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Palm Springs Is Narnia and 4 Other Things We Learned From the 30th Film Awards Gala

Bradley Cooper, Melissa McCarthy, Spike Lee, Timothée Chalamet and Alfonso Cuarón all accepted awards Thursday night

You can declare the start of the awards season whenever you like, but as the first splashy awards show of 2019, the 30th annual Film Awards Gala at the Palm Springs International Film Festival seems like as good of place to start as any.

Host Mary Hart and Chairman of the Board of the Palm Springs International Film Society Harold Matzner revealed that of 64 honorees recognized at past galas, 57 of them have gone on receive Oscar nominations. This year’s honorees included Rami Malek, Regina King, Alfonso Cuarón, Bradley Cooper and more. And their speeches felt like a precursor to what promises to be a long and surprising awards race.

But the annual gala is a looser occasion than the Oscars ceremony, and on Thursday night we picked up a few things about what the next few months of awards shows has in store.

1. Laura Dern maybe doesn’t know Timothée Chalamet’s name

Laura Dern just wrapped shooting Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” with Timothée Chalamet — or “Timmy,” as she refers to him — but even she hasn’t quite figured out how to address the budding young actor.

“S—! What’s his name?” she said, tossing on her glasses as the perhaps frazzled Dern introduced Chalamet for the first award of the evening. She promised him a protein bar as he came to accept his prize and said that working with him, every take “would be more exciting than Christmas morning.”

Even host Mary Hart asked Chalamet backstage about how to pronounce his name. It’s “Tim-o-tay,” she said, and asked how long she needed to know him before she could call him “Timmy,” but didn’t get a straight answer. “He’s a professional already,” she said.

Chalamet graciously accepted both the Spotlight Award and Dern’s Kind bar as he raced through a speech about his realization that everyone’s “just a messy human.” Chalamet said he grew up admiring athletes but eventually stopped wanting to be “superhuman” and just be “very human indeed,” looking up to actors like Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix. Oh, and he still has a catalog of photos of Spike Lee’s office saved in his iCloud.

2. Olivia Colman just learned that Palm Springs is a real place

Olivia Colman is from Norfolk in England, where she said it rains all day. So coming for the first time to the middle of the desert was an adventure.

“Norfolk is basically made of rain, so thank you for inviting me here and proving you are real. I always thought Palm Springs was sort of like Narnia,” she joked.

Emma Stone, Colman’s co-star in “The Favourite,” talked about Colman’s ability to make people laugh and cry within moments of each other, and Colman’s speech did just that, with an overlay of sincerity even as she delivered a wicked punchline with a devilish smile.

“It’s also been great to be part of something that suggests that women are not so different from normal people,” she said. “There’s my character, Queen Anne, someone in whom resides all the madness, confusion, frustration and madness of a powerful person unfit for their job. Don’t know if you know of anyone like that here.”

3. There’s a lot of love for Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott didn’t receive an award Thursday night, but his reception in the room was especially warm all the same. He looked the part of an Oscar front runner, and he paid tribute to his director on “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper, with the baritone gravitas and class we’ve come to expect from him.

“How is it that one human being can display so many artistic talents in a single motion picture,” Elliott said of Cooper. “He acts, he sings, he plays the guitar and the piano, all while producing, co-writing and songwriting. And he also gets the girl, Lady Gaga. And if that’s not enough, he has to be the f—ing director.”

A humbled Cooper also didn’t hide how much he loved Elliott and said that his entire cast gave him, a first-time director, true blind faith and trust to make his film and get on this stage.

“If you believe in something so strong and you’re willing to work tirelessly, you can get great artists like Sam Elliott,” Cooper said.

4. We’re lucky to have Melissa McCarthy in awards season

It’s not as though Melissa McCarthy is an awards-season newbie — she scored an Oscar nomination for “Bridesmaids” back in 2012 — but she certainly back in the awards conversation with her more serious turn in the indie drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

“If you had asked me at 18 years old how a spotlight might factor into my future, I would’ve guessed a prison break gone wrong,” McCarthy said.

She accepted the festival’s Spotlight Award for an actress, and her mix of blunt comedy and open emotion and honesty will make you wish she gets an opportunity to give more awards show speeches the next few months.

One example: her tribute to co-star Richard E. Grant, who’s also getting awards buzz for his supporting role. “I’d like to get a few things straight about this Richard E. Grant fella, if that is his real name. Because we don’t know,” she said. “We don’t even know what that E. stands for. I know he appears to float within this bubble of charm and intelligence, but I think his real power is his heart and his compassion. God, he’s going to be impossible after this.”

5. Jim Carrey is acting like his normal, weird self

“You’ve got that look on your faces, like the s— is about to get serious,” Jim Carrey said as he took the podium to introduce Peter Farrelly and the cast of “Green Book.” He read the room well, because if this crowd expected anything, it’s that they didn’t know what to expect from Carrey. But rather than be completely political or metaphysical and philosophical, Carrey was mostly his old, crazy and wild self, dancing around the stage and dipping in and out of voices, all with a little dash of his new persona.

He asked the crowd to briefly close their eyes and meditate on the year that just passed, then shrieked in horror to the crowd’s surprise. “I love the illusion of newness,” he joked about 2019. But he was genuine in his adoration of “Green Book.”

“Peter Farrelly knows that the great easer of pains is the sharing of experience,” Carrey said. “That’s why this new film ‘Green Book’ was like water in the desert to me, like sustenance in the moral and ethical dust bowl of 2018.”

And other fun things we noticed:

  • The “Mary Poppins Returns” kids are cute, but not as cute as Emily Blunt. Blunt held up a very-tired looking Joel Dawson and asked him who his favorite actress is. He correctly answered Emily Blunt. “Well done,” she said.
  • Alfonso Cuarón wants to work with Gary Oldman again soon. “We have to do it again,” said the director, who last worked with Oldman on “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
  • Spike Lee isn’t done. He opened his speech praising actors he has worked with like the late Ruby Dee and Bill Nunn, and he closed by promising that despite winning a career achievement award, “I got another 20 years ahead of me.”
  • “It just feels good being Regina King,” the “If Beale Street Could Talk” star said. And how.
  • Glenn Close still likes calling herself an “actress.” “I don’t want it to be lesser than an actor, and I don’t know how many actors want to call themselves actresses.”

The full list of honorees from the Palm Springs International Film Society Film Awards Gala is below:

  • Spotlight Award, Actor – Timothée Chalamet
  • Breakthrough Performance Award – Rami Malek
  • Chairman’s Award – Regina King
  • Ensemble Performance Award – “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • Sonny Bono Visionary Award – Alfonso Cuarón
  • Spotlight Award, Actress – Melissa McCarthy
  • Director of the Year Award – Bradley Cooper
  • Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress – Olivia Colman
  • Career Achievement Award – Spike Lee
  • Vanguard Award – “Green Book”
  • Icon Award – Glenn Close