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Santa Barbara Film Festival Picks

Barney’s Chosen Panels, Shorts, and Must-See Flicks


Fest Picks: Sure I’ll be making the rounds at this year’s Film Festival flicks - I’ve scribbled out a now water-soaked list, which I jammed in my raincoat pocket - but some of the most interesting parts of the Fest are the panels and conversations with movie-makers.

In short, what were they thinking? What went on behind the scenes? What did it take to make the film?

In fact, some are predicting possible fireworks when the script writers and producers cross paths at Saturday’s panel discussions at the Lobero.

The writers take the stage at 11 a.m. and about the time they’re emerging, producers will be arriving for their 2 p.m. curtain call. But as the screenwriters like to remind us, “It Starts With the Script.”

So you’d rather see a movie and you don’t give a hoot who made it and why? Look, this is fascinating stuff, at least to me. We film buffs idolize directors, the so-called “gods of Hollywood,” and they’ll be taking over the Lobero on Saturday, February 2 at 11 a.m.

After his Moonstruck is shown (Sunday, January 27 at 4:15 p.m. at the Metro 4), director Norman Jewison will talk about his nearly 40-year-long filmmaking career. That discussion starts at 6 p.m.

So you still want moving pictures? Well, even if you missed Thursday night’s opener at the Arlington, Definitely, Maybe, here are some flicks that people around town are talking about, in no particular order:

A Room With a View: In this “reinterpretation” by Santa Barbara-born executive producer, Eileen Quinn, we follow along in the adventures of Lucy Honeychurch. The movie shows Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Victoria Hall (Surely you saw the 1986 version, or can run out and rent one to compare.)

Her Duty: How’s this for a concept? The wife of a Navy pilot speaks out against the war in Iraq. But the story is a true one, as I found out in a chance meeting with the guy who made the short, Santa Barbara documentary filmmaker Ethan Turpin. The nine-minute film is about Lisa Leitz and how the marriage actually works. It’s among a group of short takes by Santa Barbara filmmakers being shown today starting at 6:30 p.m. at Victoria Hall. Included is Frank McGinity’s 15-minute film, Riven Rock. That’s the name of the Montecito estate where Stanley McCormick, son of the reaper inventor, lived. He was so wacko-lustful that he wasn’t allowed around women. (So what good did all that money do him?) These and other locally-made short films will also be shown Sunday at 1 p.m. at Center Stage Theater.

No Country: I read the book,No Country for Old Men a year or so ago and found it to be the most violent book I’ve ever finished. To my utter surprise, they made it into a hit film. The bad guy, Javier Bardem, will get the Montecito Award on Monday, January 28 at the 8 p.m. at the Arlington.

The Band’s Visit: Film Fest PR queen Carol Marshall raved to me about The Band’s Visit. A brass band composed of members of an Egyptian police force go to play in Israel. It’s showing today at 4:30 p.m. at the Arlington, Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Metro 4, and Sunday, January 27 at 1:30 at the Lobero.

Fugitive Pieces: Many of the festival entries are looking to be picked up by a studio for a distribution deal, and Carol tells me that Fugitive Pieces has been picked up by the Goldwyn group. It’s based on a novel about a man haunted by his experiences in World War II. It’s showing on Saturday, February 2 at 7:15 p.m. at Metro 4 and Sunday, February 3 at 1:15 p.m. at the same theater.

My Enemy’s Enemy: World War II never goes away because we should never forget this period, which marked man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. My Enemy’s Enemy is a look at the history of Gestapo monster Klaus Barbie, known as “the Butcher of Lyon.” It plays Sunday, January 27 at the Lobero at 4:30 p.m.

Snow Job: I could go on and on - there are about 200 entries in the festival - so let me wrap it up with this one. In A Snowmobile for George, Todd Darling tows a snowmobile around the U.S. in what’s billed as an amusing exposure of President Bush’s environmental offenses to the nation. The film will be shown on Thursday, January 31 at 6:30 p.m. at Victoria Hall and Saturday, February 2 at Victoria Hall at 9 p.m.

V for Victory: The first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ring a bell with anyone who’s familiar with Morse Code and World War II. The “dah-dah-dah-daaah” or “dot, dot, dot, dash” is code for the letter “V,” and in those days that meant “V for Victory.” The BBC used those four first notes to begin its resistance broadcasts into occupied Europe. The German composer’s music paradoxically became a symbol of freedom against the Nazis. All this came back to me when conductor Pinchas Zukerman waved his baton on Wednesday night at the Arlington, leading the Royal Philharmonic in, yes, Beethoven’s Fifth. I recall hearing that those first four notes so infuriated Hitler during the war that he banned the symphony. But so far I haven’t found proof of this. Perhaps some reader knows.

Someone reading a recent Independent online story about the Royal Phil’s upcoming concert posted a sneer at Santa Barbara’s supposed lack of modernism for booking the warhorse Fifth. But I inquired with the sponsoring Community Arts Music Association: Who decides on the program? Answer: The visiting symphony, not stodgy Santa Barbarans. No doubt the Royal Phil during its globe-trotting odyssey plays the piece - and a stirring, lovely classic it is - in cities large and small, musically savvy or not. As for the Phil’s performance, I think Ludwig would have been proud.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.

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