

The Palme d’Or (aka Golden Palm) went to The Class directed by Laurent Cantet. The film is a fictionalized documentary-style look at a Parisian high school. This was the first French film to win the award in over twenty years which earns the French a small amount of begrudged respect I suppose. I’ll watch it but I can’t see how it’ll be better than the USA’s own upcoming high school “documentary”, American Teen. (Probably won’t even compare to the similarly named 80’s masterpiece, Class, starring Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, and Jacqueline Bisset.)

The Grand Prix (aka Grand Prize, which really sounds like it should be the top prize doesn’t it?) went to Italy’s Gomorra directed by Matteo Garrone. The film is about a modern-day Italian crime family, and while I haven’t seen it yet, I find it hard to believe it’s any better or more interesting than the half dozen Scorsese mob movies that never won at Cannes.

Best Leading Actor went to Benicio Del Toro for Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour-plus opus Che. Various reports have stated this biopic will be released as two separate films, The Argentine and Guerilla, but at least in Cannes it was played as one, long jungle romp broken only by a brief sandwich-filled intermission. Reviews have so far been mixed on everything but Del Toro’s performance. A.O. Scott from the NY Times calls his performance “soulful and charismatic”, but admits that may be part of the problem with the film as a whole. Che preserves “the romantic notion of Guevara as a martyr and an iconic figure, an idealistic champion of the poor and oppressed… this image seems at best naïve and incomplete, at worst sentimental and dishonest. More to the point, perhaps, it is not very interesting.” Viva la t-shirt sales!

Rounding out the big, recognizable winners were a pair of 61st Anniversary Awards given to Catherine Deneuve for A Christmas Tale, and Clint Eastwood for his latest directorial effort, Changeling. The latter film stars tattooed baby factory Angelina Jolie as a woman whose son goes missing in 1920’s Los Angeles. The problems start after the child is returned to her and she begins to suspect he may not actually be her son. Changeling is reportedly based on a true story from Jolie’s own life, having lost several of her own twenty-seven children over the years only to have random minority kids “returned” to her via international delivery.

In fact, the biggest news to come out of Cannes wasn’t really news at all. One of Hollywood’s biggest blowhards announced he’ll be back to Cannes next year showing his new movie, Inglorious Bastards. Fure has already voiced the overall doubt as to the veracity of Quentin Tarantino’s seemingly annual proclamation, and Neil has called the loud-mouthed director a douche, so what is there left to say?

Like I said, not a very exciting year at Cannes.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.