Prepare for major celebrity-spotting as the Palm Springs International Film Festival gets underway Jan. 3 following the Awards Gala the night before, which has become a forecaster of potential Oscar winners.
Director Steven Spielberg is expected opening night, Jan. 4, for a screening of The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks — the first time this formidable trio has worked together on a film. Streep portrays Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham while Hanks is editor Ben Bradlee, and together they navigate the waters of publishing The Pentagon Papers.
There will be 180 films screened during the 11-day festival from 77 nations. The Last Movie Star, directed by Adam Rifkin, closes the festival Jan. 14. Expect 39 premieres (4 world, 12 North American and 23 U.S.), including all of the shortlist of Foreign Language Oscar nominees, according to organizers. The 29th year will again present fresh as well as famed talent in documentaries, true stories, discussions, Latino and LGBTQ storytelling, plus a focus this year on Argentinian productions.
Actor Gary Oldman and former vice president Al Gore are scheduled to be part of this year’s discussion programs. Also on the docket to appear at film premieres are actors Jen An, Ashley Argota, Drake Bell, Debby Ryan, Austin Swift and Jerry Trainor for Cover Versions Jan. 3 at Camelot Theater; actors Jack Black, Jenny Slate, and Jacki Weaver for The Polka King Jan. 3 at the Camelot Theater, and actor Jon Hamm and director Mark Pellington for Nostalgia Jan. 6 at Palm Springs High School.
Festival attendance in 2017 reached 135,000 people, with 2,500 at the awards gala.
Beyond glamour though, the festival expands multi-cultural awareness by inviting viewers into countries such as Estonia, The United Arab Emirates, Mozambique, New Zealand, Russia, Morocco, Palestine, Norway, Luxembourg, Poland, the Czech Republic, Senegal, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Japan, China, Afghanistan and Chile, Canada and Australia. Among this year’s subjects are social injustice, the fashion world, tennis, grief, identity, teenage friendship, family DNA and also moments of humor.
Here’s the Palm Springs Film Festival top 10 “must-see” picks, provided by festival organizers:
When two Orthodox Jews appear in a remote Hungarian village with mysterious cargo, their presence catalyzes an unwelcome reckoning of the recent past for locals. This finely performed period drama offers a fresh cinematic approach to a difficult topic.
2. Angels Wear White
On Hainan Island, where the giant “Forever Marilyn” sculpture provocatively watches over beachgoers, everyone is on the make. When two schoolgirls are lured into a hotel and assaulted, it brings to light social injustices and double standards. A moody, modern film noir, featuring complex female characters
3. The Future Ahead
Argentinian filmmaker Constanza Novick captures the strong, yet complicated, life-long relationship between two very different women at three transformative moments in their lives: first love, first child, first divorce, and how these milestones have defined their lives.
4. The Gospel According To Andre
Draped in capes and caftans, the glorious giant André Leon Talley is an icon of the fashion world, an editor and contributor to Vogue who has reigned for decades as an unimpeachable arbiter of style. This delicious documentary revels in Talley’s larger than life, stereotype-shattering persona while revealing the complex man behind the myth.
5. In the Fade
Diane Kruger stars as a grief-stricken mother who must take matters into her own hands to achieve justice for her murdered family. This taut thriller delivers heart-pounding scene after scene, masterfully confronting a disconcerting growing sentiment of nationalism among European countries.
6. Jupiter’s Moon
A wounded Syrian refugee discovers he’s been graced (cursed?) with the gift of flight in Kornél Mundruczó’s parable-like thriller. While skewering narrow-minded socio-political attitudes, the film provides us with some of the most astonishing visuals to appear onscreen this year.
7. Just to Be Sure
Middle-aged Erwin’s search for his biological father brings much more than he bargained for in Just to Be Sure. A delightful blend of coincidence and destiny, this comedy explores the virtues and vagaries of DNA in warm, funny and unpredictable ways that leave you rooting for nurture over nature.
8. Love Means Zero
Fiery tennis coach Nick Bollettieri recalls the glory days when his Florida academy produced an astonishing series of champions, including Andre Agassi. The film captures Bollettieri’s thrilling and turbulent ride with riveting on-court highlights, sharp and forthright commentary, and a special, heartfelt letter from his estranged prize pupil.
9. Oh Lucy!
This gentle comedy tells the story of Setsuko, an unfulfilled, chain-smoking Japanese office worker who finds renewed interest and enjoyment in life through unconventional English lessons and her new, blond-wig-wearing, Americanized identity: Lucy.
Cory Finley’s darkly dazzling debut tracks teens Amanda and Lily, whose disturbing friendship builds from study sessions at Lily’s Connecticut mansion to devising a deadly crime with a pathetic, scheming ex-con. This twisted tale conjures up a privileged world where empathy is an alien concept.
Palm Springs International Film Festival 2018, Jan. 2-15. 760-778-8979 or 800-898-7256; psfilmfest.org