On the town with Shinan: Movie town's new darlings descend on Palm Springs' loveliest garden

By: Shinan Govani

By Shinan Govani

Photo: © Getty Images

Beyond the meandering paths, past the English-style croquet lawn and various other Lewis Caroll-esque nooks, stirred a four-week-old in a bungalow. Mommy – in this case, Rosamund Pike – had scamped off for a bit for a brunch in a garden down the way at the famed Parker Palm Hotel, in Palm Springs.

“Thank you,” the actress was saying, her vowels as round as one might expect from an Oxford graduate, and uttered with an endless smile to me and all that circled her at the casual brunch. “Do you live here?” she asked one man who looked, to me, not unlike The Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George. “How lucky!” she footnoted, looking up at the horizon of miracle mountains and concise blue skies.

Luck is something that Rosamund knows a thing or two about these days. In addition to just giving birth to her second son – the one obliviously, beautifully, sequestered in that bungalow ’round the corner, as we were told – she’s gone from Bond Girl to Gone Girl, turning in one of the more Hitchcockian turns in recent film. Though around the industry for a while, the one film has given Rosamund a rather beautiful upgrade in the “industry.” See: the just-out cover of Vanity Fair that she graces. See: the ‘Breakthrough Performance Award’ she was being handed at this lovely brunch hosted by Variety.

Photo: © Getty Images

Looking prim in a long-sleeved solid top and a pleated black-and-white skirt, she deflected the Gone Girl praise by telling me, “David Fincher did an amazing job.”

As far as brunching goes, this was one way to do it. Held as part of an annual event that Variety – the industry bible – throws every year during the increasingly important Palm Springs International Film Festival, it was almost relaxing, which is perhaps not usually the word that applies when it comes to showbiz shindigs. As 200 or so people milled – among them, Boyhood director Richard Linklater, the legendary Robert Duvall – there were chipper chefs flipping omelettes with the agility of a David Blaine flipping cards, a ceviche-several-ways station in one corner and mimosas galore. It certainly didn’t help either that it was all going down in an outdoors milieu that’s one of the more famous in America. These gardens come c/o Judy Kameon of Elysian Landscapes, who whipped them as part of a restoration of the Parker Palm a decade ago. For anyone paying attention to “celebrity landscapers,” Judy is just a thing, her tongue-in-cheek designs having won her many celebrity clients, including Sofia Coppola.

But back to showbiz: in addition to Rosamund’s award, there was also a honour dispensed to Steve Carrell for his performance in Foxcatcher. Julianne Moore appeared to introduce him, and when Carrell accepted he singled out his second-grade teacher (perhaps a sneak-peek of an anecdote that he’ll be unspooling some more as awards season heats up!). Others getting recognized? That would include the director of the much-acclaimed Selma, Ava DuVernay. Watch that name. She’s the new darling in movie-town.

Director Rob Marshall was another honouree, being singled out for his contribution to the musical genre. With this latest one, Into the Woods, still in theatres, he paid tribute to past helmers like Vincent Minnelli and Stanley Doren (“These are the directors I learned from, and stole from”) and came just short of singing his acceptance speech (“I never believed the genre was dead. It’s a true American art form.”)

Photo: © Getty Images

But leave it – of course – to Chris Rock to get right to the point, when it was his turn to get on stage and accept his own award. Grinning, the Top Five director saluted the Variety Creative Impact Awards, as they’re called, but then said we’re not here in the desert for the “cactus.” We’re here in Palm Springs, he went on to laughter, because “we’re trolling for Oscar votes! Come on – let’s be honest.”

So, this was his pitch: “February 22nd is my mother’s 70th birthday. If I’m nominated, I will take her to the show.”

As far as Oscar pitches go, it was a good one.

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