I’ve seen a thing or two in the past several years of peeping the Film Festival, but Saturday night was a whole different animal. I got to the Arlington to check in pretty close to when I was supposed to, which is to say, nearly two hours before the thing even started, and already a crowd had gathered, hugging the velvet ropes that cordoned off a huge chunk of State Street for the arrival of the Hollywood royalty known as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Loitering just outside with my pals, deliberating on where to grab a bite, we ran into Roger, and I took the opportunity to ask if I was going to score the hot-man trifecta: I’d already met McSteamy and McDreamy (that’d be Javier Bardem and James McAvoy, respectively), and spot number three could only go to someone: well, Brad was certainly a candidate. But Roger’s reply threw me: “Oh, you mean the presenter?” I was baffled, I mean, I’m sure Pete Hammond’s a lovely guy and everything, but really?
Figuring that riddle would be solved in due time, we made our way to dinner and away from the madding crowd. Post-tapas, turning back onto State Street we were greeted by light rain, a roaring crowd, and enough flash bulbs to light up the night sky. We fought our way through the scrum, and into the theatre, where the red-carpet circus scene was being broadcast live. I’d like to take this opportunity to marvel at the oddity of celebrity, and what a serious pain in the ass it must be to go anywhere wearing so famous a face. That said, though, Brangelina were gracious as could be, signing autographs and smiling for pics with their fans. Though the thought of it made me really want a nap.
Eventually, the show got under way and Angelina, wearing the perfect Is-She-or-Isn’t-She ensemble, suffered through it with the best of them: I came away liking her a lot more than I anticipated – and she was even prettier in person, too. But the biggest, and best, surprise of the night came when it was time for the award presentation – the Outstanding Performance of the Year award, honoring Jolie for her work in A Mighty Heart. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Clint Eastwood!” Hello! The Durls speaketh the truth.
We celebrated, of course, by heading directly to the afterparty, way out at The Bluffs in Goleta. Parking across the street, we were greeted by a party site that rivaled a small town in size, and SBIFFville was like something out of the movies. Which movie, though, is hard to say: Titanic, for the water and the swinging chandeliers in the tents, or maybe The Wizard of Oz, for the technicolor Did-you-see-that-too-or-am-I-hallucinating? factor. Booze and food abounded, but took a back seat to the theatrics. Ballerinas were perched in the Jaqua tent, where swag and free massages were flowing like the cocktails in the Chopin tent next door, and further in, a huge, crayola-lit stage housed the entertainment just beyond a huge dance floor. It rained lightly-but steadily-all night, but this did little to dampen the peeps’ spirits, even as it did much to dampen their duds. And while I didn’t score the face-to-face trifecta, I managed to score a one of another sort: a fun night out, a bag of swag, and a free ride home.