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Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix Latest Oscar Contenders Set For Film Fest Honors In Santa Barbara & Palm Springs

Pete Hammond

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Sometimes it is the announcement of an award that is more important than the actual award itself, at least to Oscar campaign strategists who covet landing precursor honors for their contenders as they like to get that information out in order to make Academy members aware these people are already winning stuff, so attention must be paid.

And so the inevitable dribbling out of those hopefuls being feted has begun in earnest at both the Santa Barbara Film Festival (which takes place this year January 15-25, a key period to be seen before final voting for Academy Awards begins) as well as the Palm Springs Film Festival (which takes place January 2, the first day of voting for Oscar nominations).

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Today it was announced that Marriage Story co-stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson will jointly receive the SBIFF’s Outstanding Performer of the Year award January 17 at the Arlington Theatre. Both are expected to be among leading actor and actress Oscar nominees when those nominations are announced just a few days earlier.

“Scarlett and Adam have had such admirable arcs to their careers – making smart choices between independent films and big Hollywood franchises,” said Santa Barbara executive director Roger Durling. “They both are such lyrical performers, imbuing their acting with keen sensitivity and intellect. Together in Baumbach’s Marriage Story they regaled us with their best work to date.”

The Outstanding Performers of the Year Award recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional performances in film this past year. Past recipients include Rami Malek, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan, Steve Carell, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, James Franco, Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron.

Meanwhile, another major contender in the uber competitive Best Actor race, Joker’s Joaquin Phoenix, has been tapped to receive Palm Springs’ Chairman’s Award at PSIFF’s splashy ceremony at the Palm Springs Convention Center the day after the New Year begins. Joker director and co-writer Todd Phillips will present.

“Joaquin Phoenix mesmerizes audiences in Joker with a performance that elicits empathy and reminds society on the whole that we can be better,” said festival chairman Harold Matzner. “For this performance, another in his arsenal of unforgettable characters, we are honored to present Joaquin Phoenix with this year’s Chairman’s Award.”

Past recipients of the Chairman’s Award include last year’s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress, Regina King, along with Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, George Clooney, Richard Gere, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.

And as previously reported on Deadline, Renee Zellweger will be spotlighted at both fests, receiving the PSIFF’s Desert Achievement Actress Award  as well as SBIFF’s American Riviera Award for her work in Judy.

Expect a lot more of these announcements as the awards season merry-go-round continues.

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