Tagged: Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Movie Break – “The Hurt Locker”

Yes, it’s Super Bowl weekend, but since I’m not a football fan I’m more excited about the annual Santa Barbara Film Festival, which kicked off last night and runs for 10 more days. First up for me will be tomorrow’s panel discussion featuring the screenwriters of “Up in the Air,” “It’s Complicated,” “Star Trek,” “Precious,” “Inglorious Basterds” and “The Hurt Locker.” Speaking of “The Hurt Locker,” I saw the movie tonight in anticipation of hearing director Kathryn Bigelow talk about it during the festival. Here’s the trailer.
While I don’t think it’s Best Picture material, “The Hurt Locker” is a major achievement for Hollywood. Women don’t get to direct all that often, and they certainly don’t get to direct war movies. If Bigelow wins the Academy Award for Best Director, it just might open up the field for more women, and that would be exciting. Go, Kathryn!
It all makes me wonder….when will baseball have female umpires, female GMs and female owners (not counting women who inherited their stake from a family member)? Soon, I hope.

Movie Break – “Crazy Heart”

I braved the sixth straight day of pouring rain here in California to go and see the new movie “Crazy Heart” starring Santa Barbara’s own Jeff Bridges. Here he is at last year’s Film Festival with his wife.
Everybody in town says what a nice guy he is, so I was glad when his performance in “Crazy Heart” won him a Golden Globe award and I was looking forward to the movie, in which he plays a washed up country music singer (think: Kris Kristofferson/Waylon Jennings) trying to get his life back on track.
The fact that T Bone Burnett, who produced the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss album “Raising Sand,” was responsible for the original music only made me more eager to see the film.
And since there’s nothing going on with the Yankees, I knew I wouldn’t be missing any news if I left my computer for the afternoon. 
Frustrated Woman computer.jpg
Here’s the movie trailer.
The good news is that Bridges is sensational, and I think he has a real shot at winning his first Best Actor Oscar. The bad news is that the music isn’t very interesting and the plot of the movie feels as if you’ve seen it a million times before. But while I was sitting in the theater letting my mind wander to baseball, the most amazing thing happened. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays a reporter interviewing Bridges’ character, asks him, “What would you have been if you hadn’t become a country singer?” And he says, “A baseball player. I was pretty good but I couldn’t hit a curve ball.”

I started clapping when Bridges said the word “baseball,” and people in the theater turned around to look at me. I was very quiet the rest of the time, I swear.

Baseball Takes Center Stage At The Film Festival Today

Last night was all about Kate Winslet, who appeared at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to receive an award for her work in “The Reader” and “Revolutionary Road.”
Unlike some of the stars who show up at this event, Winslet took the time to sign autographs before striking a pose on the red carpet.
(No, I’m not in that mosh pit. I avoid crowds except at ball games.)
Between clips of her movies, Winslet answered questions from film critic Leonard Maltin.
(No, I didn’t raise my hand and say, “Are you a Yankee fan?”)
After the ceremony, there was a private party for Winslet at a clothing boutique in downtown SB.
(No, I didn’t go. I was invited, but it was raining and I decided to bag it. Well, O.K. It wasn’t just the rain. The truth is, I was afraid I’d spill red wine on some of the clothes and/or Winslet. Remember my post about the chili? I don’t trust myself anymore.)
Today was about the movies themselves, not the glitz, and they’re the reason I look forward to the Festival every year. These are small films, foreign films, films that will never make it to the Multiplex – indie movies that are shown at festivals in Toronto, Sundance and Santa Barbara in the hopes of finding distributors. They come from countries like Japan and China, Norway and Germany, Mexico and Argentina, even Russia and Afghanistan. This morning I saw one from New Zealand. Talk about movies being the universal language.
This afternoon was a screening of “Sugar,” the baseball movie I’ve mentioned. Is it the greatest movie ever? No. But it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s an eye-opening look at how young players in the Dominican Republic will do almost anything to get to the States and stay here.
The main character, Sugar Santos, is a pitcher with a wicked knuckle curve.
When he’s plucked from the baseball academy where he and his friends train and given the chance to play for a minor league team in Iowa, he can’t believe his good fortune. But the transition isn’t easy. He has to adjust to an English speaking country (he orders French toast for breakfast every morning, because it’s the only thing he knows how to say), deal with fans who yell “You suck” at him (you’ll never utter those words again) and stay healthy or be sent back to the Dominican (he resorts to taking PEDs).
There are lighthearted moments, and I let out an actual cheer when Sugar and his friends talk about playing for the Yankees. But mostly, the movie is about how hard it is for these kids to make it here. We have no idea. Seriously.
As I was leaving the theater, I vowed to go much easier on Robinson Cano.
Do you hear that, Robbie? I’m going to give you a break. I won’t scream at the TV the first time you swing at a pitch in the dirt or forget to run out a ground ball or let a dribbler get through the infield. I have sympathy for you now.
For him too.
Just don’t take advantage of my newfound generosity of spirit. Movie or no movie, you’d better bust it this year.

