Monday, February 01, 2010

Film Fest: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

With the Santa Barbara Film Festival just days away from beginning its annual 10-day run, local residents may be asking themselves: Stick around, or get out of town?

It's the same question that always surrounds that other big Santa Barbara party, Fiesta. Both events exist, in large part, to attract visitors to town. Of course with Fiesta, a lot of the out-of-towners seem to come from Oxnard, Santa Paula and Fillmore. At the Film Fest, it seems to be mostly L.A.-liens who make the trek up here.

Lots of Santa Barbarans make it a point to leave town during Fiesta. And lots of locals take time off from work during the Film Fest. Only they're taking time off so they can go to the movies being shown at the Festival during the day. It's not uncommon to run into people who see three, four or more movies per day at the Film Fest.

Rightly or wrongly, Fiesta has become associated with binge drinking, debauchery and the occasional gang rumble. At the Film Fest, it tends to be a vodka sipping crowd and the place where you're most likely to encounter a tussle is in the press pit alongside the red carpet as the paparazzi fight it out for the best position to snap photos from.

So, you've probably figured out by now which event I'm the bigger fan of. I would say I have lots of company. Take the large crowd that showed up yesterday at the Lobero Theater, on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon no less, to hear Roger Durling, El Jefe del Festival, give his rundown of this year's Film Fest lineup.

When people could be out picnicking at the park or even staying at home watching the Lakers play the Celtics on TV, a near capacity crowd (for the second year in a row I might add) packed the theater to hear what Durling and festival programmer Candice Schermerhorn have in store for this year's festival. Serious partiers show up for Fiesta, serious cinephiles turn out for the Film Festival.

"We've crammed more films than ever into the Film Festival," Durling told the audience at the Lobero. A little over 200 films will be shown this year between February 4 when the festival opens and February 14 when the credits roll on the final film.

Between those two dates, there will be lots of movie stars, many of them on their way to the Oscars, coming through town.

Roger revealed that when Sandra Bullock receives the American Rivera Award this Friday night at the Arlington, Oscar winner Forrest Whittaker will be on hand to present it to her.

Barney Brantingham of the Indy had the scoop on the news that the governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger will present director James Cameron with the Lucky Brand Modern Master award the following night at the Arlington.

Durling has always had a knack for coaxing Oscar nominees to come here even before anyone knows who the Oscar nominees are. We will have to wait until tomorrow when the nominees for this year's Academy Awards are announced to find out how well Roger has done for this year's Festival. But he's already off to a good start. Kathryn Bigelow, who Roger has chosen to honor at this year's Fest as "Outstanding Director of the Year," was voted best director of 2009 for The Hurt Locker by the Directors Guild of America on Saturday night.

Standing before the audience Sunday, Durling revealed a fact that was not widely known: Bigelow and fellow honoree Cameron used to be married. Should make for some interesting theater when they join Jason Reitman, Peter Docter and Quentin Tarantino for the director's panel on Sunday February 7 at the Lobero.

And speaking of directors, Oliver Stone will be at the Film Fest for both screenings of "South of the Border," his documentary about controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Sunday, Roger predicted that long-time local Montecito resident Jeff Bridges, will finally get his Oscar for his role in Crazy Heart. And the final Sunday of the Festival, February 14, will be "Jeff Bridges Day," with five of his films, including Crazy Heart, being screened that day.

So many films, so little time. I'm taking time off from my other job to cover the Festival this year. I've even doubled the size of my blogging staff. Did you think I'd leave town for the Film Fest? No way. I'll take my vacation when Fiesta rolls around.

A complete schedule of the films being shown at this year's Festival is
posted at Edhat
© 2010 by Craig Smith and