Mon dieu, are you ready to start Frenchin'? Because we are!
The 65th Cannes Film Festival starts today, juicing you up for two weeks of sun-basking, Croisette-strutting joie de vivre at the world's most glamorous film fest.
In other words, expect to see lotsa stars hopping off boats, ascending the Grand Palais stairs and putting on their best Riviera-ready smiles as they stump for the fest's top prizes—and the paps' rabid flashbulbs.
Twenty-two films will be in competition this year, comprising a wide swath of global art-house fare, American indies and good-old-fashioned star-driven vehicles. And if you're wondering about cred, don't forget: The Artist made its debut here last year before choo-chooing its way onto the awards fast track.
Here are five notable things to know about this year's fest…
1. Wait: Is This Cannes…or a Twilight Convention? Prepare to get your Robsten fix—sans vampires! Officially minted couple Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart will both be at Cannes this year, but they'll each be shilling for different flicks. Pattinson is no stranger to Cannes—he swung by to promote New Moon in 2009—and this year he stars in the David Cronenberg–helmed mind trip Cosmopolis. Stewart, meanwhile, is part of the star-studded adaptation of Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation touchstone On the Road. And what's a Twilight reunion without Taylor Lautner? The shirt-allergic boffo beefcake doesn't have a film in competition, but the rights to his new flick, the parkour actioner Tracers, will be put up for sale at this year's fest. Take a bite outta that!
2. The Americans Are Coming! This may be France, but Hollywood is coming out in full force. Five American productions will be competing for the Palm d'Or—a big step up from last year, when only two American-made films, Drive and The Tree of Life, were in contention. This year's slate includes Lee Daniels' highly anticipated follow-up to 2009's Precious, the Florida-set potboiler The Paperboy; Wes Anderson's latest quirkfest, the summer-camp-themed Moonrise Kingdom; and Andrew Dominik's mob thriller Killing Them Softly, starring Brad Pitt.
3. Speaking of Brad Pitt: Star Power, Star Power, Star Power! Better bust out those shades, because the star wattage at this year's fest will be blinding. Aside from Pitt, Pattinson and Stewart, the 2012 roster features an A-list's worth of stars. They include Reese Witherspoon (Mud); Kirsten Dunst (On the Road); Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Edward Norton (Moonrise Kingdom); Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone); Eva Mendes (Holy Motors); and Shia LaBeouf (Lawless). Two stars will even be pulling double duty at the fest: Nicole Kidman will star in Hemingway & Gellhorn and The Paperboy, while her Paperboy costar Matthew McConaughey will also headline Mud.
4. They'll Be the Judge of That: In true eclectic Cannes fashion, this year's jury represents an eclectic coterie of tastemakers who'll be putting their heads together to award top prizes to the most deserving films—and performances—in the pack. You've got marquee names like Ewan McGregor and Diane Kruger, along with Oscar winner Alexander Payne (The Descendants). Veteran international actresses are also on the slate, including French mainstay Emmanuelle Devos (The Beat My Heart Skipped) and Palestinian thesp Hiam Abbass (Munich). Rounding out the panel are British director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), Italian auteur Nanni Moretti (The Son's Room), Haitian filmmaker-activist Raoul Peck (Lumumba) and…fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier! Score one for unpredictability.
5. How About Some Popcorn to Go With That Pomp? It isn't all about high-art snobbery at Cannes. The fest will be pimping out its fair share of populist crowd-pleasers, from the schlocky to the fantastical to the downright family-friendly. This is, after all, the fest that has premiered blockbuster stompers like X-Men: The Last Stand, Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith and Kung Fu Panda 2. (Did we catch you wincing there?) This year's lineup keeps the animated theme going with Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. But it also includes the latest camptastic screamer from beloved Italian horrormeister Dario Argento: Dario Argento's Dracula, with Rutger Hauer playing Van Helsing—in 3-D! There's even an HBO movie, Hemingway & Gellhorn, about the romance of Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman), set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Power to the people!