PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Scores of A-list stars worked the red carpet Saturday night at the Palms Springs International Film Festival, the event that signals the beginning of the 2014 movie award season.
"(The festival) has a dual purpose really," actor Tom Hanks told USA TODAY. "It's the end of the holidays and the true beginning of the trophy run season. And the truth is, you're lucky if you get invited."
Hanks is part of the elite crew likely to be in the spotlight this award season, along with fellow festival attendees Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Bruce Dern, Bono, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve Coogan and Idris Elba.
It's been a big year for McConaughey, who had roles in Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club.
"This is the beginning of a new year and these awards," McConaughey said. "I can feel it. Now I have another job I want to engage in. Going out there with films I am really proud of."
He's not alone. Here's a look at how the top stars and their films fared at the 25th annual festival.
Streep's performance in August: Osage County is bringing accolades, award nominations (SAG and Golden Globe) and continued Oscar buzz. On Saturday night, Streep accepted the Icon Award from August co-star and longtime friend Margo Martindale.
The 64-year-old actress and three-time Oscar winner admitted the grand title felt strange.
"I don't feel like an icon," Streep said after accepting the award. "Most days I feel like an 'I can't,' that's with an 'A.' I'm an actor, that's all I am."
"I'm an example, in my dotage, that you just can't put these old gals out to pasture," said Streep, alluding to Hollywood's perception of aging actresses. "We got a lot of stuff to say."
Bullock's Golden Globe and SAG-nominated performance as an astronaut struggling to return home in Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity has her back on the radar this award season. She won an Oscar in 2010 for The Blind Side.
Winning the Desert Palm Achievement Award on Saturday, Bullock, 49, admitted to Google-ing herself to see what people were saying about her. She deadpanned that reading online comments was sometimes depressing, but she still found solace in her career and recent achievements.
"It's true, I have had a very fortunate year because Alfonso Cuaron gave me the opportunity of a lifetime," said Bullock, before repeating the Internet jabs. "So from this not-particularly talented or attractive, mediocre over-40 woman I am so grateful, I am so thankful."
Roberts, who has earned supporting actress SAG and Golden Globe nominations alongside Meryl Streep in August: Osage County, pulled double duty at Palm Springs. She accepted the Spotlight Award from co-star Ewan McGregor and also presented an award to Tom Hanks.
Roberts, 46, looked stunning in a leopard-pattern Gucci ensemble and admitted the look took some work after the holidays.
"Seventeen hours of masonry put me together after the new year," Roberts said. "I thought they should give us a couple of days to get up to speed. But it's exciting."
Onstage, Hanks was impressed looking at the bespectacled Roberts.
"Man, what a pair of glasses," he said. "She just looks better and better. What a pretty woman."
Cast of 'American Hustle'
Hustle writer-director David O. Russell had the unusual task of presenting his own cast with the Ensemble Performance Award. Russell had praise for each member including Cooper, Adams and Renner, in addition to Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence who were not in attendance.
But his actors shined the light back on Russell for the film, which is nominated for seven Golden Globe awards. Cooper, who starred in Russell's 2012's Silver Linings Playbook, said the director earns actors' trust.
"He's always standing there saying 'Jump, Jump. I've got you,' That's a blessing." said Cooper. "He creates a world where actors take risks."
The lead singer of U2 and social activist hit the red carpet for a film award for the Golden Globe nominated song "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
The good friend of Nelson Mandela, who attended the iconic South African statesman's funeral last month, dedicated the award to Mandela: "the greatest activist of them all."
Earlier on the red carpet, he said it was strange to be in the film world -- and to see his longtime bandmate, The Edge, dressed formally.
"It's nice to see The Edge in a tie, I've probably only seen that a few times in my life," Bono laughed.
Hanks is in the awards mix with two films, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks. Roberts, who presented Hanks with the Chairman's Award, showered him with praise as a "hero."
On the red carpet, Hanks said he had no problem with the self-competition and kept above any awards fray.
"This is just a blast," he said. "There's no competition tonight, which is what's so great about it. It's just a big party."
Upon arrival, the star emerged from his limo and all but jumped into the waiting crowd. They chanted "Matthew, Matthew" as he walked the red carpet.
He wore a flashy gold Saint Laurent jacket to accept the Desert Palm Achievement Award and admitted to USA TODAY that outfits were all about timing.
"It's where you are when you chose it," he said. "If it's Sunday morning and you're having a cup of tea, you chose something more conservative. This was chosen on a Saturday night after some salsa dancing."
The Nebraska star and longtime character actor is basking in the limelight as a Golden Globe and SAG nominee. He made it clear he appreciated the chance to star in Alexander Payne's road trip movie and the accolades that have followed.
"I'm the guy when they say, 'Come on down' I run down," said Dern. "I don't walk."
(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)