The Palm Springs Film Festival calls it the Desert Palm Achievement Award — but that’s really just code for Star Sure To Get An Oscar Nomination Award. Every year, they tap an actor and an actress hot on the awards trail for the honor: recent recipients include Naomi Watts for “The Impossible,” Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Michelle Williams for “My Week With Marilyn” and Brad Pitt for “Moneyball.” (In 2010, they neatly foreshadowed the eventual Oscar champs, picking Colin Firth and Natalie Portman. Indeed, of the last 10 recipients, the only one who failed to secure an Oscar nod afterwards was Marion Cotillard. (R.I.P. “Nine.”) Who is this year’s first buzz-heavy recipient, then? Matthew McConaughey.
There’s little doubt that the streak will continue with McConaughey: not only is the laid-back Texan pretty much assured his first Oscar nomination for his performance as real-life AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in “Dallas Buyers Club,” but he could even win. Industry goodwill for the star has never been higher, and his recent, unexpected career resurgence, as has widely been noted, is remarkable. The Academy missed out on their chance to recognize that turnaround with a supporting nod for “Magic Mike” last year, so cumulative momentum could work in his favor. (I maintain that he might actually have pulled off the win over four former champs, had he only managed the nomination — but that’s all spilt milk.)
“Matthew McConaughey is the rare actor who effortlessly moves between cinematic genres. From drama to thrillers to romantic comedies, he captivates audiences with the depth and range of his performances,” states Palm Springs chairman Harold Matzner. “We are privileged to present [him] with an award that honors his extraordinary and versatile talent, the 2014 Desert Palm Achievement Award for acting.”
The statement cites only his work in “Dallas Buyers Club,” not his other acclaimed turn this year in “Mud,” though I should imagine it factored into the decision. The award will be presented at the festival’s awards gala on January 4, 2014.