Welcome back to ”The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood.” I hope everyone enjoyed the Oscars. My latest blog is on one of my favorite film festivals, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The festival marks the end of Award Season and the final film festival before the Academy Awards. This year’s festival ran from Jan. 15 to Jan. 25, 2020.
The festival in the past had always been at the end of January / first week of February. This year the festival moved the date up to two weeks earlier in hopes to have more world premieres and showcases for new films and talent. SBIFF took gamble changing the dates, in the end, the gamble paid off. The the festival featured 47 world premieres and 71 U.S. premieres from 50 countries along with tributes to this year’s top Filmmakers, panel discussions and Q&A’s. Opening night the festival began with off with the U.S. Premiere of “A Bump Along The Way”, Directed by Shelly Love and starring Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Petticrew, Mary Moulds, Dan Gordon and Brendan Farrell.
Renee Zellweger American Riviera Award
SBIFF is famous for its Celebrity tributes, this year featured a diverse group of Filmmakers. Many who were nominated for an Academy Award. The first of the tributes was to Renee Zellweger, who was being honored with the American Riviera Award for her performance in “Judy”, playing Judy Garland. Renee hit the carpet wearing a black Tom Ford suit styled with Tom Ford shoes and David Webb jewelry. After doing interviews and posing for photos it was time for her tribute at the historic Arlington Theatre. When asked about playing Judy Garland, she called it “Role of a lifetime: She recently told Forbes of playing Garland: ‘I came to admire her even more deeply than I did before’. During her tribute Renee spoke about her entire career. One of the things I love about conversations and Q&A’s is hearing the story behind the story. I always have enjoyed SBIFF’s tributes. Zellweger would go on to win the Oscar for Best Actress at the 2020 Academy Awards.
Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson The Outstanding Performers of the Year Award
The next the night the festival celebrated their choice for The Outstanding Performers of the Year with appearences by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. The actors were being honored for their portrayal of a couple going through an ugly divorce in Noah Baumbach’s, “Marriage Story”. After waiting for the Academy Awards nominees who were running late, we started hearing rumors that Scarlett wasn’t coming. About 15 minutes later still no actors. Finally, we got word that Scarlet told them she got deafly ill at the hotel and wasn’t coming. There was a lot of talk going around about how truthful she or her handlers were being. Everyone was disappointed a lot of press and fans were really angry, but life happens and the show must go on. I started to wonder how were they going to do an on-stage interview with Adam due to the fact he doesn’t watch himself/ his films on the screen at all. Adam arrived and signed autographs for the fans before hitting the carpet to do interviews and photos. After the photos, I headed inside wondering how they were going to fill the time if they aren’t showing clips. The tribute started with Roger Durling telling the audience he had some bad news. After that, a pre clip of Adams films ran before taking the stage. I really enjoyed seeing Adam speak about his craft. I really didn’t know that much about him. The first thing I learned was before acting Adam served our country in the marines. You could tell he was a little bit nervous. As the conversation went on I actually grew to like this format. Adam really did a great interview. I have the feeling that he will get his Oscar one day.
Next up was actually one of the festival’s best nights, the Virtuosos Awards. The award celebrates a select group of talent whose noteworthy performances in the film have elevated them into the national cinematic dialogue. This year’s honorees were, Awkwafina (The Farewell), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Aldis Hodge (Clemency), George MacKay (1917), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Taylor Russel (Waves). The evening started with a Red Carpet with all of the recipients walking. Some of the fashion highlights of the evening were“Little Women” 2020 Oscar nominee Florence Pugh who wore a Valentino dress from the Spring 2020 Collection. Double 2020 Oscar Nominee for her role in “Harriet”, Cynthia Erivo, wore Brock Collection and Schiaparelli Couture. “The Farewell” and “Nora from Queens” star was dressed in Giambattista Valli. Once the carpet was finished the honorees headed inside the Arlington Theatre for the Award presentation. The Hollywood reporter’s Scott Feinberg then interviewed the actors separately before everyone was brought back together for a panel discussion that was full of interesting facts and some really cool and funny moments.
Montecito Award Presentation to Lupita Nyong’o
The 2020 Montecito Award went to Lupita Nyong’o for her work in “US”, for not just playing one role but two. The film horror was written and directed by Oscar-winner Jordan Peele (Get Out). Lupita, who won an Oscar for her supporting acting in “12 Years a Slave”. Lupita, arrived for her tribute walked the carpet wearing Dolce & Gabbana Floral Print Dress. Lupita was interviewed and spoke about her career and some of her biggest highlights. The “Black Panther”, actress was then presented with the Montecito Award, which is given to a person in the entertainment industry who has made a great contribution to film.
