Roger and his men
Shannon Kelley

“Acting,” said Viola Davis, “is about problem solving.” The same can be said of peeping the film festival.

Years ago I perfected the art of handling a camera, notebook, pen, cocktail, and passed appetizer at once, yet many puzzles remain. Among them: How much fun can be squeezed into a finite amount of time? How long can one’s toes survive being squished into four-inch heels? How can one pluck Diane Keaton from the red carpet and convincingly explain that a best friendship would be mutually beneficial, although, if pressed, one would settle for access to her closet?

And where the hell is that freaking dog Freeway?

In the face of a landscape so littered with snafus, there’s only one thing to do: dive in. Opening night brought the world premiere of Darling Companion and the adorable short La Luna, as well as appearances by both films’ directors, and Darling Companion stars/screen icons Kevin Kline and Keaton — who emerged from her car a mere foot away from me. Closet access denied. Le sigh. Of course, the real action went down at the after-party: fest-goers packed Paseo Nuevo, buoyed by the Santa Ana winds, whose wild voodoo may or may not be responsible for the appearance of a certain male copy editor who shall remain nameless, shaking it onstage, in response to the band’s invitation to “all the sexy ladies.”

Friday’s tribute to Davis for her performance in The Help inspired a full house at the Arlington, where she wowed with her intelligence and candor. Costar Octavia Spencer was on hand to introduce her, while Myrlie Evers-Williams, Medgar Evers’s widow, presented the award. And then we were off to the beautiful home of SBIFF board president Doug Stone for an over-the-top affair. Opening the door, I caught sight of Samuel L. Jackson, and the evening proceeded accordingly from there. Davis, Spencer, Evers-Williams, and The Help director Tate Taylor all made appearances and stuck around to enjoy the flowing Moët bubbly and The Help-inspired menu, which, happily, did not include Minny’s famous chocolate pie.

Saturday saw me filled with gratitude — largely for caffeine — and settling on a homeopathic treatment for the fatigue wrought by the late nights and good times: another night out. (Alas, the homeopathic approach did not work out nearly so well for my toes.) Modern Master honoree Christopher Plummer was hilarious, and the after-party at “Rosebud,” the pop-up lounge behind the Lobero, was a neon scene where filmmakers mingled into the wee hours.

One weekend down, one week to go. How would I make it? How much coffee and bubbly must I consume? How many more hours of torture must my toes endure?

All in all, I suppose, these are excellent problems to have.


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