The Oscars in the Desert: The Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala

In the past three years, 28 of the 31 winners honored were nominated for Academy Awards

Movie award season officially kicked into high gear on Saturday with the annual glamfest in the desert—The 27th Annual International Awards Gala. The Palm Springs Convention Center was packed with movie lovers who stopped by to see Alicia Vikander, Tom McCarthy, Brie Larson, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Saoirse Ronan, Bryan Cranston, Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, and the cast of The Big Short pick up some of their first trophies of the season. Mary Hart hosted again; Bighorn, Entertainment Tonight, and Mercedes-Benz were the big-time sponsors.

Orchids covered every surface and wee illuminated green glass Buddhas sat by everyone’s plate. Christian Bale encouraged everyone to “Steal your Buddhas!” as he slid one into each of his jacket pockets. He also accepted his ensemble award for The Big Short (along with costars Steve Carrell, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, and director Adam McKay), saying, “Let’s hope that in some small way this movie can help the people who were shat on by the fat cats.”

Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett

Photograph by Helga Esteb /

Carol actress Cate Blanchett accepted her Desert Palm Achievement Award, joking, “Thank you to the Palm Springs International Film Festival for reminding us that we aren’t nominated for any other award. Not to feel like losers. We’ve had our moment of glory.”

Matt Damon picked up the Chairman’s Award. “I’m not into awards—who gives a shit…except for this one,” he said. Damon’s pal Ben Affleck picked up the same prize a few years ago. “Ben’s going to refer to me as the Chairman for at least a week,” Damon promised. He also thanked the festival for a posthumous award they presented to Jerry Weintraub the same night. “I miss him every day,” he said.

So, if we may summarize: Yea. It’s over with. That’s it. Oh, wait—that’s what Johnny Depp said at the end of his speech.

The festival runs until January 11. The next award show on the books? The Golden Globes this Sunday.