Opening Night At The Film Festival

Since there was no real Yankees news, except that Freddy Garcia went to the Mets (does this mean we’re giving the #5 slot to Hughes outright?), I went to the movies.
Tonight was opening night of the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and the Arlington Theater was packed for the kick off to the 10-day event. After a red carpet entrance by several stars, including local resident Jeff Bridges (my husband once saw him in the drug store buying….well, it wouldn’t be right to say),
the crowd settled in for the first film to be shown. It was “Nothing But The Truth,” a political thriller about a journalist who gets thrown in jail when she refuses to reveal the source of her headline-making story.
She’s played by Kate Beckinsale.


Her lawyer is the always-reliable Alan Alda.
And the meanie federal prosecutor is Matt Dillon.
I wouldn’t say I was on the edge of my seat during this one – I glanced at my watch maybe two or three times; never a good sign – but if you’re in the market for a decent rental down the road, this movie would work.
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to “Sugar,” the baseball movie I’ve been telling you about. But in the meantime, here’s the trailer for “Nothing But The Truth.”

Yankees Cap in Santa Barbara: The Sequel

My last post was about how I had a run-in over this.

Today I ventured out in it again….this time to a local theater where Roger Durling, the executive director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, gave everybody a preview of the movies we’ll be seeing between January 22nd and February 1st. The Festival is a big deal here in town, and since I love movies almost as much as I love baseball, it’s a big deal for me too.
I settled into my seat with a few hundred other Santa Barbarans and braced for an incident involving the words “Yankees” and “suck.” Maybe yesterday was not an aberration and I’d be called out again for my allegiance to the Bombers.
Nope. Nothing. This was such a polite crowd that nobody even asked me to remove my cap so they could see over my head. Crisis averted.
Roger kicked off the afternoon by telling us about the stars who were coming to accept awards and attend parties, including Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz. But it was when he said, “Clint Eastwood,” that I really snapped to attention.
Clint Eastwood? Clint “Get off my lawn” Eastwood? One of my all-time faves?

Turns out he’ll be here on Thursday, January 29th. I probably have no shot at meeting him, but stranger things have happened.
“I wonder if he likes baseball,” I whispered to my husband Michael, who told me to be quiet.
“I bet he’s a Giants fan,” I said anyway. “He used to be the mayor of Carmel, which is closer to San Francisco than L.A.”
“You have a one-track mind,” said Michael. “Give baseball a rest, O.K.?”
“I’m just -“
keith-olbermann shush.jpg
I sat silently as I learned about the Festival’s opening film, a political thriller called “Nothing But The Truth,” with Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon and Alan Alda….about some foreign films that are rumored to be Academy Award nominees….and about “Going Home,” a documentary about the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, who will be on hand for a Q&A.
I was thinking how much I was looking forward to the movies and yet….I was also thinking how antsy I’m getting about spring training. I want baseball to start!

Just then, something amazing happened. The Festival’s director said, “This weekend we’ll be showing a movie called ‘Sugar.’ A big hit at Sundance, it’s a terrific film about baseball.”
All right! I gave my husband a “So there” look.
“Sugar” is the story of a ballplayer named Miguel “Sugar” Santos, who’s recruited from his home in the Dominican Republic to play for a minor league team in the Midwest after he masters the art of the knuckle curve.
The movie is about his adjustment to life in the American Heartland and gives us inside looks at both minor league baseball and the immigrant experience.
Here’s a review I pulled from Variety. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? But hey, it’s a baseball movie. How bad could it be?
I’ll weigh in once I see it. In the meantime, check out this clip of the writer-directors speaking at the Sundance Festival a few days ago.
One more thing….Happy birthday to my Red Sox-loving brother-in-law up there in ice-cold Concord. Have a great day, Geoff!

