Alexander Payne's father-and-son story "Nebraska," starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte, could also stir the jury with its austere, black-and-white Midwest road trip.
Psychological guesswork of jury presidents is de rigueur at Cannes. This year, many expect Spielberg will steer away from rewarding a filmmaker from his native country. He leads a starry, international group of eight others: Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay, Japanese director Naomi Kawase, French actor Daniel Auteuil and Bollywood star Vidya Balan.
One of the boldest, most ambitious films in competition was Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty," which stars Toni Servillo as a Rome journalist who begins to question a lifetime of late nights. Wildly stylistic but also emotionally personal, it was one of the biggest critical hits at Cannes.
On the outside are wild cards like Steven Soderbergh's Liberace melodrama "Behind the Candelabra," Kore-eda Hirokazu's switched-at-birth drama "Like Father, Like Son" and Chad-born Mahamat-Saleh's disabled dancer tale "Grigris."
Soderbergh's film, starring Michael Douglas, will air on HBO in the U.S. just hours after the Cannes closing ceremony. The director is withdrawing from moviemaking, so a win at Cannes would be fitting symmetry. His first film, "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," won the Palme d'Or in 1989.
On the first day of the festival, jury member Lee said he was praying the jury would be overwhelmed by a self-evident Palme winner, so they wouldn't need to "rationalize" their choice through debate. Perhaps the jury was hit by a thunderbolt that didn't resound as clearly for festivalgoers. But most likely, Lee's prayers went unanswered.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle