Grossed-Out: And now, the NFL trophy for the
worst performance by a quarterback in Super Bowl history: To
Rex Gross-Man of the Chicago Barely Bears, who
lost to the Baltimore Colts — I mean Indianapolis Colts — on
Sunday. He set a new standard for futile incompetence and for
flinging more intercepted wounded-duck passes than the storied
Joe Kapp. Kapp, you may recall, led the Vikings to
a 23-7 loss to Kansas City in the 1970 Super Bowl.
Why Is This Man Laughing? “I’m Al Gore. I used
to be the next president of the United States,” the man in the
documentary said, to laughter at the Santa Barbara International
Film Festival Friday night. Then he added, tongue in cheek: “I
don’t find this particularly funny.” Actually, the man who won the
popular presidential vote in 2000 but lost in the Eleckoral
Kollage and Florida poli-tricks, was not
only in good humor but so inspirational that the SRO audience was
primed to not only elect him president in 2008 but run out and do
their best to cool down global warming.
So the real story was whether Gore will emerge as the Demo
candidate if Hillary, etc., crash and burn. Asked about the role of
big-oil money controlling the White House, Gore replied: “The oil
lobby is this White House.” The long national nightmare of
Bush, etc., will be over in two years, so we have to work to
prevent a new presidential nightmare, I guess. Gore seemed coy
about running in ’08. “I’m a recovering politician,” he said. Santa
Barbaran Jim Cameron (The Abyss, Titanic) was
fired up in presenting Gore and
Davis Guggenheim the Festival’s David Attenborough
Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking for their film An
Inconvenient Truth. Cameron found it “obscene” that oil
companies have racked up just-announced record billion-dollar
profits, while thousands of Americans are dying in oil-rich Iraq.
“I beseech you to step up to the plate,” last year’s Attenborough
winner urged Gore, making a clear appeal for the former vice
president to run. Gore, just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize,
left the stage without replying to that.
Best of Fest: Make a movie about a slide show?
Even one that Gore has given 1,000 times? Surely you jest. But in
An Inconvenient Truth Guggenheim not only showed a Gore
far more animated than he displayed in 2000 but produced a film
that turned the Arlington into an environmental-political rally. It
was by far the best night of the festival. Next stop: Oscar night,
when the documentary is up for an Academy Award.
Political Warming? Can movies snap us out of
our anti-politician funk? “Politics can make for a better world,”
contended Michael Apted while introducing
my pick as the best feature film of the
fest — of those I saw — Amazing Grace. It’s the story of
how British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce
fought a long but winning battle to outlaw slavery there. “I’ve
always wanted to make a film about politics,” Apted said. “Pay
attention to politics,” he urged, because that’s the way to get
things done. Apted’s an English director.
Unsung at the Fest: It’s over now and too late
to take in the unsung gems or ones with a more gritty appeal. Take
Barrio Cuba, Humberto Solás’s unsparing story about daily
life and family struggles far from the tourist hotels and “quaint”
restaurants. Lee Feigon’s The Passion of the Mao (title remind you of a
recent movie?), is an irreverent look at the late Chinese leader’s
life and times. “Who knew communism could be so funny?” cracked
Feigon (pictured left, with the author), who owns a PhD in Chinese
history and is a research associate at the Center for East Asian
Studies at the U of Chicago.
In Man in the Chair, Christopher
Plummer is no longer the genial family man from
The Sound of Music, but a grizzled, foul-tempered,
retired gaffer — movie electrician. But here he shapes up and
sobers up to help a kid make a movie. It’s an Oscar performance but
alas, he’s not nominated.
He’s Everywhere: I mean Roger
Durling, Film Fest chief honcho, whom I described as
frazzled, but that’s just his onstage
Otherwise, Durling, man of many hair themes,
seemed to be everywhere — smiling, calm, genial, and somehow
pulling the whole thing off, thanks to a legion of workers and
… And So Am I: I was the target of raised
eyebrows Thursday, but played hooky from the festival to sneak out
to UCSB for the stunning 1969 French film Army of Shadows.
The uneven story of the anti-Nazi Resistance badly needed cutting
by filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville but it’s still a gripping,
painful story of the dangerous battles in the shadows that all too
often ended in death. It’s never been released in the U.S. before.
It was named Best Foreign Film of the Year by the
New York Film Critics Circle in 2006.
Chowing Down: Best snacks I tasted at Fest
parties were when the Food Network came to town for a Dinner:
Impossible challenge at the Arlington courtyard after
Amazing Grace. Four cameras were taking in the scene when
Robert Irvine and two sous-chefs sent platter after platter out
to the party. (Too bad we couldn’t have magically shipped some of
those goodies to Havana.) Look for the show to be aired in April.
Aside from the official parties, Opal restaurant
(formerly Brigitte’s), convenient to the Arlington, was the place
for pre-movie dinners and post-schmoozing.
Photo of Lee Feigon by Sue De Lapa
Barney Brantingham can be reached at
email@example.com or 805-965-5205. He also writes a column
in The Independent’s Thursday print edition and a Friday
Barney’s Weekend Picks online.