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In Palm Springs, it's all about movies and music

January 03, 2008|Lisa Rosen

EVEN with its big-ticket attractions, the Palm Springs International Film Festival keeps a casual, hometown feel. Sure, it's the place to see all the documentaries and short films on the Oscar short list, most of the submissions for the academy's foreign-language film category and a ballroom full of stars at the awards-night gala. But there are plenty of other rides at this fair, all accessible, and some are quite tuneful.

"The overarching theme revolves around film music in this year's festival," says Darryl Macdonald, who directs the event with its more than 230 films from 65 countries. So it's only fitting that the festival will present its first outdoor screening, and a free singalong to boot, of "Hairspray" (6 p.m. Friday, Sunrise Park).

The film's exuberant young lead, Nikki Blonsky, will be on hand a few days later to receive a Rising Star Award, and the film's composer, Marc Shaiman, will also be visiting the fest. He will take part in a panel of composers, along with James Newton Howard, who wrote the music for 2007's "Michael Clayton," "Charlie Wilson's War," "The Great Debaters" and "I Am Legend" (10 a.m. Saturday, Palm Canyon Theatre).

At the black-tie gala awards, the festival will honor the ensemble cast of -- you guessed it -- "Hairspray," as well as the film "Juno" and such talents as Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Halle Berry, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch (6 p.m. Saturday, Palm Springs Convention Center). Macdonald says there will be a bonus for gala-goers, "because it's going to kick off with a surprise musical number," he says -- without divulging the secret.

But we do know that that night the festival will roll out a new honor, the American Maverick Award, to be given to John Sayles. His new film "Honeydripper" centers on a make-or-break plan to save a juke joint and will screen the next day (4 p.m. Sunday, Camelot Theatres).

Rounding out the musical events is a presentation of Frank Borzage's 1927 silent film, "Seventh Heaven" (1:30 p.m. Jan. 14, Camelot Theatres). One of its stars, Janet Gaynor, won the first Oscar for best actress; the other, Charles Farrell, was a Palm Springs legend. "It's our first-ever big silent presentation," Macdonald says, but it won't be quiet: Award-winning composer Paul Gilman will perform his original score to accompany.

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PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

WHERE: Various Palm Springs venues

WHEN: Today through Jan. 14

PRICE: $9, most screenings

INFO: (800) 898-7256, www.psfilmfest.org

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Lisa Rosen@ theguide@latimes.com

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