THE CLOSE OF THE CALENDAR... is a big time for the film biz, given that many studios are releasing (and extolling) their Oscar hopefuls in the final weeks of the year. Add to this push the many lists reflecting on the year that was, in the cinema, and you have a major moment, movie-wise, one that rivals the enormity of the blockbuster season, and perhaps of the Academy Awards, too. Adding to the general film fervor are the prestigious film festivals which start up, lickety-split, the second we turn the calendar page to January. There's Sundance in Utah, of course, but before filmmakers make for the snowy clime they're celebrating in a far warmer one: Palm Springs. And the 27th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival truly doesn't wait a day into the new year to rev up the screenings and presentations and Q&As: It opens on Friday, Jan. 1.
STARRY SCENE: A caboodle of headliners and aspiring artists will nab a line-up of top awards at the week-plus party, which stretches from New Year's Day through Jan. 11. Actor Will Smith and writer-director Charlie Kaufman will be honored by Variety, while the Chairman's Award will be handed to Matt Damon. Alicia Vikander, whose chilling and powerful turn in "Ex Machina" rippled through sci-fi circles in early 2015, will collect the Rising Star Award, and awards of note will also be presented to actors Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbender.
HOTELS AND MORE: But where to stay after the credits roll and the parties wrap for the night? A few places (as well as airlines and car rental companies) have partnered with the festival, including The Ace Hotel & Swim Club. There's a creative vibe to the whole scene, much like its later-in-the-spring cousin, The Coachella Music & Arts Festival. The desert, it turns out, is abloom with artistic innovation and imaginative endeavor, and the fact that Palm Springs doesn't even wait a day into the new year to get that particular vibe going is a tribute to the arts-embracing city.