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Award gold contenders Bradley Cooper and Dame Helen Mirren warm up at Palm Springs Film Festival

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Now that Christmas is all wrapped up, Hollywood's focus turns to the next big calendar event – awards season. With the Golden Globes taking place on Januray 13 and the Oscars just a month later, excitement is building. This year's lead players, including Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, Naomi Watts and Dame Helen Mirren, were all out for a bit of a warm up at the Palm Springs International Film Festival gala.


Great Brit Dame Helen went home with the International Star Award for Hitchcock. Her role as Alfred Hitchcock's strong-willed wife in the eponymously-titled film has been impressing critics, and might lay the foundation for her to snare best actress at the Globes. She made it clear that the Oscars' little sister was her favourite awards ceremony, dubbing it a "friendlier" show than the Academy Awards. "It has to do with those tables in still quite a small room," she added. "They haven't allowed it to get enormous. "Everybody table jumps and chats. It's always slightly naughty. The hosts are always naughty. I can't wait to have Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing it. That's going to be such fun."


Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper is poised to consolidate his role as leading man with recognition for lost-soul romance, Silver Linings Playbook. Like Dame Helen, he has been given the nod for Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards. In the meantime, he was decorated with the Desert Palm Achievement Award for his heart-warming role. The actor also marked his 38th birthday on the night, so there was double cause for celebration. Waiting fans serenaded the Hangover star with an impromptu performance of Happy Birthday. Bradley returned the favour as he signed autographs, took pictures and chatted with his admirers.


Asked how he felt about the possibility of going the distance and being nominated for an Oscar, the actor said that particular honour "would be incredible". Fellow Hollywood heartthrob Ben Affleck also took to the stage to accept the Ensemble Performance Award for his Iranian hostage thriller, Argo. And Naomi Watts yet again impressed with her turn in the Tsunami thriller The Impossible.

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