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Cate Blanchett in “Carol”: Our first big Oscar contender from Cannes 2015

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Over the past week or so, the 2015 Cannes Film Festival has slowly unveiled some big time releases. Some, like Woody Allen’s Irrational Man and Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, have turned out to be longer shots for any Academy Award attention. On the other hand, Cannes has seen Todd Haynes’ Carol launch towards the top of quite a few Oscar contention lists. Yes, while the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, and Emma Stone saw their chances fade, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler, Rooney Mara, and Sarah Paulson certainly had their stock rise. Carol is the cream of the Cannes crop so far…

As a primer, the film is an adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt (later retitled Carol). In it, Blanchett plays a married older woman who begins a flirtation and then an affair with a younger woman, played by Mara. Chandler plays Blanchett’s possessive husband, while the cast also includes the aforementioned Paulson in a vital role, alongside the likes of Carrie Brownstein, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, and more. Haynes directs, obviously, while the adaptation of Highsmith’s book has been penned by Phyllis Nagy. In some ways, this sounds like similar material to Far From Heaven, but if that is the case, that doesn’t mean that Oscar won’t be very interested, regardless.

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I think that this one has some huge awards potential, both at Cannes and beyond as we move towards Oscar season. For starters, it’s certainly a contender now for the Palme d’Or prize as well as citations for Haynes and Blanchett at the fest. At the end of the year, when The Weinstein Company puts it out, it’ll likely be one of the bigger Academy Award players as well. This is one that you really can’t ignore, especially after the glowing reviews from the festival. Before that, it was still a strong possibility given its pedigree, but now…well, things are all that much better for Harvey Weinstein’s likely big shot at Oscar gold.

How good could this one do? Well, I don’t think Carol will wind up leading the field, but Best Picture, Best Director (for Haynes), Best Actress (for Blanchett and/or Mara), Best Supporting Actor (for Chandler), Best Supporting Actress (for Mara and/or Paulson), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score represent potential nominations. Yes, a double digit total is something that you wouldn’t be nuts to go ahead and predict. It’s early, sure, but Cannes is setting Carol up to be a top tier Academy Award contender well before the summer, or its winter release date, for that matter.

I shouldn’t speak out of school, but I wonder if this could turn out to be Blanchett’s third Oscar win? More likely, Mara could be the beneficiary in a Supporting race (despite being a co-lead, it seems) if Carol is a huge player, but I’m sure people will talk about Blanchett threatening Meryl Streep in term of the three win category. Had Blanchett not just won for Blue Jasmine a few years ago, her campaign would already be dealing with “frontrunner” status. Still, you have to wonder if she represents the most likely win at this early stage for the flick. We shall see, but it’s something to certainly ponder.

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Right now, it’s just a matter of seeing how the film plays post Cannes (along with which prizes, if any, it takes home) before hitting theaters at the tail end of 2015. I have a strong hunch that Carol will play at the New York Film Festival, with at least one other stop a safe bet along the way. The movie won’t be released by The Weinstein Company until December 18th, so it’s gunning to be one of the final things that voters see. There’s a ton of time still left, but right now, Carol is making all the right moves. It’s the toast of Cannes and will be one of the many hoping for that same honor with Oscar once the summer comes and goes. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but this is one not to bet against right now…

Here’s a clip from the film to whet your appetite for Carol a bit:

Stay tuned for much more on Carol!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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