Your Quick Guide to Cannes 2012

While us normal folk were working our 40 hours and anticipating the long holiday weekend, the beautiful people were over in France attending the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Cannes is often considered the cream of the crop of the festival circuit. This is no Sundance, with its snow boots, Motorola-sponsored parties and A-list actors premiering their indie side projects. Cannes is a film festival for grown-ups and celebrates international films of clout, mostly; every once in a while, they will allow Jack Black to show up with a giant panda.

Cannes 2012 lasted from May 16 through May 27, and there is an overwhelming amount of "who did what" and "who wore who" all over the Internet. To make your life easier and give you something to talk about at work that will make you look superior, here is your Cannes 101.

This year the festival was as high-brow as they come, and the directors competing for the top prize were esteemed auteurs such as Michael Haneke, David Cronenberg, Andrew Dominik, Wes Anderson, Jeff Nichols, Lee Daniels and Walter Salles, among others. In addition to the official contest, Cannes hosts a number of special screenings and shorts.

This year's highly anticipated screening was from a director you rarely see showcased outside of the public television world, Ken Burns. Burns, along with his daughter Sarah and co-director David McMahon, showcased their latest documentary, The Central Park Five. The film retells the story of the horrific 1989 raping of the "Central Park jogger" and the five teenagers who were arrested for the crime. As the story goes, the five teens openly admitted to the rape and were jailed for years before it came to light that they were completely innocent.

Another special screening was dedicated to Laurent Bouzereau's documentary Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir. Polanski has had quite the life. Members of the Manson family murdered his wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969, and several years later he was arrested for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl. The new film touches upon Polanski's sordid past in a candid conversation with the director. Polanski, who is rarely seen out and about because of that whole underage-sex-hiding-from-the-law thing, made an appearance at this year's festival, although not for the documentary. The director was showcasing a recut of his 1979 film Tess, and had not a peep to say about the scandal surrounding his presence.

The competition for best in show was also swirling with some heat. Unlike last year's festival, which was filled with Oscar-typical fare, 2012 was lacking in the American-directed category. There was plenty of U.S. star power in the running for best actor/actress, though. Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, Matthew McConaughey in Mud, Nicole Kidman in Hemingway & Gelhorn, as well as the much-buzzed-about The Paperboy, in which Kidman romances the young Zac Efron, were all given rave reviews.

Which movies can you expect to see in a theater near you? Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, which stars his usual suspects set on a 1965 campground, opens with limited release on June 8. Unfortunately, as of now you have to drive to Austin to see it (bastards). Hemingway & Gelhorn, starring Kidman and Clive Owen as Ernest and his third wife, will air on HBO beginning Monday, May 28. Knowing HBO, they will surely air it again...and again.

On the Road, the anticipated film version of Jack Kerouac's revered semi-autobiographical novel, as of now does not have an official U.S. release date. However, given the movie's star-studded cast -- Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, the list goes on -- and the fact that Roman Coppola, son of Francis, produced the film, a U.S. showing is pretty much guaranteed.

Killing Them Softly, which stars Brad Pitt and was written and directed by Andrew Dominik, who also wrote and directed the Brad Pitt vehicle The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is scheduled to be released mid-September. The movie is about a hit man (Pitt) but has been noted for its negative commentary on capitalism. Hopefully it comes out right before the election!

This year's Palme d'Or, the grand prize, went to Austrian director Michael Haneke's film Amour. Amour is about an elderly couple whose world is shattered when the wife suffers from several life-altering strokes. Sony has picked the film up for distribution here; look for it closer to Oscar season. It's in French with English subtitles, which may make its U.S. release somewhat clunky for theatergoers. Or not. If last year's The Artist is any indication of what the Oscars are trying to be, Amour may have a shot.

There you go! Now you can easily pretend you followed the Cannes coverage like a hawk and are more cultured than everyone you know.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig