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Oscar Watch: Palm Springs, Santa Barbara Fests Push Oscar Hopefuls Like Mulligan, Franco

Oscar Watch: Palm Springs, Santa Barbara Fests Push Oscar Hopefuls Like Mulligan, Franco

It isn’t news that Oscar campaigners take advantage of fall film fests in L.A. and NY that are designed to draw awards attention. MCN’s David Poland rants about con-man Carlos Abreu’s bogus Hollywood Film Festival (which I refuse to take seriously) and IFP’s Gotham Awards, which are far more legitimate in that they are designed to put the spotlight on indie films. Any fest that boosts Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture or Let Me In is fine by me.

Far more respected than the Hollywood Fest–and effective in the awards race—in the L.A. area are the long-established Palm Springs and Santa Barbara Fests, which are both lining up their own battery of awards contenders. The Palm Springs Awards Gala on January 8 will award the Breakthrough Performance Award to Brit Carey Mulligan for both Never Let Me Go and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Mulligan follows in the footsteps of past recipients Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Hudson, Felicity Huffman, Freida Pinto, Jeremy Renner and Mariah Carey.

And on January 29, James Franco will receive the Santa Barbara Fest’s award for Outstanding Performance of the Year for his turn as real-life adventurer Aron Ralston in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. Past recipients of the award include Colin Firth (A Single Man), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart), Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain). The fest runs January 27 – February 6. Check out our interview with Franco and Boyle below.

Since her Oscar nomination for her breakout role in Lone Scherfig’s An Education, Mulligan has worked consistently with the industry’s best directors and actors. She is currently filming with Ryan Gosling and Bryan Cranston in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and is set to play the role made famous by Audrey Hepburn–Eliza Doolittle–in a 2012 adaptation of My Fair Lady. The Palm Springs Intetnational Film Festival runs January 6-17.

Expect a string of further announcements from both fests.

Boyle and Franco Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

The onstage TIFF Q & A, including Aron Ralston:

[Sophia Savage contributed to this report.]

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