Pitt, Clooney headline starry Palm Springs gala

Event reels in kudos hopefuls

A hefty quotient of star power turned out Saturday for the Palm Springs Film Festival awards gala on a balmy desert night, virtually all repping contenders in the season’s kudos race.

Brad Pitt used a cane to navigate the Palm Springs Convention Center red carpet, but was in fine form as he accepted the actor award. Pitt thanked Bill Pohlad for backing ”The Tree of Life” and Amy Pascal for having faith in ”Moneyball,” ”no matter how many times she had to shut it down.”

Accepting the Vanguard award for the ”Young Adult” ensemble of Charlize Theron, Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman and himself, comedian Patton Oswalt proclaimed, ”The Vanguard winners are the drunkest of all.”

The heavy glass trophies designed by Dale Chihuly provided an easy target for humor. ”I may smoke this later,” said Gary Oldman.

”It really is a bong,” said George Clooney, who was awarded the fest’s top honor, the Chairman Award for ”The Descendants” and ”The Ides of March.” ”Most people don’t get to love their jobs,” he said in a warm-hearted speech.” What the producers don’t know, Clooney said, is that ”actually we’d do it for free.”

”The Artist” star Berenice Bejo persuaded co-presenter Jean Dujardin to speak, saying ”Everybody wants to hear your voice.” Helmer Michel Hazanavicius, who won the Visionary award, thanked French producer Thomas Langmann, reminding him, ”I said never to invest your own money, but he did, so thank you.”

The scope of international star winner Oldman’s clip montage impressed the crowd, as presenter Adrien Brody exclaimed, ”Holy shit, that’s a reel!” Actress winner Michelle Williams said she wished Marilyn Monroe in her lifetime could have had the experiences she had at the gala.

The career achievement award went to Glenn Close, who channeled memorable characters Cruella de Ville and ”Fatal Attraction’s” Alex Forrest. Fellow ”Big Chill” cast member Jeff Goldblum presented the award, and Close brought her career full circle by explaining ”My journey as an actress kind of began with Albert Nobbs.”

Young ”Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” thesp Thomas Horn ably introduced director award winner Steven Daldry with help from co-star Tom Hanks. The helmer reminded that it’s important to tell the stories of 9/11 since they’re not taught in any national curriculum.

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