The actresses were dripping with jewels, actors donned high fashion, and logos of jeweler Cartier and automaker Mercedes-Benz loomed large behind all as they posed for photographers.
"I'm just doing what I know how to do, and that's make movies and hopefully get people to go see them so I can continue to make more movies," said Leonardo DiCaprio, when asked if he felt uncomfortable in this setting, given widespread financial woes.
DiCaprio was on hand Tuesday night to accept the fest's Ensemble Performance Award for the drama "Revolutionary Road," for which he's a nominee at Sunday's Golden Globes.
This year's other Palm Springs honorees included many who are widely considered strong Oscar contenders, including "The Changeling" director and "Gran Torino" star and director Clint Eastwood, who showed up to take home the Career Achievement Award.
"Milk" actor Sean Penn and "Rachel Getting Married" actor Anne Hathaway each came to pick up a Desert Palm Achievement Award.
Is Hathaway ready for eight more weeks of awards-show mania, ending with the Oscars on Feb. 22?
"I've decided to keep a journal about it, and write down my reflections every night. Because I know that if I don't do that now, when I look back, I won't be able to remember things so clearly," Hathaway said. "So I think that's what I'm going to do."
The Oscar-winning Penn summed up the red-carpet experience in two words - "It's loud!" - and Eastwood had only a few more. "Once in a while it's fine," he said. "But, after a while, you go blind by the time they hit you with about 400 flashbulbs."
Awards Gala presenters included "Frost/Nixon" star Frank Langella, there to give the film's director Ron Howard the Director's Lifetime Achievement Award, and actor Ben Stiller to hand his "Meet the Fockers" co-star Dustin Hoffman the Chairman's Awards.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" composer Alexandre Desplat received his statuette from "Button" actor Taraji P. Hanson - herself an awards-show veteran, thanks to her role in the acclaimed "Hustle and Flow."
The red carpet is "a lot of work and I really would like to find out who said it was all glamorous and I'd like to kick them in their shins because it's not so glamorous," Hanson noted. "You have to be on, you have to be personality, you know, even if you don't feel like it."