Bradley Cooper: Cover model for Desert Magazine at the Palm Springs film festival

Desert Magazine hits homes Jan. 26, 2013, for The Desert Sun and www.mydesert.com subscribers. (Cover photo by Taili Song Roth)

Bradley Cooper — Hollywood celebrity, heartthrob and now Desert Magazine cover model.

I got a sneak peek tonight at the upcoming issue of our magazine, and I couldn’t keep it to myself.

This stunning photo was taken during an exclusive photo shoot with Desert Magazine backstage at the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala on Jan. 5, 2013.

As magazine goddess Carla Howard wrote on the cover of the issue: “You’re welcome.”

While freelance photographer Taili Song Roth set up, Cooper was hanging in our photo gallery with his “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell as well as Ben Affleck.

Russell pointed out his own Desert Magazine photo shoot, which was taken in 2010 with Mark Wahlberg and was on display with several others.

The very-playful Russell even grabbed a self-portrait with actor Jeremy Renner’s portrait, also on display. (Russell, Renner and Cooper are working together on untitled project.)

Desert Magazine will hit homes Sunday for The Desert Sun and www.mydesert.com subscribers.

Can’t wait? See our photo gallery of Bradley Cooper at the film fest.

Palm Springs film festival: Ben Affleck spit on me

Ben Affleck arrives on the red carpet before the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala on Jan. 5, 2013. (Jay Calderon, The Desert Sun)

I told Academy Award-winning actor Ben Affleck tonight that he was overrated.

And then he spit on me.

Affleck was my ninth celebrity interview in just minutes amid the flurry of red carpet arrivals for the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s annual awards gala.

When I first saw Affleck walk toward me, he looked every bit of his 6 feet, 2 inches tall. In a perfect Hollywood moment, the gray on the ends of his hair seemed to sparkle.

“Hello, Desert Sun,” he said as his publicist steered him my way.

That’s when I dropped my bomb: “I’ve heard great things tonight about your directing, that it’s overrated.”

Oops.

What I really meant was what Tony Mendez — the real-life CIA agent at the heart of “Argo,” who was presenting Affleck and his cast with an award — told me: That Affleck’s skills as a director are underrated, often overshadowed by his acting. Flustered, I touched his arm and told him immediately that wasn’t what I meant.

Affleck looked at me: “No, that would be awesome if you were like, ‘I’m hearing you’re overrated.’”

Fortunately for me — and the 14-year-old me who adored him in “Armageddon” — he had a sense of humor.

Affleck laughed when I asked about directing an actor who he has a close relationship with —  you know, himself.  “I don’t know about easy, but at least I knew he wasn’t going to complain, you know what I mean? He got the part because he was sleeping with the director.”

Ben Affleck arrives on the red carpet before the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala on Jan. 5, 2013. (Jay Calderon, The Desert Sun)

Then Affleck told me that his father, Timothy, moved to Indio when Ben was 16 years old. He lived there for about 20 years and worked “for many, many years” as a counselor at the ABC Recovery Center.

“I came out to LA when I was about 18, and I used to drive back down and visit him,” said Affleck, now 40. “I used to like to drive by the place where Jimmy Swaggart got arrested with that prostitute. I was like, ‘Dad, where did that happen?’”

It was about this time that Affleck  popped a mint into his mouth, chewing it as he casually continued talking — and the smallest drop of spit came flying out and onto my chin.

My mind muted out his words for a moment as I thought: “Ben Affleck just spit on me. His saliva is on my face.”

I forgave him (really, it was Ben Affleck, who wouldn’t?), as he described the Coachella Valley in a way that reminded me why he won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his screenwriting.

“In truth, I really like the community. I like Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio. I have memories of driving down here in the summers to see my dad and rolling the window down and it feeling like a blow dryer, you know, on your arm,” he said.

“It has this wonderful romance to me of, like, all those pictures you see of old gas station rest stops on the side of the road in the 1950s. There’s a feeling of an older America here that’s past in a lot of places but that I really find romantic.”

Palm Springs film festival: What the celebs say about Palm Springs

Actress Sally Field signed autographs Jan. 5, 2013, before walking the red carpet at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. (Wade Byars, The Desert Sun)

Dozens of Hollywood stars and starlets drove into the Coachella Valley on Jan. 5, 2013,  for the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s annual awards gala.

The stars talked about their Palm Springs visits — what they’ve been doing, if they’ve visited before — during brief interviews with The Desert Sun on the red carpet.

 

Sally Field, who won Career Achievement Award after her role in “Lincoln”

“I grew up in Los Angeles, so Palm Springs was the place we would go — it wasn’t often, every now and then. It was in the ‘50s, so it was literally one street. Palm Springs would always make me smile.  …

“I haven’t been here in a long time, so I thought, ‘What? This can’t be the place! What happened to Main Street?”

 

Martin Sheen, who presented Sally Field with her career achievement award

“This is my first time ever. I’ve never been to Palm Springs. I’ve driven through it, but I’ve never been here before. I always wanted to know where Frank Sinatra lived.”

He said he needed to leave Sunday morning: “But I’ve seen enough to want to come back, I’ll tell you that.”

 

Naomi Watts, who won Desert Palm Achievement Award – Actress  

While she was participating in a film festival session, her kids “had such a beautiful day” in the pool — and at Boomerz in Cathedral City.

 

“Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, who won the ensemble award for “Argo”

“I’ll swing by and see my partners at Cinemas Palme d’Or and talk business and make sure that our theater is running smoothly and that our audiences enjoy the selection of films we have. ‘Argo’ is one of ‘em.”

 

Bill Pullman

“Yesterday morning we went out to the experimental station…  The date station out in Thermal and we ate a lot of dates with the guy, Vince, who runs it all.”

