Pete Hammond

Still enjoying its post-King’s Speech Best Picture Oscar win from a couple of months ago, The Weinstein Company had plenty of reasons to party Friday night in Cannes, so they threw two soirees instead of just one. It was a packed main event at the Martinez, where the company showed clip reels of its burgeoning 2011 slate. COO David Glasser touted the company’s recent highlights and introduced a beaming Harvey Weinstein, who crowed (sorry) about the upcoming slate mentioning future hoped-for biggies including what he described as perhaps their biggest movie ever, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Deadline broke the news Friday of another potential winner that was mentioned, TWC’s acquisition of The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep as Britain’s only female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, which TWC will release in the fall in time for Oscar. Then he showed some first looks of upcoming product including My Week With Marilyn, with Michelle Williams glammed up as the legendary Monroe (although it’s clearly a challenge to capture that particular magic) and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier. I talked to Williams on a phoner from London while she was making the film, and she had a really difficult time articulating the process she was going through. The task was obviously a daunting one, but I can’t wait to see what she does with it in the context of the whole film. I heard Branagh’s brilliant in it.

There were also clips from Our Idiot Brother, with Paul Rudd, and the last-minute Cannes competition entry The Artist, a black-and-white silent movie that will unspool in a prime Sunday night slot at the Palais. Harvey introduced it by saying his associates thought he was off his rocker for buying this black-and-white silent, “just like they thought I was when I did a film about a guy with a left foot and a British king who stutters.” At the party, he made a point of telling me to see the film as soon as possible here. The footage really made it look intriguing, full of old Hollywood pizzazz and style, so I will be checking it out bright and early Sunday morning at the first press screening. Weinstein clearly has a Harv-on for this one and also seemed high on a new comedy just wrapping production, I Don’t Know How She Does It starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan. Parker was flown into Cannes for the event and introduced the clips herself. Also part of the proceedings was yet another recent acquisition announced in Cannes (these guys are busy) of Peter Ho-Sun Chan’s Martial Arts film noir, Dragon, which had its official Cannes premiere out of competition just after midnight. The director introduced the entire cast and promised something completely new in the genre. And just to keep the town hopping, Weinstein threw a second party later Friday to celebrate Dragon before their red-carpet stroll.

Elsewhere on Friday, the competition films got international with former Palme d’Or winner Nanni Moretti’s (The Son’s Room) funny and surprising Habemus Papam, in which 85-year-old French legend Michel Piccoli plays a newly elected Pope who goes AWOL. If Italy enters this for the Oscars, it could be catnip for that Academy committee. So could Israel’s Hearat Shulayim (Footnote), from director Joseph Cedar, a fascinating and intelligent father-son drama that Sony Classics picked up prior to its official Saturday night premiere. It was very well received at its press screenings Friday night but may be too cerebral for real box office success outside its home country.

One “controversial” film premiere in Cannes that was anything BUT cerebral was Unlawful Killing, an apologetically one-sided view of conspiracy theories in the death of Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in that fatal 1999 car crash in Paris. Director Keith Allen (father of singer Lily) explained to the noontime audience for its first market showing (mostly curious press-types who clawed their way in, although there were still some empty seats) that his film was really an inquest about the inquest into Di’s death. He practically indicts the Royal Family and offers all sorts of salacious gossip he says the official British media steers would never touch. Using the Cannes circus to gain attention for his film, pre-publicity for the showing emphasized the movie was uncut and included a photo (banned in Britain but widely seen on the worldwide web) of Diana in her dying moments. Allen emphasized that the film is not nearly as shocking or exploitative as some advance news reports out of England have painted it. He’ll be screening it again Sunday, proving there’s something for everyone in Cannes this year.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.

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