Oscar Hopefuls Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman and More Praised As Palm Springs Film Award Honorees
Art and Experience:
The show goes on even if it must be virtually, and not within a much preferred desert oasis. The Palm Springs International Film Society announced in late December that both its awards gala and film festival would not take place in 2022 due to the recent rise of COVID cases. Despite the desert fest having to cancel due to pandemic challenges for the second year in a row, awards hopefuls shall still receive their kudos, garnering another round of admiration ahead of a highly anticipated awards season.
Lady Gaga – Icon Award
“I was still living my life, I just lived it as her,” Lady Gaga says about taking a more methodical approach to the acting roles she has taken on — most recently the role of Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci.” “I was the same way for ‘A Star Is Born,’” says the star. “I was always Ally.”
The actor/singer was recently honored with the best actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle, along with a Critics Choice nomination.
Based on Sara Gay Forden’s book “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed,” the film details the assassination of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) and the downfall of the Gucci family fashion dynasty. Reggiani served 18 years in prison; she was released in 2016.
Gaga spoke about the empathy she felt for Reggiani while portraying her, saying, “What I found fascinating was that the line was thin between her humanity and any other woman’s humanity, meaning any other woman might have felt like her,” says Gaga. “I didn’t want there to be that big of a difference between her and any other woman because I don’t believe there was that big of a difference. I just think she did it. And most women don’t.” — Jennifer Yuma
Nicole Kidman – Career Award
“I had massive trepidation about a month prior,” Nicole Kidman says about taking on the role of iconic Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos” alongside Javier Bardem’s Desi Arnaz. “[Writer/director] Aaron [Sorkin] had to get on the phone and send me emails saying, ‘You’ve got this.’”
Kidman adeptly prepared to take on one of the most iconic female comedians of all time — highlighting Ball’s famous mannerisms, tone of voice and facial expressions. “I studied them and learned them. It went into my body and my memory,” says the actor.
“Being the Ricardos,” which centers on a single production week of the hit 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy,” showcases the whirlwind Ball and Arnaz faced during production: filming a show, staying ahead of the press, handling advertisers, dealing with cast and crew relationships and tending to their marriage.
When portraying Ball, Kidman not only learned about the comedian in front of the camera and “behind the lipstick,” but the human being navigating love, relationships and being a working woman in the 1950s. “I fell in love with her as I was reading the script,” says Kidman. “I realize what she was doing [was] trailblazing for women.” — J.Y.
Jane Campion – Director of the Year
Jane Campion’s psychological Western “The Power of the Dog” has been commended for bringing the Thomas Savage novel to a new light as well as showcasing stellar performances from an ensemble cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
The film is set in 1925 in the mountain-ringed Montana ranch of brothers Phil (Cumberbatch) and George (Plemons), who reach the peak of a sibling rivalry, a lifelong conflict rooted in deeper-set motives, and reactions, than meets the eye.
Campion underwent dream analysis to better pre- pare herself for the depth of the project. “Phil’s character is so complex that I don’t think we would have done justice to it without that work,” Campion says. “I don’t think I’ve ever been helped so much in my job than by the work I had done in this process.”
Campion’s adaptation of the story dramatically layers the roots of Phil’s repression and violence, conveying an artistic diagram of passion as well as the denouncement of homophobia, in style that is both precise and expansive. “The Power of the Dog” is likened to the impact of her Oscar-winning film “The Piano.” — Katie Song
Jessica Chastain – Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress
“It’s like picking your favorite child,” Jessica Chastain says about trying to determine which of her early projects stick with her the most. “Of course, ‘Tree of Life.’ Working with Terrence Malick taught me so much. Al Pacino, as my director on ‘Salomé,’ was my greatest acting teacher. ‘The Help’ really stretched me in terms of the silliness I got to explore, because sometimes I don’t allow myself to be silly. And of course, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ with Kathryn [Bigelow].”
After being honored at PSIFF twice before with the Spotlight Award in 2012 and the Chairman’s Award in 2018, this year, Chastain receives the Desert Palm Achievement Award for starring in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” the biopic about televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, which she also produced.
“It was by far the hardest,” she says about how playing Messner stacked up to previous roles. “There’s the accent, there’s the pitch of the voice, there’s the singing, there’s the preaching, there’s the physical transformation. There’s the energy level — she’s always so out there. It’ll always be a marker for me when I think of my career.” — Selome Hailu
Andrew Garfield – Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor
In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, “Tick Tick … Boom,” Andrew Garfield leads the film as Jonathan Larson, who wrote the blockbuster musical “Rent,” as well as the “Boom,” but died before he saw the success of his art. Garfield has garnered kudos for the role already, as well as a Golden Globe nomination.
The film is set in 1990, with Garfield’s Larson on the cusp of turning 30 — and feeling like a failure, as his hero Stephen Sondheim made his Broadway debut at 27. Determined to keep his artistic vision while those closest to him pack up and get adult jobs, Larson’s single-minded focus starts to alienate him from those closest to him.
With no prior music experience, Garfield says that it was Miranda who made him feel like he was able to “do anything.” “He brings it out, a joy and a playfulness that he would bring every day,” Garfield says. “It was the most joyous set I’ve ever been on.”
Winning the 2018 Tony Award for best leading actor in a play for “Angels in America,” Garfield is no stranger to accolades. In 2016, PSIFF honored the actor with the spotlight award for “Hacksaw Ridge,” which also landed him an Oscar nomination. — J.Y.
Kristen Stewart – Spotlight Award, Actress
Kristen Stewart wowed the Venice festival with her portrayal of Princess Diana in “Spencer,” in which Stewart’s Diana journeys through an intense psycho- logical episode over a three-day Christmas holiday with the British royal family as her marriage to Prince Charles continues to fall apart.
The film, which takes a different approach to tack- ling the royal family, acts as a fictional take on what happened when Diana decided during a family dinner that she wanted out of her marriage to Prince Charles.
“It’s what did it feel like to be her, think about what those nights were like, think about what those meals were like,” Stewart says. “It’s the moments in between. They could have done the dinners and opening presents and the photo ops, but they didn’t. They did getting dressed, cleaning up dirty dishes, and you know, crumpled up wrapping paper. I just think that’s such an interesting way to tell the story that everyone thinks they know so well.”
Stewart’s performance as Diana has been applauded to be transformative, as it convincingly conveys the discomfort, the entrapment and the coping mechanisms of a luminously defiant soul. — K.S.
Penelope Cruz – International Star Award, Actress
“Parallel Mothers” was a life-affirming affair for Penélope Cruz. Director Pedro Almodóvar, Cruz’s frequent collaborator and longtime friend, first floated ideas of the film to her in 1999, but didn’t commit to making it a reality until COVID-19 lockdowns came around. “In the middle of all that craziness it helped to have that on the horizon as a possibility,” she says.
The film follows two women, one older (Cruz) and one younger (Milena Smit), whose simultaneous journeys of giving birth are used to explore the dark legacy of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in Spain. Cruz’s character Ana is nebulous, traumatized and confused, and the nature of the film’s tone and resolution have carried into her real-life philosophy. “With Pedro there are no labels, and I love that about him. That’s the way that I see life,” she says.
Up next, Cruz will star in spy thriller “The 355” and ensemble drama “On the Fringe.” She’s also planning her second directorial pursuit, with details still unannounced. “COVID pushed me to start the documentary because it was another wake-up call to do the things you want to do in this lifetime because you never know,” she says. “Don’t be wait- ing around.” — S.H.