Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now, If I Could Only Find My Press Pass

With the 24th edition of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicking off tonight, you might be wondering if the natives have become blasé about the 10 day long party that celebrates movies.

I doubt it. Take this past Sunday afternoon. On a beautiful day with the temperature around 80 degrees, many of us might have headed for the beach or the golf course or played tennis, as I did in the late morning.

But spectacular weather and lots of recreation options didn't stop a near capacity crowd of locals from pouring into the Lobero Theater at 2 pm to hear Roger Durling, head Fred of the Film Fest, give a preview of this year's program and offer his tips about which movies are not to be missed.

A near capacity crowd on a beautiful day packs into a theater not to see a movie but rather to hear a guy talk about movies?

Hard to believe but I was there and witnessed it myself. My attendance did not go unnoticed by Roger who used my presence to remind the audience that I was among those who had second-guessed his selection of direct-to-DVD sensation Mickey Rourke as one of the honorees at this year's festival.

Roger felt vindicated, and rightly so, by Rourke's winning of a Golden Globe a week earlier for his role in The Wrestler. (And, it was announced early this morning that Rourke is one of the Oscar nominees for best actor.)

I suppose that there are things that are worse than being sassed from the stage. At least he didn't call me up in front of the audience, hand me a dime and tell me to call my mother and tell her it was highly doubtful that I would ever become a film critic. Even if it is true.

So, chastened and humbled, I sat quietly in the back of theater and took copious notes about what Roger had to say.

When I returned home from the Lobero and looked at my notes and figured I better start resting up. After all, there are parties to crash, cocktails to sip and, oh yeah, movies to see.

It's going to be a busy 10 days.

The film fest opens up tonight with the thriller Nothing But The Truth, which combines two themes that Santa Barbaran's just seem to love; politics and journalism.

The plot-line of the movie seems to be taken from the Valerie Plame affair and the subsequent jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to divulge the source of information that was leaked to her.

Kate Beckinsale plays the reporter.

The movie starts at 8 pm at the Arlington, but get there early if you want to see the red carpet arrivals which begin around 7. Following the movie is the opening night party over at Paseo Nuevo.