Michelle Williams, George Clooney, Michel Hazanavicius set for Palm Springs awards

Posted by · 10:04 pm · November 24th, 2011

The Palm Springs International Film Festival has announced the directorial and female acting honorees for this year’s Awards Gala. Michelle Williams will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Acting and French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius the Sonny Bono Visionary Award for “The Artist.”

As Guy pointed out during last year’s awards season, though the festival is ostensibly meant to celebrate the unsung heroes of cinema, it (like so many other smaller festivals) in fact acts as a precursor to, and predictor of, the Academy Awards.

The male recipient of the Desert Palm Achievement Award has gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for the past four years. Palm Springs has had a more storied history with their female honorees, but showed remarkable foresight when they selected Natalie Portman rather than Annette Bening last year.

“In her latest work ‘My Week with Marilyn’ she perfectly captures the glamour and vulnerability of the iconic Marilyn Monroe who finds respite and solace during a week-long hiatus from Hollywood pressures,” PSIFF chairman Harold Matzner said via press release in a suitably glowing assessment of the performance.

As a side note, I find it befuddling that “My Week with Marilyn” is consistently described as a film that captures an idyllic moment in Monroe”s life where she is free from the pressures of stardom. That is not what the film is about. Quite the opposite in fact. But I digress.

Williams has been dancing with the Academy for several years now, and the time may have indeed come for her and Oscar to go home together. Though Meryl Streep very well could sweep in to grab the magical number three. Odds are on Viola Davis for the moment. The festival has not yet announced this year”s male acting beneficiary, but it will be interesting to see who that will be.

Matzner was bolder in the Sonny Bono Visionary Award release: “The film opened to rave reviews at its premiere in Cannes,” he said, “and will continue to be one of the films to watch throughout awards season as a leading Best Picture contender.” One could interpret that statement to mean that, far from shying away from it, Palm Springs is embracing its status as an Oscar diviner.

As Kris has noted, “The Artist” (and “Hugo,” for that matter) is the sort of offering that filmmakers love to love. It celebrates the art, the craft, it exemplifies and extols the passion that cinephiles share. It is “inside baseball” at its finest. The aesthetic merits and thematic appeal aside, there is something to the novelty of recognizing the first silent film to be a potential Best Picture contender in 83 years that likely tickles festival directors and critics.

Previous recipients of the Sonny Bono Visionary Award include Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrman, Gus Van Sant and Danny Boyle.

Additional honorees this year include George Clooney for the Chairman’s Award and Glenn Close the Career Achievement Award. Several other announcements (including the male acting awardee) are expected to be made shortly, while the competing Santa Barbara International Film Festival will begin its own roll-out of awards announcements soon enough.

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