After nearly two weeks of stirring, sleek and thought-provoking movies - and a couple of duds - the Cannes Film Festival ends Sunday with an awards night to declare the winner of its coveted Palme d’Or.

US directing duo the Coen brothers head a jury of top actors and filmmakers that will decide which of the 19 competition entries will walk away with the 20,000-euro ($24,000) gold-and-crystal trophy. Two runner-up films will also get prizes, along with awards for best director, actor, actress and screenplay.

Critics have hailed this year’s crop, which revealed a remarkably strong contingent from Italy, two noted Chinese-language pictures, a couple of American features seemingly destined for Oscar acclaim, a raw Holocaust movie, and a mixed bag of French fare.

Standouts include ‘Carol’, an American lesbian drama that many thought likely to earn Australian actress Cate Blanchett accolades for her consummate acting; ‘Son of Saul’, a first feature from a Hungarian director set in the Auschwitz extermination camp; and ‘My Mother’, a touching Italian movie about a director’s crisis and loss.

Others were ‘Youth’, another Italian-directed movie but filmed in English with Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda; and ‘The Lobster’, a weird but funny Greek-directed movie starring Colin Farrell. ‘The Assassin’, a slow-moving Taiwanese martial arts movie starring actress Shu Qi, won over arthouse reviewers for its rich aesthetics. Which way the jury will jump is anyone’s guess.

Joel and Ethan Coen, the makers of Oscar-winner ‘No Country for Old Men’ and the 1991 Palme d’Or winner ‘Barton Fink’, could be swayed by movies with menace, or oddball humour, or extraordinary production values. But the opinions of the other members of the panel also have to be taken into account - for instance, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (known for fantasies such as ‘Pan’s Labyrinth), Canadian wunderkind filmmaker Xavier Dolan, and actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Sienna Miller.

An unofficial award, the Queer Palme, decided by a separate panel looking to highlight gay people in movies, went to ‘Carol’. ‘It is a historic moment - the first time a story of love between two women has been treated with the respect and importance that we accord to all other cinematic romances,’ said Queer Palm jury president Desiree Akhavan, an American actress and director.

After rule changes in past years, the Palme d’Or cannot be shared and must go to just one of the movies. The awards for best actor and best actress cannot go to performers in the Palme winner. Usually, the nine members of the jury put their choice of winner on a bit of folded paper in a champagne ice bucket to be drawn out.

‘The Sea of Trees’, an American melodrama starring Matthew McConaughey and directed by past Palme winner Gus Van Sant, is seen as least likely to figure in their deliberations. Critics unanimously gave it a thumbs-down. Likewise, a French movie relating a true tale of 17th-century incest, ‘Marguerite & Julien’, was widely panned. Whichever way the prize ceremony goes, the festival will be remembered for a varied and mostly interesting line-up.

As well as a flawed but ambitious triptych by Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke, ‘Mountains May Depart’, and notable performances from French actor Vincent Lindon in ‘The Measure of a Man’ and British actor Tim Roth in ‘Chronic’, some out-of-competition films generated buzz. Those non-contenders included dystopian sci-fi desert derby ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, which has gone on to bumper box-office success, ‘Inside Out’, a new animation movie seen as putting Pixar back onto a winning slate, and ‘Amy’, a documentary about the short and tragic life of superstar singer Amy Winehouse.