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Less than an hour before the announcement of the Palme and other prizes, rumors are swirling over possible winners based on sightings of who’s in Cannes….and who’s not. In the latter category, count Mike Leigh, which makes “Another Year” unlikely to win any prizes. Based on who has returned or stayed in Cannes, look to the following as strong contenders for awards: Apichatpong for his masterpiece on Monkey Ghosts, catfish, rookie monks who can see themselves and the infinite recyclings of life, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”; Xavier Beauvois for the widely admired drama about Cistercian monks caught in the midst of an Islamsit terror campaign, “Of Gods and Men”; Mahamet-Saleh Haroun for “A Screaming Man”; Lee Chang-dong for his exquisite drama of a grandmother in the midst of a complex life crisis, “Poetry”; Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai for “Chongqing Blues”; and Cannes poster gal Juliette Binoche for best actress in Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy”; Javier Bardem for best actor for his physically and emotionally grueling performance as a dying man in Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s “Biutiful.” A running parlor game all week has been who and what jury president Tim Burton might go for in a competition slate that frequently disappointed and underplayed somewhat deflated expectations. I felt from the start that it was a strategic error to not include Manoel de Oliveira’s “The Strange Case of Angelica” in the competition, based on its gorgeous black-and-white fantasy sequences if for nothing else–beyond the film’s sheer majesty and power, and Oliveira’s magnificently sustained sequences teetering on the edge between black comedy, pathos and reverie. (Claire Denis was so enthusiastic about Oliveira’s Un Certain Regard contender during the UCR awards announcement last night that many expected it as a lead-in to a prize; instead, it went to Hong Sang-soo for his genial “Ha Ha Ha.”) If, as now seems possible, Apichatpong wins the Palme d’Or, it will certainly rank as one of the most daring and notable choices by a Cannes jury since David Cronenberg’s 1999 jury selected the Dardennes Brothers’ “Rosetta,” and will be wildly applauded by the growing pro-Joe contingent still here in Cannes. On the other hand, there will be considerable satisfaction if Beauvois wins for his superbly rendered and classically staged drama which seemed to my eyes to be as much under the sway of Jean Renoir as any French film in recent years. Well, we’re 30 minutes away from the start of the awards, so, we’ll see soon….