Palm Springs Fest Honors Michel Hazanavicius, Hypes His Oscar Candidacy

“The Artist” director wins Sonny Bono Visionary Award, and festival press release lobbies for his film as a Best Picture frontrunner

The Palm Springs International Film Festival has been a clear stop on the Oscar campaign trail for years, but it usually doesn't use its awards announcements to trumpet its winners' Academy Awards hopes.

But PSIFF did just that on Wednesday, when its release naming "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius winner of its Sony Bono Visionary Award then ventured into new territory by pushing the film's Oscar candidacy.

Michel Hazanavicius“Director Michel Hazanavicius boldly takes us back in time and reacquaints modern-day audiences with the magical power of black and white silent cinema to capture our hearts and our imaginations in 'The Artist,'” said PSIFF chairman Harold Matzner in the release. “The film opened to rave reviews at its premiere in Cannes and will continue to be one of the films to watch throughout awards season as a leading best picture contender."

Releases announcing the three previous PSIFF awards – which are going to Glenn Close, George Clooney and Michelle Williams – talked glowingly of their careers and latest roles, but did not make any claims as to their Oscar chances.  

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

The award will be presented at the festival's Awards Gala on January 7. The festival itself runs from January 5 though 16.

(Photo from a Beverly Hills screening of "The Artist" hosted by Charlie Chaplin's granddaughters.)