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Awards Gala as Warm Hug: Palm Springs Honors Brad Pitt, George Clooney and More

Awards Gala as Warm Hug: Palm Springs Honors Brad Pitt, George Clooney and More

If you’ve been chosen for recognition at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, the orchestra doesn’t play you off.

A reliable top stop on the awards circuit, the 23rd annual edition featured the presentation of 11 awards to some of this season’s most notable players. And those selected were more than happy to talk.

Although the honors were made public far in advance of the event, that didn’t keep the guests from getting emotional. Octavia Spencer, star of “The Help,” wiped away tears while honoring her late parents. But she was quick to quip, in the direction of the all the award-winning males in the audience, “I would be remiss if I didn’t say I’m single, gentlemen.”

“The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius received the Sonny Bono Visionary Award after being introduced by his film’s co-stars, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo. “I wasn’t comfortable with being called a visionary. I wasn’t sure if I had vision,” Hazanavicius said. With his wife Bejo on stage, he cheekily responded to Spencer: “I’m married, but I’m French!”

As the evening progressed, both the award-introduction banter and the acceptance speeches became looser and more light-hearted. Olivia Wilde said of “Young Adult,” the film receiving the Vanguard Award, “If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re an asshole.”

Speaking on behalf of fellow honorees Jason Reitman, Charlize Theron and Diablo Cody, self-proclaimed film buff Patton Oswalt said, “You have no idea how important 2011 will be seen for film.” About his co-star Theron, Oswalt joked, “She did not hit me with a rolled-up copy of Rolling Stone when I mentioned ‘Aeon Flux.’”

Michelle Williams, after being given the Festival’s Best Actress Award for her performance in “My Week with Marilyn,” recalled some horrible advice she received early in her career. “They suggested a name that was alliterative, like Michelle Montana or, to be more exotic, Michelle Montaña,” she said, noting that it would have made her sound like a porn star. In closing, she added, in reference to her awards recognition, “My only wish is that Marilyn could have experienced the same.”

Glenn Close delivered part of her thanks for her career achievement award in character, quoting lines from “Fatal Attraction” and chillingly delivering Cruella De Vil’s cackle from “101 Dalmatians.” Brad Pitt, after praising both Terrence Malick and Bennett Miller as “auteurs,” thanked the rest of the crew for both “The Tree of Life” and “Moneyballl” for making his parents proud after “wasting four years’ of money on college tuition.”

George Clooney, after being introduced by his “The Descendants” co-star Shailene Woodley and writing partner Grant Heslov, turned to Woodley and said, “In 20 years, when you’re running this town, you can find work for a scraggly, retired two-time Sexiest Man Alive winner. And then after Brad, you can hire me.”

Also among the recipients for the evening were “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” director Stephen Daldry, film composer Howard Shore, Jessica Chastain and the man for whom everyone expressed the most respect, Gary Oldman.

Festival chairman Harold Matzner announced that the event raised $1.6 million for the Palm Springs Film Society.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival runs until January 16th.

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