Oscars news: Palm Springs film festival gala sees Brad Pitt sing, Reese Witherspoon shine

Scott Feinberg notes, “the 14th edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s annual awards gala took place Saturday night in the desert resort city, and, as always, it was a strange evening. Held in the Palm Springs Convention Center, an airplane hangar-like venue where festival volunteers lined up and applauded the 2,400 guests as they entered, it was emceed by Mary Hart, who stopped hosting ‘Entertainment Tonight’ in 2011, but still performed her ‘ET’ routine, theme music and all, over the course of several hours. The whole event could be written off as just another of the endless pseudoevents that comprise the awards season — but it shouldn’t be.” THR


UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

Kris Tapley reports on the award that went to David Oyelowo “introduced by ‘Selma’ producer Brad Pitt, who said he wanted to broach a subject that everyone was thinking about. No, it wasn’t recent criticism of the film’s historical accuracy, but rather, how to pronounce Oyelowo’s last name. ‘You’re going to be referencing this name for years to come,’ he exclaimed. ‘You have to learn this!’ Pitt then led the audience on a singalong to help nail the pronunciation in the key of Spanish football anthem “Olé, Olé, Olé.” He also praised Oyelowo’s work as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as ‘a masterclass performance that transcends imitation.’ Taking the stage, Oyelowo was all smiles. ‘You know you’ve broken through when Brad Pitt sings your name,’ he said.” In Contention

As Steve Pond observes, “the gala … is also an annual showcase of awards-worthy work that comes right in the middle of the Oscar nominating voting window. Last year 10 of its 11 honorees went on to receive Oscar nominations. Though the city has only a precious few Academy members,  its track record of picking likely nominees is pretty good. And it always provides a few notable moments as stars get to make speeches without the time constraints or pressures that will come if they get to the stage at the Golden Globes or Oscars.” One example: “The last night of the award, the Chairman’s Award, went to Reese Witherspoon – and the ‘Wild‘ star and producer might have had the most focused speech of the night as she described the making of a film ‘for everyone who has ever felt lost in their life.’” The Wrap

See latest Oscar rankings when the Experts’ predictions are combined

Sasha Stone observes, “2014 is a strange year. To my mind, it marks the first time I’ve seen in a long while that the preordained Oscar movies are probably going to be in the race, whether they are good enough or not. The only reason that matters from my perspective is that I can no longer make the argument that Anne Thompson was right in not predicting films she nor anyone else had yet seen. I think she is morally right. I think it’s better for film overall, better for the Oscars but it isn’t right. The more cynical approach by the pundits that the Oscar brand will prevail no matter what. And so it goes.” Awards Daily

Tom Brueggeman reports, “Three films stand out among many successes, putting an exclamation point on a year when theaters have seen a needed uptick in older (and female) audiences just as the core younger male demo decreased significantly. ‘A Most Violent Year’ (A24) managed to gain a toe-hold despite its late holiday release in two cities, while ‘The Imitation Game’ (Weinstein) continues to emerge as the best crossover performer in the bunch, and ‘American Sniper‘ (Warner Bros.) keeps performing at an unprecedented level of success in only four theaters.” Thompson on Hollywood

More News from GoldDerby