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Sober Red Carpet: The Santa Barbara Film Festival "hold the vodka."

"But a drunk's only trying to get free of his body
And soar like an eagle high up there in heaven
His shouts and his curses are just hymns and praises
To kick-start his mind now and then.
O God loves a drunk, come raise up your glasses, amen"
~Richard Thompson

I am compiling a list of films for folks living life without alcohol or contemplating a sober life. I have been re-tooling this list for weeks because my love for the visual arts and my love for enlightenment have very tender roots in film. I am one of those people who's favorite "comfort food" is film. I watch at least one movie every day. I watch movies over and over,from different perspectives. I love black and white classics and new raw indies. I love it all. From Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon" to my favorite "drunkalog" on celluloid "When A Man Loves A Woman" and the desperately sobering "Rush". Film inspired my sobriety, even before I got sober. There are so many films that have made lasting impressions."Clean and Sober" is a hard look at getting sober and the reality of staying sober.

This week the 24th SBIFF begins and I will soberly go where so many drunks have gone before me. I will wander the streets of Santa Barbara from eight a.m. until midnight for ten days. Santa Barbara's International Film Festival is the biggest block party on the central coast this time of year. The film festivals by nature are tagged as drunk fests. Glitteringly sponsored by the makers of spirited libations such as Chopin vodka, a BIG sponsor and with that, the vodka will flow. When I make my rounds and head for one of the many open bars set up during the festival, the bartenders general give me the "stink eye" when I order my "Mock-tail" The Sunrise Fizz ~ four parts soda water, splash of sweet and sour, splash of cranberry juice and a lime, served in a martini glass ~ It looks tre'elegant and drinks like a fizzy lemonade.
As I attend the festival events, sipping my guilt free fizz and nibbling on delectable tidbits ( I only get delectable tid-bits at these soirees because I'm a Mom making "Mom food" every day) I am a sober voyeur, drinking deep of heady film and thoughtful banter.

The sweet vodka soaked film heads are entertaining. Reminding me of "wetter" days,when heaven and hell was in a glass of single malt scotch. Thanks to Chopin and Roblar Winery and the other purveyors of the drinkables, many attendees will be falling off their wagons or at least slipping. But maybe like me, there will be folks who are enjoying this Art-licious event without the aid of alcohol. Where film is the thing.

I know I may not have much company because after all, what are a drinkers two favorite words? "OPEN BAR." And you know a lot of creative minds really produce on the juice. "Barfly," is my favorite, "just stay freakin' loaded til ya die" epic. Mickey Rourke's Henry Chinaski is kind of like...well... Mickey Rourke. With Fay Dunaway as his Ironweed accomplice, Wanda. They are two for the road in this whiskey-driven soap opera. It is really a harsh piece for 1987,thus creating a new kind of film, the Drunk Film Poem.

I cannot wait to see what gems in cinema float to the surface to enhance my psyche or what brave works will take me on an emotional roller coaster. I love watching actors portray drunks. Nuts right? God loves a drunk! Remember Jimmy Stewart in "Harvey?" Who doesn't love the adorable drunk Elwood P. Dowd, a guy who has an invisible "pooka" named "Harvey" as a pal and finds love and acceptance:as a booze soaked lunatic of a sweetheart.

One of my last drunks was at the 1999 Film Festival. Now ten years later I feel grateful and hopeful that life goes on and I can still be at the party without being the life of the party. I am so happy to just "be." I can take on a red carpet with sober eyes and be as brave and creative as ever sans the booze. I will be excited and emotionally drawn out by the films and people I experience in the next two weeks. Bright eyed and kid-like in the Capra-esque experience of tripping the light fantastic with a bunch of present day cinematic luminaries. Ever hoping to rub elbows or bump heads with the ones I love to watch as actors and view as creators on the big screen and the little screen and all the screens in-between.

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