As the Oscars rapidly approach, count on studio heads to schmooze with critics and wax philosophical about their latest flicks, drinking in the adulation of star-drunk fans under warm desert skies and rolling greens. The annual Palm Springs International Film Festival kicks into gear with star-studded screenings of 230 films from 65 countries—55 of which are vying for a spot in Academy’s Best Foreign Language Film nomination.
The Opening Night Gala features Helen Hunt’s directorial debut, Then She Found Me, a comedy in which a New York schoolteacher (Hunt) starts to undergo a midlife crisis when her husband leaves, her adoptive mother dies, the biological one shows up while she’s falling head-over-heels for the father of a student played by Colin Firth. Other highlights include John Sayles’ Honeydrippers, Cannes’ Coeur du Jury winner The Band’s Visit and Golden Palm winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a drama that deals with the aftermath of an illegal abortion in the waning days of Communist Romania.
Too saturated with the drama? Load up on treacly sweets at the free Hairspray sing-a-long Saturday, January 4 at Sunset Park. Cast members may chime in with a song or two as they arrive for the Ensemble Performance Award the following night at the Black Tie Awards Gala, hosted by the chirpy Mary Hart. Celebs slated to appear include director Joe Wright (Atonement), composer Frederick Loewe, director Sean Penn and actors Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), Daniel Day-Lewis, Halle Berry, and the Film Fest’s newest Rising Star, Nikki Blonsky.
Diversity takes center stage with special programs dedicated to Israeli and Italian Film Days, World Cinema Now, Cine Latino, True Stories and Archival Treasures, with one of these lucky guys taking home the New Voices/New Visions Award. Finally, closing the festival Sunday, January 13 is the French comedy Priceless, directed by Pierre Salvadori and starring Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh.
Come for the glory and leave with a head’s up on the possible Oscar picks for the season. Isn’t that worth the cool two thousand bucks? (Nancy Powell)
Palm Springs International Film Festival, Palm Springs, (760) 322-2930; www.psfilmfest.org; Thursday, January 3 thru Monday, January 14. Regular individual screening tickets—general admission ($10) and matinee ($9); pass for all screenings (excluding galas), $375; pass to all events and galas, $2000