Palm Springs International Awards Gala

L.A. goes to the desert to glam it up and officially kick off movie award season

Writer Diablo Cody (in a great sparkly dress) summed up what I love about the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala by calling it a “casual yet glamorous evening.” The other thing I love about the affair is the genuine, heartfelt speeches A-listers give onstage at the PS Convention Center. Sure, they still mean it by the time the Big Show (the Oscars) rolls around in February, but in Palm Springs, George Clooney LOVES his job, Octavia Spencer reminds him that she’s single and can hardly get through accepting an award from her besty, Melissa McCarthy, without tears, and Al Pacino remarks that Jessica Chastain is nothing short of an “acting prodigy.” Everything is sparkly and new—it’s like awards on vacation.

There was a sad note. As I arrived for the evening an ambulance and fire truck were out front by the red carpet. Someone in the crowd that had gathered to see celebs had suffered a heart attack and was being whisked away to the hospital. I’m sorry to hear he later died. The paramedics arrived just as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie hit the red carpet. Pitt was sporting a cane after an accident (falling down a hill, he said).

Al Pacino was one of the last to arrive to much applause and once inside the vibe was uber-jovial. Eleven awards were handed out in all, with George Clooney picking up the Chairman’s Award and Glenn Close nabbing one for Career Achievement. Gary Oldman helped represent the passport-toting set by picking up his International Star Award and joking about the prize’s shape, “I may smoke this later.” Clooney shared that sentiment, saying, “It really is a bong!” before remarking to Oldman, “Just keep acting, brother, you fuck it up for the rest of us.” Michelle Williams wore a terrific short beaded Miu Miu number (she’s keen on those) and Octavia Spencer won my vote for best speech. She and Jessica Chastain couldn’t stop the tears when they hit the stage. And it was terrific to hear Jean Dujardin actually speak. The French star of The Artist, did, however, throw in an apology, “Sorry, my English is rusty.” Cartier, Mercedes-Benz, and Entertainment Tonight were the big-time sponsors and the evening raised 1.6 mil for the Palm Springs Film Society.