(left to right)
Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jared Leto, June Squibb, Christopher Lloyd
Peter Vandenbelt

Smooth it wasn’t. The SBIFF Virtuosos evening’s fiasco-tinged proceedings began with the inauspicious entry, stage left, of Winston, a cute canine whose timing during host Dave Karger’s introductory remarks — which might have been sweetened by a quip about working with children and animals — ended with a sense that the haphazard was here. Next on the road to bad beginnings was Karger’s announcement that three of the promised virtuosi were working and could not attend. A number of people groaned that Oscar Isaac, Adele Exarchopolous, and Daniel Bruhl wouldn’t be there, but still no major audience outbursts. Perhaps the fest was powerless to prevent such things, but they made it worse by later airing clips from the missing actors.

Jared Leto responding to an audience member who criticized his portrayal of a transgender character in Dallas Buyers Club
Peter Vandenbelt

The only vocal protests went to Jared Leto who was coincidentally the best received, too. While accepting praise from Karger for his role as the transvestite Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club, he turned sharply to the crowd when a number of voices were raised. “You can never be Rayon,” said the most audible of the complainers, who then was joined in a chorus from around the Arlington. Leto took umbrage and then fired back with steely logic at his hecklers, asking them if that meant equally that someone like Rayon could not play a hetero character? Leto, the most poised, invited his critics to discuss afterwards. “The door is open,” he said, but later added a coda. “It takes courage to live your life the way you dream it rather than how other people want you to be.”

The evening wasn’t all awkward. Probably the most charming-goofy revelation about how an actor prepares came from Brie Larson, whose film Short Term 12 was not nominated for many awards, but topped a lot of thoughtful critics lists, when she confessed that she prepared to play the chief caregiver in a foster care facility by listening to Norwegian Death Metal. June Squibb laughed along with the crowd at her peppery graveyard scene. “It was so delicious in the script,” she said.

Michael B. Jordan brought true grace and wisdom in his portrayal of the late Oscar Grant. Full of aphorisms about the substance of his moving performance in Fruitvale Station, he cautioned against too much preachiness. “You have to hide the medicine in the food,” he said. But if he finds it hard to shake his role even a few years later, it’s still good. “I took it as a sense of responsibility to give Oscar back a little of his humanity,” he said.


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