I’ve been attending the Palm Springs Film Festival for the last few years, and at the end of every one I’ve asked myself “was that really worth it?” I used to think of the PSFF as a warm-up for Sundance. Now it’s basically a big-media paparazzi pigfuck that every significant Oscar contender is obliged to attend, and all you can do as a columnist is…well, not much. Write observations, attend the events, listen to the try-out acceptance speeches, snap a few photos. You drive all the way out there and stay in some old-style place for two or three nights for $400 or $450 bucks and for what? It’s a tax write-off and not entirely unpleasant (Variety‘s Sunday brunch party is always agreeable), but I decided to ignore it this year. Too much grief for too little yield.
Last year’s headline said it all: “Puttin’ On Ritz in Chilly Corporate Bunker Once Known as Palm Springs.”
Posted two years ago: “Ten years ago the Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival was a respected, smartly-programmed venue for foreign films with a few celebrities and photos ops on the side. Now it’s a star-studded, rock-your-paparazzi, award-season megashow with A-class celebs, limos, security goons and guys like me taking pictures and…uhm, oh yeah, right, a smartly-programmed venue for foreign film on the side.
“I didn’t attend last night’s big awards hand-out at the Palm Springs Convention Center but I attended the after-party at the Parker Palm Springs. For about 40 minutes. Great, I got in without a hitch…now what? Position yourself near this or that award-season contender so you can chat for 90 seconds before the next pushy, socially anxious reveller makes his or her move? It’s a zoo. I’m a quiet sitdown kind of guy. I’d rather hang out with my cats. Or…you know, do an interview in a hotel room or a cafe. But not this.
“I got there early and left early. The people who came a bit late were condemned to a long, long line that snaked all the way through the Parker and out to the parking lot. Condemned to wait and wait and wait, and then they finally get in and the movie stars are off in a corner talking to themselves or have already left and the hors d’oevures have been cleaned out. But hey, if we get our cell phones out we can maybe get a shot or two!
“It was cold out, man. You needed an overcoat or at least a big scarf.”
I wrote the following after attending last year’s gala awards presentation: “I sat through the whole thing, man…four and a half hours of chit-chatting and smiling and eating the salad and and dessert and the mashy meat entree, grinding it all out in that huge, cavernous convention hall, dressed in my tuxedo-like black suit and tweeting now and then at table 1302. (In Contention‘s Kris Tapley sat to my right.) The venue, as always, was basically a tryout venue for speeches that everyone will be giving over the next seven weeks or so, and there was something to be said, naturally, for hearing them for the first time.
“Let no one say that the Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival organizers don’t spend the money or go full swank. They do and then some. But I have to say that Palm Springs itself was a much more charming and homey-ish place…a far less corporate environment when I first came here back in the early ’80s. The architecture of the store fronts, hotels and condos is so corporately uniform and dull and lacking in personality. It’s almost as if the architects’ deliberate intention was to sedate the tourists.”