By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood December 7, 2011 at 12:07PM
Film festivals play a key role in highlighting Oscar contenders during this crowded and noisy awards season. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will honor "The Artist" actors Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo with their Cinema Vanguard Award on February 4. The award recognizes "an actor who has forged his/her own path - taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film." Past winners include Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga and Ryan Gosling. SBIFF's exec director Roger Durling states: "In an age of sight and sound spectacle, there is great risk in a silent film. Jean and Bérénice's acting is an amazing pas des deux both physically and emotionally - recalling classic Hollywood pairings like Hepburn and Tracy, and of course indelibly Ginger and Fred." Dujardin notes the rest of the film's ensemble -- James Cromwell, John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle and Malcolm McDowell --and adds, "This award is just as much for them as it is for us.”
Moving into Southern California, Octavia Spencer is being honored with the Palm Spring International Film Festival's Breakthrough Performance Award for "The Help." The award will be given at the 23rd annual awards gala on January 7. Among the others being honored this year by PSIFF are George Clooney (Chairman's Award), Glenn Close (Career Achievment), Michael Hazanavicius (Sony Bono Visionary Award) and Michelle Williams (Desert Palm Achievement Actress Award). Festival chairman Harold Matzner says Spencer is "a consummate actress who seamlessly blends her dramatic and comedic talents, creating performances of uncommon depth,..in 'The Help,' she captures the essence of a woman who deals with life head on, relishing confrontation and serving as a source of courage and humor for those whom she loves."
Martin Scorsese is also being honored with the Critics' Choice Music+Film award.