I have a confession. I never watched Friends. This means that: (a) I am illiterate when it comes to a certain strain of cultural reference (although the song somehow managed to permeate my consciousness), and (b) as far as I’m concerned, vintage Jennifer Aniston equals the flair-eschewing, kung-fu-watching, Lumbergh-f’ing lady lead of 1999’s Office Space.
Since then, she’s reliably dominated at the box office, even while enduring one of the most comprehensively documented breakups in history. And yet, she admitted during Friday’s tribute, the legacy of her tenure as Rachel and subsequent comedy work have left her forced to fight to be considered for the meaty roles she craves — like that of this year’s Cake, which she nailed.
But don’t cry for her, Barbarinos: She’s clearly having fun. And she was surprisingly open, letting slip a couple off-the-cuff quips (“Where would we be without indie cinema? The Avengers?”), recalling surreptitiously crying at the premiere of Marley & Me (“That’s like laughing at your own jokes”), fixing moderator Pete Hammond with a deserved side eye upon his questioning about her striptease in We’re the Millers, getting weepy when she accepted her award, and declaring, “Life’s one big dramedy.” There’s no escaping the identity hangover that lingers after a decade in a role that’s achieved iconic status (and spawned a namesake haircut), but here’s hoping she’ll find more opportunities to do so.
Speaking of hangovers: I arrived at the after-party to find the two chambers of the pop-up UGG lounge packed with peeps swilling cocktails, disclosing a longstanding or newfound love of Aniston, downloading intel on which films must not be missed, and blinking in shock (and a little protest) when the lights went up, and we were sent on our way.
That enforced curfew was for the best, as Saturday brought part-time hometown hero Michael Keaton, in what proved a highlight not just of this year’s festival but of SBIFF history. A pumped crowd was treated to appearances from Keaton costars Andie MacDowell (Multiplicity) and Danny DeVito (Batman Returns), as well as video messages from Robert Duvall, Winona Ryder, Jeff Bridges (who was in rare — or, you know, standard — form, delivering a swivel-chair-spun selfie in which he sang, “You’re gonna winnnnnnn!”), and Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who praised Keaton’s spiritually/emotionally/physically naked performance and threatened to get him “very drunk” again. “The man has balls,” MacDowell said, referring to the scene in Birdman that had Keaton charging Times Square in his underwear, and it’s clear that, while the trappings of celebrity don’t do it for him, creative risk-taking most certainly does. “What are we here for? We’re here for a millisecond, not even a millisecond! Courage is where it’s at,” Keaton said.
He provided constant fireworks, going full Night Shift while taking the stage to the Rolling Stones and a roaring ovation from the crowd that had him admittedly overwhelmed, and riffing, jazz-like, fueled by an energy so crackling that if the lights were turned down, I’m convinced we would have seen sparks.
Moderator Leonard Maltin offered loose directions that steered us through the terrain of Keaton’s incredible 30-year career — and was treated to an honor of his own when Durling later announced that the award would henceforth be called the Maltin Modern Master Award. The wild ride ended on a tear-jerking note, when Durling revealed in an emotion-choked speech that Keaton and he developed a friendship that predated his role as SBIFF director: when Durling ran Summerland’s French Bulldog coffee shop, Keaton was a regular, and the pair bonded as brothers-in-film-geekdom. And in the full-circle moment Saturday night, Durling said, something crystallized: “I feel that all 12 years I’ve been doing this was meant for me to honor you tonight.”
Post-show, I staked out a spot in the Hennessy lounge, where Keaton was again honored, this time with a toast and a bottle of Privilege. Hennessy spokesperson Jordan Bushell delivered an impressive description of the stuff — which Keaton interrupted more than once to joke, “So, I should shoot it?” Unshocking: Clearly, this is not a man who deals in dainty sips.
I awoke Sunday still buzzing from the prior night’s odyssey, which was convenient, as the SBIFF had more in store. In a parade of talent, the Virtuosos took the stage — Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), Logan Lerman (Fury), David Oyelowo (Selma), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child). Moderator Dave Karger served as expert conductor, getting the hilarious and dapper Oyelowo to talk about the barriers that still exist in Hollywood, Pike to describe training for That Scene with a box cutter and a couple of hogs at a butcher shop, an unslept Simmons (fresh off the plane from his stint on SNL) to cop to taking a certain measure of enjoyment in his turn as tormentor in Whiplash (“Most pretty boy movie stars need to be slapped,” he joked. “It’s a rite of passage”), and Slate to drop some Marcel the Shell.
Friend of the festival Christopher Lloyd presented the awards, and then the peeps piled out while I made my way back to the Hennessy lounge (Coltrane, however, did not: apparently, those manning the velvet rope expect ID), where honorees talked football, fans talked film, and we raised our glasses to toast yet another awesome evening. (No, we did not shoot it.)
Until next week, friends. I’ll be there for you.