Movie Break – “The Wrestler”

Remember Mickey Rourke, the actor in ’80s movies like “Diner,” “Rumble Fish” and “The Pope of Greenwich Village?” He was always the gritty, tough guy and used to look like this.
Then came a lot of bad movies, an arrest for spousal abuse and a DUI. I wouldn’t be much of a blogger if I didn’t post a mug shot or two.
Mickey left acting, tried his luck at boxing and essentially fell off the planet – until now. He’s back with a vengeance, starring in “The Wrestler,” which opens in limited release on December 17th. I went to a screening today and all I can say is: Go see this movie! It’s R-rated and not for the squeamish (I hid my eyes during the really gory parts), but it’s amazing.
Mickey plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a washed-up pro wrestler who tries to get his life together, even as he can’t give up the thrill of the show. Check out The Ram’s hair.
Marisa Tomei is great as the stripper with the heart of gold (lots of pole dancing, guys), and Evan Rachel Wood is very touching as The Ram’s estranged daughter. I can’t recommend the movie highly enough, but beware: It’s not “Rocky” and you won’t leave the theater feeling uplifted. You may leave humming the theme song though. Bruce Springsteen wrote the music that plays over the closing credits.
After the screening, there was a reception for the director and the cast members. I talked to Marisa Tomei, who was very chatty.
No, I didn’t ask her if she was a Yankee fan. I was more interested in how she could dance around naked in front of a zillion cameramen. She told me she downed a few shots of tequila before they shot the scene. Not a bad plan, I guess.
I also talked to 21-year-old Evan Rachel Wood, who is rumored to be dating 52-year-old Mickey Rourke following her breakup with Marilyn Manson. Seriously. Who dates Marilyn Manson? Who dates Mickey Rourke?
Yep, that’s what Mickey looked like at the party today – sunglasses, jewelry, lots of “repair work” on his face. I asked him if he did all his own stunts for the movie and he said he did, winding up in the hospital a few times. He also had to gain 35 pounds of muscle for the role. He claimed he did it by working out at the gym, but there’s a scene where he injects steroids right into his gluteous maximus. Maybe The Giambino taught him how to do it.
Today’s screening was part of the lead-up to the Santa Barbara Film Festival at the end of next month. I volunteered to participate in the trailer that will be shown before each film during the festival. I was asked to name my favorite movie genre, favorite movie in that genre and favorite line from the movie. My answers? No surprise. Favorite genre? Baseball movies. Favorite baseball movie? “Pride of the Yankees.” Favorite line from the movie? Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, naturally.
Here I am on the set trying to deliver the line. I was nervous and kept screwing it up. If only I’d had a couple of shots of tequila.
Here’s the trailer for “The Wrestler.” Check it out.

Movie Breaks

No, I haven’t gone all TMZ on you. I’m aware that the winter meetings are kicking off in Vegas. But since I have absolutely no control over what happens there, I might as well take a break for some movies.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival starts at the end of next month and it’s a big deal here in town – sort of a mini-Sundance. It lasts for two weeks and everybody sees tons of movies and hears actors talk about their work. Last year, for example, we had Angelina Jolie (accompanied by Brad) discussing “A Mighty Heart.” We also had Javier Bardem, who cracked jokes about making “No Country for Old Men” with the Coen brothers.
Grrrr. Such a sexy beast.
The year before, we had Helen Mirren, who ended up winning the best actress Oscar for “The Queen.”
Veddy veddy proper lady – until she admitted that she quite enjoys playing nude scenes.
And Will Smith and his wife Jada were on hand so he could tell us about “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
Don’t they look like a loving couple? Either that or they’re….acting.
This year, we’re getting Penelope Cruz and Clint Eastwood, among many others, and I’ll be sitting in the front row for every event.
O.K. I’m lying about the front row. I’ll be lucky if I can see anything from way up in the balcony, but it’ll be fun just the same.
In advance of the Festival, the studios send prints of their films that are in contention for awards and we get to screen them.
Recent screenings have included “Doubt,” “Milk,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Before that, I saw “Body of Lies,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” “The Changeling,” “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” and the French film “I’ve Loved You So Long.” My favorites of those? “Frost/Nixon” and “Vicky Christina Barcelona.”
This weekend, I saw two more films. The first was “The Reader” starring Kate Winslet.
Interesting shoes if you like dog collars.
It opens January 9th and co-stars Ralph Fiennes. Set in post WW II Germany, it’s based on the bestselling novel and Oprah pick. Here’s the setup: Ten years after his affair with a mysterious older woman, a law student discovers she’s a defendant in a war crimes trial. It’s not a Holocaust story; it’s more about the generation of Germans dealing with its aftermath. Very compelling. I bet Kate gets an Oscar nom.
The other movie was “Frozen River” starring Melissa Leo. Remember her as Detective Kay Howard on “Homicide?”
It’s an indie flick that was shot in, like, 20 days for hardly any money, and it takes place in a border town on the Mohawk reservation, somewhere between New York State and Quebec. Melissa’s character is drawn into the smuggling of illegal aliens in order to feed her kids. It’s winning all kinds of pre-Oscar awards. It certainly opened my eyes to the problems of Native Americans.
Here are the trailers for both films in case anyone else needs a break from speculating about which free agent will land where. (Come on, Cee Cee. Sign already.)