Desert Divine: Palm Springs Film Fest

The first of the year's big cinema treats is out the door, fast.

"MUST BE NICE": The close of the year is upon us, and the beginning of a new calendar, which is juuuust about the time that all of those lists appear banning certain words and phrases, phrases that have become too popular or overused. We haven't seen "must be nice" anywhere, but we hope we do, because people elsewhere too often say it about La Vida SoCal. We get it, we do: Our winter temps are to be admired, and movie stars are said to move among us regular folk with regularity. So if anything is about to get must-be-niced by people wishing they could be in California, it's the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The January cineparty -- as in very early January -- does attract its share of starry helmers and actors, and, yep, the opening-day temperature for the festival will hover around a not-hard-to-like 80 degrees. It is, in fact, sort of a living daydream of a film festival. No snowy sliding outside -- high fives, Sundance -- and plenty of stars to ogle from the sidelines of a red carpet. And it does indeed get fast: Friday, Jan. 3 is opening day.

BIG FEATURES APLENTY: "Le Chef," "a lighthearted romp through the world of French cuisine," and "Le Week-end," about a British couple romancing -- or trying to -- in Paris, are two of the headliners. Meryl Streep is set to receive the Icon Award and Tom Hanks the Chairman Award (many other luminaries will receive in-person accolades as well). And the free screenings? They're in the movie mix, too. Call it the first film fest out of the gate each year, call it starry, call it warm, call it swanky and high-spirited. And call it the perfect place to see films before a nighttime swim. Not too many fests can boast that. Must be nice.

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