The star-studded gala that kicks off the Palm Springs International Film Festival each year is a notoriously huge industry event. Literally. Held in the city's sizable convention center, the event annually entertains upward of 2,200 attendees.
But for Timothée Chalamet, the cavernous ballroom felt like an intimate gathering of his finest idols.
The "Beautiful Boy" actor keenly recalled how he had initially hoped to be a "superhuman" athlete, but thankfully pursued the very "human" profession of performing instead.
“The invincible Messis and LeBrons weren’t as interesting to me as the artists who were vulnerable for a living," Chalamet said upon accepting the Spotlight Award from his "Little Women" costar Laura Dern, referring to star athletes Lionel Messi and LeBron James.
He then praised the earliest works of some of his fellow honorees, including "If Beale Street Could Talk" actress Regina King and "BlacKkKlansman" mastermind Spike Lee, as well as presenters Dern, Gary Oldman and Barry Jenkins.
"Real humans, real stories and a dedicated focus on bringing light to humanity authentically is ... inspiring,” Chalamet concluded, “and I look forward to a night of acknowledging not our invincibility, but the art in our flaws."
The venue also held quite a special significance for Bradley Cooper, who was named director of the year. Receiving the honor from his "A Star Is Born" actor Sam Elliott, Cooper spilled that he had recently been on the Palm Springs Convention Center stage for a key scene set at a pharmaceutical convention.
"Jackson Maine was very drunk in this room," he said. “And we jumped on [stage at] Stagecoach not far from here for eight minutes; Willie Nelson was kind enough to let us sing a song.”
Cooper also poked fun a bit at what he called “not a smart idea: to do the fourth remake of ‘A Star Is Born’ with an actor who’s never done a film, and you’ve never directed anything at all, nothing, and try to sing live,” he said, laughing, presumably alluding to his costar, Lady Gaga. “Thank you for acknowledging that pursuit and that dream.”
Throughout the evening — hosted by Mary Hart, and often considered a crucial component of Hollywood's awards season — honors were bestowed upon "Bohemian Rhapsody" actor Rami Malek (by his “Mr. Robot” collaborator Christian Slater), "The Wife" actress Glenn Close (by Michael Keaton, who acted alongside her in “The Paper”), "Roma" director Alfonso Cuarón (by his “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” actor Gary Oldman) and the ensemble cast of "Mary Poppins Returns" (by their director, Rob Marshall), among others.
One highlight arrived when Jim Carrey, on hand to present the Vanguard Award to Peter Farrelly and the "Green Book" team, suggested that the entire room "close our eyes and meditate on the year that just passed.” He then screamed repeatedly and said, "Thank God it's 2019 — I love the illusion of newness!"
Of course, Carrey didn't leave the stage without a thinly veiled jab at President Trump. After noting that this year marks the 25th anniversary of "Dumb and Dumber," he described the comedy as a movie "about two guys who, when put in a modern context, really don’t seem all that dumb."
English actress Olivia Colman's humorous speech also included a political dig that, she said, applied to both sides of the pond. She described her character in "The Favourite," Queen Anne, as "someone in whom resides all the madness, frustration, confusion and instability of a powerful person unfit for her job — I don't know if you know anyone like that," she said, trailing off to applause.
Accepting the Desert Palm Achievement Award from Emma Stone, Colman noted that, as someone who grew up in the rainier English town of Norfolk, she often thought of Palm Springs as a mythical place.
"Thank you for inviting me here and proving that you are real," she joked. "I always imagined Palm Springs was sort of like Narnia. … And now I see the amazing shopping and the Mid-Century thing, and I'm thinking I have to come back because it’s really cool."
Melissa McCarthy, the star of "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" who also received the Spotlight Award (from her costar Richard E. Grant), echoed such praise for the tightknit town of California cinephiles.
"Thank you to the vibrant and open community that is Palm Springs," she said in her acceptance speech. "You're what this country needs more of."