'Babel,' 'Little Children' winners at desert event

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — “Babel” and “Little Children” were among the big winners at the Palm Springs Film Festival 2007 gala awards.

Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and Jessica Biel were among those attending Saturday night’s festivities.

Pitt came to collect the ensemble performance award for “Babel,” flying cross-country after working through the night on sci-fi romance “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with Blanchett. “We wrapped at about 6 this morning and got on a plane.”

Pitt reunited on the red carpet with “Babel” director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, as well as the pic’s Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. Fest named Inarritu director of the year.

“I love the undercurrent of this film, and that is the inability, sometimes, to understand where the other side is coming from,” Pitt told AP Television.

Inarritu, Barraza, Kikuchi and Pitt are nominated for Golden Globe Awards, to be handed out Jan. 15. (Blanchett is also nominated, but for her role in “Notes on a Scandal.”)

Blanchett accepted the fest’s career achievement award. She jokingly apologized for making so many movies that were released in 2006, including “Babel,” “Notes on a Scandal” and “The Good German.”

Winslet, winner of the festival’s Desert Palm Achievement Award for acting, said the kudos attention for her perf in “Little Children” has resuscitated the commercial prospects of the $30 million film, which has grossed less than $3 million since hitting theaters in early fall.

“That’s the thing that’s so fantastic about the nominations,” she said. “It does mean that hopefully people will go and see the movie. It’s given it a sort of new lease on life, which is wonderful for all of us involved.”

Sienna Miller (“Factory Girl”) presented Biel with the Rising Star award. Biel, who co-starred in “The Illusionist,” previously logged 10 seasons on TV’s “7th Heaven.””You know, I was nothing but pleased, even though I’ve been working for a long time,” Biel said. It’s a lot better than having them give you the “Falling Star” award, she added with a laugh.

Adam Beach got choked up when accepting his Rising Star award for his portrait of a Native American WWII soldier in “Flags of Our Fathers.”

The film “really sent a message out there that Native Americans are not only heroes of this country, but also are human beings.”

The Visionary Award, named after fest founder Sony Bono, went to “Little Children” helmer/co-writer Todd Field; the Frederick Loewe Award for film composing to Philip Glass (“The Illusionist,” “Notes on a Scandal”); the Chairman’s Vanguard Award to “Little Miss Sunshine”; the SAG Foundation Patron of the Arts Award to Sydney Pollack; and the Breakthrough Performance Award to “Dreamgirls” co-star Jennifer Hudson.

Fest runs through Jan. 15.

Winners at the Palm Springs International Film Festival 2007 Gala Awards:

Ensemble Performance Award:“Babel”

Director of the Year: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”)

Career Achievement Award: Cate Blanchett (“Babel,” “Notes on a Scandal,” “The Good German”)

Desert Palm Achievement for Action: Kate Winslet (“Little

Children”)

Sony Bono Visionary Award: Todd Field (“Little Children”)

Rising Star Award, Male: Adam Beach (“Flags of Our Fathers”)

Rising Star Award, Female: Jessica Biel (“The Illusionist”)

Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing: Philip Glass (“The Illusionist,” “Notes on a Scandal”)

Chairman’s Vanguard Award: “Little Miss Sunshine”

SAG Foundation Patron of the Arts Award: Sydney Pollack

Breakthrough Performance Award: Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”)

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