Though the Sundance Film Festival kicks off the year in independent film, and the Toronto Film Festival is a showcase for a lot of autumnal Oscar contenders, the Cannes Film Festival in May might be the most prestigious of all the year's film festivals, a chance for auteurs from practically everywhere to show off what usually ends up being the year's best work. Last year The Artist, The Tree of Life, Drive and Midnight in Paris all got their starts there, and with this year's lineup finally announced, we can start predicting which of the Cannes 2012 contenders will be talked about the rest of the year.

They've made it a little easier to expect Oscar buzz this year, with a whopping seven American or America-set films in competition-- Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, which was already announced as the festival's opener, plus David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis (which recently got a spectacular new trailer, Andrew Dominik's Brad Pitt-starring Killing Them Softly, Jeff Nichols's Mud, Precious director Lee Daniels's star-studded The Paperboy, Walter Salles's On The Road, and John Hillcoat's Lawless, which stars Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy and is already set for a late summer release from the Weinstein Company.

As an aside, two of those films, The Paperboy and Mud, star Matthew McConaughey. Between that and his electric presence in the Magic Mike trailer, he's on pace for a really, really good year. And with both the Robert Pattinson-starring Cosmopolis and On The Road, featuring Kristen Stewart, in competition, the Twihards may be out in full force to surprise the austere film-loving crowd in Cannes.

The competition also includes new films from well-known international directors like Jacques Audiard (who won the competition with A Prophet a few years back), Michael Haneke, Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach, Cristian Mungiu and Alain Resnais. ANd if you look out of competition in the Un Certain Regard category, there are even more familiar names-- Benicio del Toro makes his directorial debut as part of the anthology film 7 Days in Havana and Sundance standout Beasts of the Southern Wild makes an appearance in France. And for everyone who just needs a blockbuster to know it's summer, DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted will screen out of competition-- much like Kung Fu Panda and Up before it.

For the full list of Cannes films, see the press release here. We won't be there to enjoy it, sadly, but we'll keep an eye on the buzz from the critics who do attend and let you know what to keep an eye on throughout the year.

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