Harold’s Six Favorite 2023 Palm Springs Film Festival Moments

The 2023 Film Festival and Awards Gala felt extra special this year. After 2 years on hiatus due to the pandemic, you could feel the excitement as Palm Springs residents and honored celebrities came together again. Harold Matzner picked his top six moments from this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival and Awards Gala. 

Moment 1: Compliments from Steven Spielberg

The cinematic master himself Steven Speilberg complimented the Palm Springs International Film Festival, saying, “This festival has done some amazing things over just a short span of seasons and you’ve really come into your own.” We also heard rumors that Spielberg enjoyed some local cuisine while in Palm Springs. 

Moment 2: 80 for Brady Premiere

Another highlight of the festival was Friday’s opening night film, 80 for Brady, where legends Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field were all in attendance. Now, all of our Palm Springs High School theater students can say they danced on the same stage as Rita Moreno! Variety covered the raucous premiere and panel in more detail. 

Photo: Getty via Variety

Moment 3: Austin Butler at the Palm Springs Tennis Club

While accepting the Breakthrough Performance Award for his performance in “Elvis,” Austin Butler divulged his Palm Springs history. Turns out he would vacation at the Palm Springs Tennis Club, where Harold’s restaurant Spencer’s is located: 

“When I was a kid, the only vacation my family and I ever went on every other year was a timeshare of my grandparent’s at the Palm Springs Tennis Club, so some of the happiest memories from my childhood were right here in Palm Springs … so standing on this stage tonight is extra special.”

Taya Gray/The Desert Sun

Moment 4: Watching our honorees throughout awards season

As Deadline beautifully said, “the bejeweled and upper crust of Palm Springs society were gathered again at the massive Palm Springs Convention Center to celebrate a select group of stars who not so coincidentally happen to be among the most buzzed of Oscar contenders. This event was a must-stop on the way to the Dolby in March.

“Perhaps that is why we saw the likes of Steven Spielberg and his entire cast of The Fabelmans, Viola Davis, Cate Blanchett, Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser, Bill Nighy, Michelle Yeoh, Sarah Polley, Danielle Deadwyler, and Austin Butler gracing the stage. The gala touted its strong correlation to Oscar nominations and wins for its chosen recipients in the past, and there is no doubt that will continue.”

Photo: Deadline

Moment 5: Watching the Stars Have Fun

Whether it was Jamie Lee Curtis and Cate Blanchett’s friendship, or Sam Rockwell and Colin Ferrel goofing around on stage, we love that actors can be themselves in Palm Springs. We never play anyone off- they are free to take their time to express themselves.

Photo: Deadline

Moment 6: Surprise Drop-Ins 

This year, the festival also welcomed A-listers to support their film. Anna Kendrik, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Jim Gaffigan, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Ray Romano all came to Palm Springs for their screenings and panels.