On Desert Sun reporter Bruce Fessier’s wife baking him date cookies: “I thought that is Palm Springs at its best.”

 

Director of the Year Robert Zemeckis and his wife, actress Leslie Zemeckis

The couple went to Copley’s on Palm Canyon for dinner Friday and to the Palm Springs Air Museum with their kids. They hoped to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway before leaving town.

“We just love being around the architecture and just sort of the vibe of the city. We love it,” he said.

 

Ben Affleck, who won the Ensemble Performance Award for “Argo”

“I really like the community. I like Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio. I have memories of driving down here in the summers to see my dad and rolling the window down and it feeling like a blow dryer, you know, on my your arm.

“It has this wonderful romance to me of, like, all those pictures you see of old gas station rest stops on the side of the road in the 1950s. There’s a feeling of an older America here that’s past in a lot of places but that I really find romantic.”

 

Helen Mirren, who won International Star Award for “Hitchcock”

“I’ve been to Palm Springs for weekends now and then, and I had my very first Jacuzzi ever in Palm Springs, so that was an amazing and memorable experience. At this time of year, out under these incredible skies, is wonderful.”

 

 

– Desert Sun reporter Xochitl Pena contributed to this.

Film fest presents provocative, emotionally raw look at transgender issues and love

—Suzanne Clement stars as Fred, a woman in love with a man who transitions to a transgender woman in "Laurence Anyways." It's being screened during the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Submitted photo.

When Fred (short for Frederique) meets Laurence at work in Montreal, she instinctively knows their relationship — whatever it becomes — will be powerfully transformative. She is intrigued by Laurence’s good looks, charm and directness, as anyone would be encountering a potential new love for the first time. But as the flashback scene near the end of “Laurence Anyways” shows, Fred has no idea the extent of how they and their lives will change during the next 10 years.

It doesn’t even seem clear to Laurence (actor Melvil Poupaud) at the beginning of Xavier Dolan’s refreshingly frank, emotional and stylish film that he’s undergoing a transformation from man to woman. His transgenderism is gradually realized, seeping out during classroom lectures that define “normal” and gender identity and a covetous appreciation of the feminine power exhibited by his female students.

The movie really takes off after its slow start when Laurence can no longer contain the truth of who he is. It comes rushing out like a waterfall while at a car wash with Fred (actress Suzanne Clement), though the audience doesn’t hear it then. Laurence exclaims, “I’m going to die.” (This is one of a couple times when Dolan–who wrote, directed and edited the film–artfully and unexpectedly uses a deluge to symbolize a torrent of emotion.)

With a sophistication belying his years–he’s in his early 20s–Dolan keeps the audience engaged by not force-feeding every detail and plot twist of the story. Viewers often have to wait to learn important developments when a character learns them, which is so unlike many wrapped-and-tied-with-a-bow Hollywood stories.

Dolan’s youth is more evident through his use of music. There are a couple of sequences cleverly reminiscent of music videos of the late ’80s or early ’90s when the story takes place. However, the volume suddenly goes up, like one of those annoying TV commercials, and the effect is more jarring than enlightening and comes across as out of place in what is a thoughtful and provocative film.

It’s the nuanced, honest performances of Clement and Poupaud, depicting raw and realistic situations, that make this very specific experience universally relatable. They beautifully convey that the inner person and the love that’s shared doesn’t change because the exterior has died or changed. In fact, the bond seems to grow stronger for these two as they face a variety of reactions from society: frustration from family members, mocking judgment from strangers, and unquestioning acceptance from others.

The acceptance readily comes where it often does when social mores are challenged — from the young generation. The reaction of Laurence’s students to his showing up to class in women’s wear is priceless, as his confident John Travolta-esque strut in heels (“Saturday Night Fever”) down the school hallway attests.

However, what does change in Fred’s and Laurence’s relationship that makes it nearly impossible to sustain is the shift of balance. Fred seems to disappear during the transition more so than Laurence. The partner whose needs were considered and met before is replaced by Fred the encourager, confidant and model woman for Laurence. This is revealed during Saturday brunch at a diner in one of the film’s most powerful scenes. Clement brilliantly conveys a fierce protectiveness and rage that sets them on different courses for awhile.

Audience members will root for them to get back together because they understand one another and have such fun together, though the circumstances of their new lives appear to make it inconceivable how a reunion could work. Still, their love is incomparable. A question for Laurence and Fred may be whether that love is good for either of them. For the audience, the question “Laurence Anyways” presents is whether love alone is enough to be together.

If you have an opportunity, see this film and decide for yourself. For more coverage of the 24th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, go to http://www.mydesert.com/filmfest.

IF YOU GO

What: “Laurence Anyways” at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Canadian. 168 minutes.

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 4 and 12:30 p.m. Jan. 6. Sold out but standby tickets may be available at the door.

Where: Regal Cinemas Stadium 9, 789 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs.

Ticket: $11

Info: www.psfilmfest.org

Dara Torres rents in PS — a pull bouy and kick board

So what does a person have to do to get a loaner on a pull bouy and a kick board at the Palm Springs Swim Center? Apparently winning 12 Olympic medals, including four golds and becoming the face of American swimming is not enough to wave the fee.

Dara Torres, the five time Olympian, was in the Coachella Valley this weekend and went for a workout on Sunday morning. Later on Sunday, she posted this Tweet.

Just had a good workout at the Palm Springs Swim Center. Wish they had lent me a pull buoy & kick board instead of makn me rent it! #comeon
 
Outside of the Palm Springs Swim Center incident, Torres appears to be enjoying her weekend in the Coachella Valley. According to her tweets, she was here for the film festival, thanks to Guthy Renker. She had a lot of fun tweets from the film festival, but was too shy to ask for a picture with Angelina Jolie. If you want to follow Torres, her Twitter handle is @daratorres