Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala



I only groaned two times while chipper deluxe host Mary Hart kept the speechifying on track at this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival gala. As my ma would say, God bless her. Tom Hanks, Bradley Cooper, Helen Hunt, Helen Mirren, Naomi Watts, Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Sally Field, Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Tom Hooper, John Hawkes and Charo (just seeing if you were paying attention) among many others all walked down the red carpet to join her perky-ness in the Convention Center. Cartier, once again was the big deal sponsor and the Chihuly glass sculpture (which is the award) and “The Entertainer” statue still get some odd looks. Actors/directors get one or the other. But they are memorable looking baubles.

I walked in while fans across the street were chanting, “Richard, Richard, Richard!” when Richard Gere made his way into the party. I also love that the carpet is lined with folks applauding everyone (even peons) as they enter the party.  It’s the first stop for the movie awards, celebs are trying their speeches out and everyone loves their job and everyone else’s work is brilliant. By the end of February, you’re lucky to even get a “Thank You” as award fatigue sets in. Here is the highlight reel from the desert:

Best Dressed: Helen Mirren. In a perfectly cut red Escada gown. I thought she had on sparkly Cartier jewels but they were David Webb. I missed the red Cartier interior of the Convention Center. Party planners went with orange this year punctuated by wilted roses (ahem).

Weeping Willow: Naomi Watts. Last year this honor went to Octavia Spencer, but it was Watts who got choked up onstage this go-round. The award was presented to her by her Impossible co-star Tom Holland (this kid is one to watch). Holland joked that for some reason his father won’t let him see Watt’s flick Mulholland Drive.

I Love My Job: Sally Field. George Clooney took that prize home last year but Field did go on. She punctuated her speech a few too many times with “I won’t change my mind” about becoming an actor, but it was a good one. “I’ve done love scenes with a pelican, but I’ve also done them with Paul Newman,” she said about her career.

Birthday Boy: It was Bradley Cooper’s birthday. Never let Mary Hart know that. After Cooper’s eyes widened you heard him utter, “Oh no,” softy. Hart got the entire Convention Center singing a chorus of Happy Birthday to Mr. Eyes-Too-Blue-To-Trust. Ben Affleck got nervous as she walked his way, “Are you going to sing Happy Birthday to me? My birthday isn’t until August.”

Misty Palm Springs Memories: Sally Field and Richard Gere. Field reminisced about coming to PS as a kid on vacation and thought of it as one long street (well…) and this was the first time Gere had been back to the berg in 30 years. Director David O. Russell credited the film festival with giving his film The Fighter a much needed boost the year it made the rounds.

Poety Reading: Richard Gere got up to accept his Chairman’s Award with a haiku on the ready. Here goes: “Under the cherry tree there are no strangers.” He finished with, “We are partners with the universe in making life happen.” Namaste, zen master flash.

And putting the International into the gala was Helen Mirren who urged party-goers to, “Please, please watch films with subtitles, it’s not so difficult.”

Then it was on to the afterparty at the Parker Palm Springs. Another fine film festival tradition.

On deck: The Broadcast Critics on Thursday and Golden Globes on Sunday. Whew!