Stars converge in Palm Springs to celebrate year’s best films, Emma Stone’s career

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Emma Pierre reflected on career highlights and Meryl Streep praised Billie Eilish and “Barbie” for saving the film industry Thursday during one of the first stops of Hollywood's awards season.

Rock, Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cillian Murphy were among the stars who descended on the desert for the Palm Springs International Film Festival's annual opening gala. Stars were in an upbeat and generally grateful mood at the gala after a tumultuous year for their industry that included two shots and rapid changes in theatrical landscape and streaming.

Stone, who landed a best actress nomination at Sunday's Golden Globes for her performance in “Poor Things,” accepted the lifetime achievement award, which was presented by her co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe.

“I'm grateful that I can continue to try new things and have the opportunity to make choices about work, because I know how rare and fleeting it can be to choose what you want to do or with whom you want to work as an actor,” she said.

Colman Domingo, Paul Giamatti and Da'Vine Joy Randolph were among the honorees who held back tears as they praised the film's distinct ability to express what it means to be human.

“The more I do this, the more I think acting can be a kind of education,” Giamatti said while accepting his award. “This is how we learn to be human. This is how we learn about our common humanity.

Sandra Oh introduced her “Sideways” co-star, but Giamatti returned to the stage later in the evening to present the breakthrough award of the evening to Randolph, who stars opposite Giamatti in “The Holdovers” – his last performance in an Alexander Payne browse.

Randolph echoed his co-star's sentiment, saying that cinema is a medium uniquely positioned to “illuminate the human condition.”

Domingo, who was recognized for his performance in “Rustin”, also became emotional as he shared with the room his understanding of his work.

“Faith is what brought me here,” he said. “When we trust in each other, what an extraordinary world we could build. Channeling that humanity and letting it speak to a complex experience is what I see as my service as an artist.

This year's awards season follows summer's historic strikes and the news that 2023 ended with the best end of the year box office seen since the pandemic.

“You saved the movies last summer and all our jobs,” Streep told the artist. Billie Eilish and his brother and collaborator, Finneas O'Connell – a reference to their song in the record box office blockbuster“Barbie.”

The duo accepted their own award for “What Was I Made For,” the final song and unofficial theme from the Greta Gerwig-directed film.

“You have brought joy to countless generations and genders. And you should ride that wave, kids,” Streep said before presenting Carey Mulligan with the honor.

The evening ended with Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and a host of other “Killers of the Flower Moon” stars accepting one of the biggest honors of the evening.

Although Scorsese acknowledges he has directed many films, the acclaimed director said this one stands out. “It was an experience I will always cherish. It’s one of the happiest moments of my life,” he said.

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