Friday, January 30, 2009

Clint! Clint! Clint!

In the 24 year history of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, no one has made quite the entrance that Clint Eastwood made last night.

Photo Credit Chuck Cagara

Normally, the Film Fest sends a car and a driver to pick up its honorees and deliver them to the red carpet in front of the Arlington Theater.

Eastwood declined the offer, and provided his own transportation. But when he arrived at The Arlington shortly before 8 pm on Thursday, it was at the Victoria Street side of the theater rather than the Sola Street side that honorees usually arrive at. That meant that Eastwood had to get out of the car and make his way through the crowd of people who had assembled there to see him. When he finally got to the front he came upon the metal barrier that was in place for purposes of crowd control.

With no one there to pull it back for him the agile 78 year-old actor jumped over the barrier and onto the red carpet.

A few minutes later he was joined in front of the Arlington by his beautiful wife Dina.

As he made his way up the press line I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to ask him a question. Considering he has won just about every award an actor and director can win and has been honored by a myriad of organizations and societies I asked him what made him want to come to Santa Barbara to accept the Lucky Brand Jeans Modern Master Award.

He replied that he had been here a year ago to present an award to Angelina Jolie, and that he enjoyed his time here and was happy to come back again.

So, if Clint likes Santa Barbara, then the feeling is mutual. In my three years of attending the Film Fest, I have never seen the Arlington as jam packed for a tribute as it was Thursday night. And the audience gave him a standing ovation, upon his initial introduction.

As he took his seat on the stage, at least one woman in the audience yelled "you're hot!" Moderator Leonard Maltin noted that was quite a reaction for a 78 year old to elicit. Eastwood replied, "I'm really only 38."

Once seated, he was as easy going as he was out on the red carpet as he discussed his career under the guidance of Maltin.

When the discussion turned to the "Dirty Harry" character he play in a number of films Eastwood noted that he liked the role because it gave him an opportunity to play someone who was different than him in real life. "I'm not like Dirty Harry," he asserted, "which disappoints a lot of people."

As for his thoughts about the character he plays in his latest release, Gran Torino, he observed that "Walt" demonstrates that one is never too old to learn tolerance.

The tribute, of course, included a good cross-section of clips from movies that Eastwood had directed as well as starred in.

At the conclusion of the question and answer session, Sean Penn, who won an Oscar for his role in the Eastwood directed film Mystic River, made the presentation of the award.

Photo Credit Marie Cagara

After the tribute, a small part of the crowd headed over to Cafe Luck for the private post party. For a time Eastwood was sitting in a corner of the restaurant and having his picture taken with attendees.

And there was no shortage of twenty-something women lining up to pose with the suave, and agile, septuagenarian.

In another corner of the room another septuagenarian, Independent columnist, Barney Brantingham, along with wife Sue DeLapa, was holding court with a couple of party guests.

Eventually, blue jean impresario, and owner of Cafe Luck, Gene Montesano, came over to say hello.

Gene Montesano and Barney Brantingham

It was quite an evening. The tribute. The party. It made my day.

More pictures from Thursday evening are posted here.

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My Film Fest picks for Friday:

A film that I thoroughly enjoyed when I saw it the other day was Mile High, How to win . . . and lose . . . the White House. It's a documentary that follows a 17 year old student from the San Gabriel Valley who decides to support and work for Barack Obama joining his grass roots campaign and eventually makes his way to last summer's Democratic Convention in Denver.

The festival has added an additional screening of the movie this morning (Friday) at 10 am at the Victoria Theater.

While hanging out at the Hotel Santa Barbara, which serves as the Festival's headquarters, on Thursday morning I met and had a chance to chat with director Alex Fazeli, a graduate of California Institute of the Arts whose film In The Dark screens at 2 pm at the Metro 4.

Also playing Friday:

Nobody To Watch Over Me (8 am Metro 4)

Purgatorio (10:45 am Metro 4)

Sweet Thing
(7:15 pm Metro 4) According to Roger Durling, this was a film that nearly didn't make it to the festival. It was rescued from the reject pile. Might be interesting.

Friday evening tribute is a Celebration of Director David Fincher (8 pm Arlington)

A complete list of Film Fest screenings and events is posted here.