Just a matter of days after a high-profile pre-festival event was cancelled, organizers of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced some big name attractions for this winter’s 22nd annual extravaganza. Actor Forest Whitaker (pictured) of Platoon, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and The Last King of Scotland fame will receive the American Riviera Award on February 3, while former Vice President Al Gore and director Davis Guggenheim will come to town the night before to accept this year’s Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking for their collaborative effort An Inconvenient Truth.

Santa Barbara News-Press workers and supporters will hold a candlelight vigil outside the Biltmore Hotel this Saturday evening, where owner Wendy McCaw and her fiancé and copublisher Arthur Von Wiesenberger will be handing out Lifetime Achievement Awards to three prominent local philanthropists. One of the recipients – Sarah Miller McCune – has been attempting to purchase the News-Press from McCaw since reporters and editors began resigning this summer. The founder of a scholastic publishing company, McCune has been supportive of News-Press workers in their campaign against McCaw and has been under considerable pressure not to accept the award, but she does not want to alienate McCaw.

The Santa Barbara District Attorney is asking the California Supreme Court to reverse a Court of Appeal decision removing senior prosecutor Ron Zonen from the Jesse James Hollywood case. Zonen was removed earlier this year because he gave filmmakers working on a movie about the slaying allegedly masterminded by Hollywood unprecedented access to information about the case. Zonen has denied accusations that he was starstruck, insisting instead that he pulled out the stops to bring a fugitive to justice. Acting as Zonen’s attorney, prosecutor Gerald Franklin argued that the appellate court ignored state law governing involuntary recusals of prosecutors. Hollywood’s attorney James Blatt filed a similar motion with the Supreme Court, arguing that no attorney working in the Santa Barbara DA’s office should be allowed to prosecute Hollywood.

More than 450 young conservatives are expected to convene at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort this weekend for the sold-out West Coast Leadership Conference. Featured speakers include Michael Reagan, son of the late president; radio talk show hosts Mark Larson and Larry Elder; Frank Donatelli, Reagan’s political affairs assistant; and former Corporation for Public Broadcasting chair Ken Tomlinson, who will receive the Torch of Freedom Award. Young America’s Foundation, which operates the Reagan Ranch Center on lower State Street, is sponsoring the event.

Just one day before national elections, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright exhorted a packed house at the Arlington Theatre to embrace bipartisanship, something she said is now sorely lacking in American politics. Still, when pressed during a question-and-answer period following a short lecture on her new book, The Mighty and the Almighty, Albright conceded that she hoped voters would sweep Democrats into control of both houses of Congress. Albright’s appearance – the second time UCSB’s Arts and Lectures program has managed to wrangle a former Secretary of State (they got Colin Powell in February) – appeared to go over well with the audience, who gave her a number of long ovations.

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