It’s here! Palm Springs kicks off awards season

In short, this is awards season in an oasis.

Every January, just after the New Year is rung in, stars head east to the Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala.

Here, against a mountain backdrop and rows of palm trees, Dale Chihuly-designed glass statues are bestowed upon Oscar hopefuls.

“I love it here, man!” said Julianne Moore, who was honored Saturday night with the Desert Palm Achievement Award for her work in Still Alice. (Moore’s “favorite fake husband,” her Crazy, Stupid, Love co-star Steve Carell, presented.) She spent the morning driving around looking at the modern architecture. “I want to come back with my (real) husband (Bart Freundlich),” she said.

This year’s crop of award recipients also included Robert Duvall (given the Icon Award), the cast of The Imitation Game, Eddie Redmayne, Reese Witherspoon andGone Girl’s Rosamund Pike (Breakthrough Performance Award).

Redmayne showed off his new wedding ring on the red carpet with wife Hannah Bagshawe, whom he married Dec. 15. The pair said they wore Sarah Burton forAlexander McQueen at their wedding. How royal! “It’s very royal,” joked Bagshawe. “A little bit smaller congregation.”

As Redmayne accepted his Desert Palm Achievement Award for his portrayal ofStephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, he thanked “my life partner and, as of two weeks ago, my wife. It’s kind of weird saying that — but it’s a good weird.” Backstage, he snagged a hug from Moore, thanking her for presenting the award.

Brad Pitt was there, too, in his first official push for Selma’s David Oyelowo (Pitt’s production company, Plan B, produced). “How the hell do you pronounce his name? It’s OK. It’s all right. I’ve been there. I’m here to help,” joked Pitt on stage, before helpfully leading a sing-along of Oyelowo’s name to the tune of Coldplay’s Yellow. (It’s Oh-yellow-oh, by the way.)

Backstage, Oyelowo was cracking up, and the two hugged. “He’s become a friend,” said Oyelowo on the red carpet, adding that they bond over being dads. “We have these epic playdates where all 10 of our combined children sort of tear their house apart.”

And, yes, his four kids call Selma’s other producer (a certain Oprah Winfrey) “Auntie O.” Oyelowo shook his head. “Their introduction to Star Wars was George Lucasactually sending them light sabers. … (It’s) a rarefied childhood.”

Benedict Cumberbatch was there to pick up the ensemble award with his Imitation Game co-stars Allen Leech, Matthew Beard and Alex Lawther. (They hilariously proved their ensemble worth by walking out on stage in faux slow-motion together.)

Cumberbatch was just off a plane from his holiday in the Caribbean, and brought his fiancée, Sophie Hunter, who wore a flowing purple-and-gold print gown. “Are you too cold? Let’s go in now,” he said, sweetly looking after her as they walked the red carpet together.

Witherspoon, recipient of the Chairman’s Award for Wild, was also back from a sunny vacation, and got an extra bonus this Christmas: Wild has now raked in more than $23 million at the box office. “When we actually crossed the number that it cost (to make), I was like ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m so happy!’ As a producer, it’s a great feeling,” she said.

With the Golden Globes looming Jan. 11, both Moore and Witherspoon said they were set with their gowns. How were they so on top of it? “We have the same stylist,” Witherspoon laughed.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, awarded director of the year, joked that Birdman, his first comedy, has bled into the shoot of his 19th-century drama The Revenant, starringLeonardo DiCaprio. “It’s become a musical now,” he laughed. “Leo is singing amazing.”

Boyhood director Richard Linklater was honored with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award, bestowed by Shirley MacLaine. He’s been amazed at the reception for his coming-of-age film. “The film is so simple, but the way it seems to have connected with people is really special,” he said.

For stars such as J.K. Simmons, whose Whiplash bowled critics over at Sundance Film Festival last January, what will a year of buzz mean? “I kind of feel like I’m about to find out,” said Simmons, who was presented with the Spotlight Award. “We’re sort of kicking (awards season) off in Palm Springs. You hit the ground running in the New Year.”

Meanwhile, the leading biopics are feeling the squeeze of fresh fact-checking. The Imitation Game left out gay love scenes with its protagonist, closeted codebreaker Alan Turing. Some have complained that Theory of Everything focuses too much on Hawking’s disability or his marriage. And Foxcatcher took a hit when Mark Schultz, the brother of the wrestler killed by John du Pont (played by Carell), lashed out at directorBennett Miller recently on Twitter, saying the film “couldn’t have portrayed me more inaccurately if they tried.”

On the red carpet, The Theory of Everything director James Marsh acknowledged an increase in scrutiny. “People often kind of review the film you didn’t make. I think our story is so obvious. It’s boy-meets-girl.”

“I welcome that discussion,” added Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum. “We have an obligation to the facts as filmmakers.” A biopic is “a great responsibility,” he said. “You have to do justice to his spirit. We showed it to 14 members of his family who were 100% behind it.”

Source: USA Today