Abigail Breslin
Paul Wellman

Was it just me or did everybody at the after-party last night look like they stepped right out of the movie we collectively sighed through? Young, glib with just enough balance between street credibility and upward mobility, the place rocked and the denizens noshed on little pizzas, shrimp kebabs whilst sipping red, red wine. If you were single, well-dressed, and even slightly on your game, my bet is you totally got laid last night.

The 23rd Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival got off to a very auspicious beginning on Thursday. The heavy rain parted and the crowd moved with utmost civility into the glorious Arlington. Roger Durling‘s voice cracked with requisite emotion as he dedicated the fest to the memory of the late, great Heath Ledger, who he described as “one of our family.” It is true that Ledger’s considerable talents were tragically lost to us, but many of us were fortunate, because of Durling’s machinations, to have experienced him live at a Lobero tribute. Was it two years ago? Tempus fugit and so do our dreams.

Then Durling introduced the opening night movie, and, after a decidedly non-controversial festival intro film, came the most auspicious of all the evening’s fine surprises: it was very, very good. (We all hope the curse of opening night turkeys has been broken years ago forever.) Definitely, Maybe, by writer director Adam Brooks (present) is kind of a cross between Princess Bride for narrative tricks and The Way We Were for romantic nostalgia, with a nicely sophisticated mixture of sucker punch sentimentality and unexpected reversals. Although the former is more often present. It’s kind of nice that the 1990s are already golden with memory for this generation of film-goers, though I would guess that most of the party-goers were as old as young actress Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) when Clinton and Cobain were in ascendancy.

But if the sweetness of the opener is any indication – and why should it be? – the rest of the SBIFF will combine emotion with wit, liberal values with healthy skepticism and youth with experience. Or at least there will be lots of movies, 200 from 50 countries.

Sadly other business pulls me away from tomorrow’s offerings, but Saturday will dawn on a full day of cinema and noteworthy celebrations of its talented practitioners. We’ll talk after the movies.


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