Kristi Marks, Richard Jenkins, and Teresa Sharifi
Shannon Kelley

Do ya feel lucky?

Between Wednesday and Thursday nights, the SBIFF evening tributes brought a ton of talent to Santa Barbara, running the gamut from longtime working actors finally getting their due to The Man Who Has No Name – or the one who needs no introduction.

Wednesday marked the midpoint of the SBIFF, and the second installation of the Virtuosos, rapidly becoming a festival highlight for yours truly. While last year’s event featured a group of young actors, fresh faced and relatively new to the game, this year saw a bunch of industry vets whose standout performances have earned them much-deserved ink, buzz, and even nods from that anatomically incorrect man of gold.

The Durls did an incredible job moderating the fast-paced tribute, moving smoothly from Viola Davis (beautiful, funny!), to Richard Jenkins (hilarious, sarcastic!), to Melissa Leo (iiiiiiiintense!), to Rosemarie DeWitt (sweet – and with a killer set of legs!), to Michael Shannon (a delightful smartass!). Everyone but Leo made it to the after-party, which went down at Saks Fifth Avenue, and all were completely gracious, hanging out with the likes of – well, me. A personal highlight – or maybe a lowlight – was when I told Durling I was intimidated by Revolutionary Road‘s Michael Shannon (as durling pointed out, the guy was onscreen with one of Hollywood’s most iconic couples, and stole every single scene), and he said, “No, I’ll introduce you!” Then he dragged me over and said, “Michael, this is my friend Shannon, she’s the gossip columnist in town and said she’s totally intimidated by you.” With an intro like that :

Speaking of intros, Thursday night brought the aforementioned man who doesn’t need one. As in The Man, Clint Eastwood, who, at a sprightly 78 years of age and despite being as prolific as ever, is clearly not all work: He hopped the velvet rope upon his arrival to the wrong spot in front of the Arlington, and stuck around the afterparty for hours, signing autographs, taking photos, and humoring the scads of ladies surrounding him. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Tribute was fabulous: Leonard Maltin was at his best – as were Paul Fagen‘s montages and clip sequences – somehow managing to cover Eastwood’s 50-year career in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Sean Penn was on hand to present Eastwood with the Modern Master Award, and had a hard time keeping a straight face through his speech. He began by telling us that, back in the day when Clint was born, there were no ultrasounds, so women found out their babies’ gender when they were born. And when Clint popped out at a whopping 11-plus pounds, the doctor declared, “It’s a man!” Penn had even prepared sound effects: “We have a recording of his first cry,” he said, cracking himself up and cuing a low growl.

And then, there was the after-party, the VIP version of which went down at Cafe Luck. The peeps were fired up and the raw bars were on ice, and Eastwood and Penn were both there, mingling downstairs in a flash-bathed flurry before making their way upstairs to the V-VIP area, which I somehow managed to infiltrate. As I told my tablemates, the whole scene had a very Alice-in-Wonderland kind of a feel: between the low ceiling and the mini-(and ooooooh, soooooo delicious)-bacon-cheeseburgers, the waiters who kept appearing bearing platters of beautiful treats like watermelon-ahi skewers and chocolate-covered-banana popsicles, and mountains and mountains of French fries and bottles and bottles of wine, and the fact that Clint and Sean were sitting right next to us, seemingly having as good a time as the rest of us – it was definitely a trip.

And yeah, I did feel lucky.


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