This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
"The Tree of Life" just won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but that doesn't mean it'll play at the Oscars next. In fact, that may mean the opposite. Only one Cannes champ has ever won best picture at the Academy Awards and that was 56 years ago: "Marty."
In general, Cannes winners don't prove to be major Oscar contenders. "The White Ribbon" was nominated for best foreign film of 2009 but lost. The last fest champ to fare well in the academy's derby was "The Pianist" (2002), which won best director (Roman Polanski), screenplay (Ronald Harwood) and lead actor (Adrian Brody) but lost best picture to "Chicago."
Sometimes film festival juries become doggedly devoted to a filmmaker regardless of the quality of his or her film. There was much skepticism in recent years at Cannes, for example, when the top prizes went to Ken Loach's "The Wind That Shook the Barley" and Gus Van Sant's "Elephant." Last year, at the Venice Film Festival, the jury was so adamant about hailing Sofia Coppola that it didn't seem to matter that "Somewhere" had been trashed by film critics. Jury president Quentin Tarantino –- who had previously dated Coppola –- whipped up enough support to deliver the Golden Lion to her.
Is the hyper-cool reputation of Terrence Malick blinding the jury to the truth about "The Tree of Life"? It received scattered boos at its fest press screening (along with hearty applause). It has also reaped positive reviews from the likes of Roger Ebert, who called it "a form of prayer. It created within me a spiritual awareness, and made me more alert to the awe of existence."
For the record, 3:15 p.m. May 24: A previous version of this post overstated the amount of booing "Tree of Life" received at Cannes.
-- Tom O'Neil
Photo: Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight