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Palm Springs honours Bullock, Streep

Actresses Meryl Streep (left) and Sandra Bullock pose backstage with their Palm Springs trophies.
By Ryan Pearson
AP entertainment writer (*)

Self-congratulation all around at the quality of awards season films

Sandra Bullock shared the painful results of Googling herself, Meryl Streep shadowboxed on-stage, and Tom Hanks braced for awards season’s “celebrity mule train” at the year’s first glitzy Hollywood gala.

Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper were among the stars who cracked jokes and praised one another Saturday night at the opening of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, a desert warm-up of sorts for more closely watched industry events in coming months.

Honours were announced well in advance and the ceremony wasn’t televised, lessening pressure on winners and allowing for self-effacing, sometimes lengthy acceptance speeches. The festival is celebrating its 25th year but it’s only relatively recently become a star-studded stop on the awards circuit.

U2’s Bono spoke passionately about artist activism and the fight against AIDS. Bruce Dern revelled in industry praise for his Nebraska after a half-century career, saying: “A bunch of you seem to have gotten together and to have said, ‘Bruce Dern can play.”’ Presenters included Gary Oldman, Ewan McGregor, Jane Fonda and Idris Elba.

Bullock, also nominated for Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards for her performance as an astronaut in Gravity, delighted the crowd of over 2,000 by reading online comments about herself.

“Julia (Roberts), apparently you and I are in a dispute over George Clooney. We talked about this. It’s shared custody and we both are fine with it,” she joked.

McConaughey, honoured for his lead role in Dallas Buyers Club, also proudly noted his movie Mud and small part in The Wolf of Wall Street.

“I had a sensational year of acting,” he said, wearing a bowtie and shimmering gold tuxedo jacket.

Streep, who stars alongside Roberts in August: Osage County and is also up for Globe and SAG honours, was given the festival’s icon award.

“I don’t feel like an icon. Most of the days I feel like ‘I can’t,”’ she said. But, she allowed, jabbing fists toward the crowd, “I feel like I’m an example now in my dotage of the fact that you just can’t put those old gals out to pasture. We’ve got a lot of stuff still to say.”

There was self-congratulation all around at the quality of awards season films, from 12 Years A Slave, whose director Steve McQueen was honoured, to American Hustle, whose cast received an ensemble award. Several actors noted that they had been catching up on colleagues’ movies with DVD screeners and visits to the theatre.

“We put out a damn good product,” McConaughey said. “We’ve got challenging films. We’ve got stories of isolation, survival, history, con men, scams. A lot of these films, they walk that tightrope. They have that combination of two very hard things to have — import and entertainment.”

There will be no shortage of additional opportunities to celebrate said movies, as Hanks noted in accepting the fest’s chairman’s award for his leading roles in Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks. He and many others gathered Saturday will reunite at the Golden Globes next weekend in Beverly Hills and the SAG awards the following weekend.

“To be invited to the Palm Springs International Film Festival is an honour and a delight beyond words and sometimes beyond reasoning,” Hanks said. “It means without a doubt that the holidays have come to an end and for a few lucky people the celebrity mule train is just beginning.”

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