SBIFF, Take 26

Movie Freaks, Film Geeks, and One American Beauty

Helene Schneider and John Palminteri
Shannon Kelley

Ah, the film festival. When Santa Barbara wakes from its collective winter slumber to strap on its party shoes, get its cinematic fix, and revel at Roger’s powers of perception. And I get back to work.

Opening night brought the standard spectacle and standing room only at the Arlington for the premiere of Sarah’s Key, a gripping film that left the peeps primed for making some spectacles of their own at a pimped-out Paseo Nuevo.

Friday, I returned to the Arlington for the tribute to Annette Bening. Film Fest exec Roger Durling, looking like a movie star himself (though a movie star who’s retired his hair dye), has found his groove in the interviewer’s seat, and Bening proved every bit as intelligent and brave as her body of work suggests — though I knew I’d found a kindred spirit when she said that when it comes to getting into character, “It all starts with the shoes.” Kevin Costner presented her award, delivering what can only be described as a gushing tribute, complete with the line: “She’s our Hepburn.”

Post-event, I found myself in an unmarked vehicle with Roger and posse, en route to the VIP party at the Barbakow home — once the driver could figure out how to start the car, that is. This is confusing? Anyway, we arrived to find the soirée in full swing, Bening and Warren Beatty schmoozing and mugging, gracious as could be. In the meantime, a debate raged: Chopin’s rye vodka versus the potato. (Being a wine drinker, my feeling was potato, poTAHto.)

Late night, my crew discovered our driver had lost his valet ticket, and Jeff Barbakow offered us his couches. (PoTAHto win!) While the hunt for the ride ensued, we realized that Annette and Warren were still there — and wondered, “How do you ask Annette Bening and Warren Beatty to leave your house?”

Answer: Very carefully.

Saturday brought James Franco, honored for his incredible, often vomit-inspiring performance in 127 Hours. Despite his very late arrival (like he had something better to do? Actually, yes: Oscars rehearsal), the Arlington crowd remained amped. Franco proved worth the wait, telling stories, dropping trivia, and answering the question “What is James Franco doing on General Hospital?” with the only appropriate answer: “Making art.”

But the highlight was award presenter Seth Rogen’s speech. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a theater in a Mexican restaurant,” he said, and then launched into a full-throttle, expletive-studded stand-up routine. Example: “The first time I saw James, I thought the same thing any actor or director probably thinks: I’d bleep the bleep out of that guy!”

The after party — incidentally, the first I’ve attended where conversation involved daytime soaps — went down at Michael Kate Interiors furniture store, the kind of swanky setting that makes me wonder: Are you crazy? There’s red wine in the house! When Carol Marshall — SBIFF PR Queen and Franco’s red carpet escort — arrived, I pounced: Is he coming? Sadly, the answer was no. “But,” she said, “while I was walking him down the carpet, he felt me up.”

As Rogen might have said: “Lucky bleeping bleep.”

Sunday, I was ready for more — as was every film geek in town. The night’s honoree was Inception director Chris Nolan … and the presenter likely did something to up the appeal: The barricades were stacked with folks hoping for a glimpse of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Nolan was interesting, thoughtful, soft-spoken. Moderator Pete Hammond was astute: “It seems like you like spinning people’s heads,” he said, to which Nolan replied, “Well, I like having my head spun.” No surprise from the guy who brought us Memento, Insomnia, The Dark Knight — although it was a pleasant surprise to find him and his wife at Union Ale after hours, hanging with the peeps.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the Mexican restaurant.


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