24th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala

The Award Season Express made its first stop of the new year in the middle of the desert a couple of hours east of Hollywood at the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival gala.A blast of Golden Globe nominees and Oscar hopefuls walked the press gauntlet on Saturday night, including Naomi Watts, Helen Hunt and John Hawkes, Ben Affleck and ‘Arbitrage’ star Richard Gere, who received the night’s so-called Chairman’s Award.

“Great,” Gere noted with more than a touch of sarcasm. “That’s better than the Governors Award?” he inquired, with a chuckle. “What’s the pecking order of these awards? I want to know. Am I getting the best award? I’m not going in unless I’m getting the best award!”Though Gere, 63, has never received an Oscar nomination, there were previous Academy Award winners aplenty at the Palm Springs gala. Among them was Sally Field, the night’s honoree for career achievement, including her hard-won role of Mary Todd in director Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’.“I still can’t believe I got the role,” Field replied, cracking a smile. “Did I get it?”

Turning serious, she told the black-tie audience she was proud to be part of the film and happy to still be working. “I’m very lucky... Next year it’ll be 50 years that I’ve been in the business as a professional. It’s been a wild ride,” she said.
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