Cinema Vanguard Award Presentation Laura Dern
The next celebrity tribute was the Cinema Vanguard Award being given to Laura Dern for her work as a divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s, “Marriage Story”. Dern who had swept all the major awards of award season already, wore a black vest dress inspired by a tuxedo. Laura was interviewed on stage and gave comments on ands stories from her long career. She also talked about parents Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. The evening’s moderator showed clips of past films all the way up to “Marriage Story”. Laura who won in the past 5 Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy. Last week after being nominated for an Academy Award twice before for 2014’s “Wild” and 1991’s “Rambling Rose” Dern, finally took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Marriage Story”.
Maltin Modern Master Award Presentation to Brad Pitt
The Maltin Modern Master Award had always been one of my favorite night’s for the reason being the award and onstage interviews were given by the legendary Lenord Maltin. The award is the highest honor presented by SBIFF. Established in 1995, it was created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry. The award was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of long-time SBIFF moderator and renowned film critic Leonard Maltin. This year’s honoree was one of the most popular actors of all time. Brad Pitt was being honored for his career and his work in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. This by far had one of the most press I’ve ever seen at the SBIFF. The sideline was around the corner with journalists almost on top of each other. Brad arrived at the Arlington and was greeted by a thunderous cheer that sounded more like a rock concert. Brad started by signing autographs for the huge crowd who was watching across the street. After finally finishing up the interviews with the house crew he started the long process of giving soundbites to the video journalist. Due to the amount of press we were body to body on the photo press line. Next to me, I saw some Junior High School and Grammar school kids sexting up a camera to due to an interview. I started to get nervous because people ended up pushing at the end of the carpet and I didn’t see a teacher with them. I literally shouted to the camera people pushing having to push back so no kids were hurt. One of the reporters who was from the grammar School name was Megan. She was like a mini Erin Andrews. Really acted well past her years. Her teacher who showed up with a mounted camera, told the girls that Brad may not have time for them to interview him. I then told them there’s no way he would just walk past and ignore the Junior Journalist. When Brad got to their spot he was surprised at first but gave the kids time and told them how good their questions were. After a quick photo run, I headed inside. Lenord Maltin brought Brad out and as the other tributes, he took a walk down memory lane starting with Brad’s early films along with his most recent. The most interesting fact learned from his tribute was his answer to the question what roles did you turn down. The answer was the lead role in the Matrix films. I’m sure Keanu Reeves has thanked him for. Brad’s award was given to him by Director and friend David Fincher. Brad got very emotional hearing David, words and thanked everyone in a humble speech. Two weeks after receiving the award in Santa Barbara, he would take home his second and first for acting Oscar.
The Outstanding Director of the Year Award Presentation to Bong Joon-ho
The final tribute of the 2020 Santa Barbra International Film Festival was the The Outstanding Directors of the Year Award. Last year, in a historic event the festival had all 5 directors who were nominated for Best Director were honored and took part in conversation altogether. This year the lineup was listed as TBA till a couple days before the event. My colleges in the press were expecting some high profile names like Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Noah Baumbach. Up until a few months ago, they all were seen as the front runners, until a Korean Film named “Parasite” directed by Bong Joon-ho came from nowhere and became the biggest surprise of the 2020 Award Season. Instead of showcasing multiple directors the SBIFF Renamed it The Outstanding Director of the Year Award honoring Bong Joon-ho. Personally I knew Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese already were honored by SBIFF in December. The WGA had an event that night in LA where Noah Baumbach attended that night. I do feel that the SBIFF could have done something really cool and would have been the most talked and most covered event of the festival. What I would have done was invite all the nominees but include some of the Women directors who were not nominated for an Oscar but should have. I would have had Greta Gerwig (Little Women) Lulu Wang (The Farewell) and Olivia Wilde (Booksmart). As we know “Parasite” went on to win 4 Oscars, including Best Picture, Directing, International Feature Film and Writing (Original Screenplay). It was the first foreign film ever to win the Best Picture Oscar. So it looked like the festival made the right decision.
As usual the festival had an amazing lineup of tributes. My only regret is that due to my event and work times conflicting with screenings I didn’t have time to see any films. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will return for the 36th edition Jan. 27-Feb. 6, 2021 The SBIFF has screenings and events with celebrities several times a year. For more information go to sbiff.org. The festival is up for the USA Today Best Film festival. You can vote for them here. VOTE for them every day at bit.ly/36TeTuo.
For more on the 2020 festival including the 2020 Winers checkout this article by Patch Media’s Beau Behan. https://tinyurl.com/w6h6uvk
Thank you for checking out my blog. This Blog is dedicated to Kobe Bryant (Lakers) and Neil Pert (Rush) who tragically lost their lives last month.
All Photos © Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography
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