Four at the fore — SBIFF’s Vanguard Award features four of 2009’s best actors

 From left, Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Christoph Waltz, three of the winners of the Cinema Vanguard award, speak with reporters at the Lobero Theater on Friday. ROBBY BARTHELMESS / NEWS-PRESS


From left, Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Christoph Waltz, three of the winners of the Cinema Vanguard award, speak with reporters at the Lobero Theater on Friday.
ROBBY BARTHELMESS / NEWS-PRESS

Gabourey Sidibe poses on the red carpet prior to receiving her Virtuoso Award.

Gabourey Sidibe poses on the red carpet prior to receiving her Virtuoso Award.

 Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllanhall, above, and Vera Farminga, below, pose for pictures during the red carpet event for the Cinema Vanguard Awards at the Lobero Theater.


Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllanhall, above, and Vera Farminga, below, pose for pictures during the red carpet event for the Cinema Vanguard Awards at the Lobero Theater.

As the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Friday night hit its second weekend, it brought to the Lobero Theater a group of 2009’s most exciting actors, to be honored with the Vanguard Awards.

Indeed, why choose between stars when all four can be on stage?

Fans lined the cordoned-off area in front of the Lobero to await the arrival of limousines bearing the actors: Vera Farmiga (“Up In The Air”); Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”); and Christoph Waltz (“Inglorious Basterds”). Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) was also honored, but could not make the event due to scheduling. Filling the fifth chair was Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”), who picked up her Virtuoso Award from last Saturday’s award evening, having also been a victim of scheduling.

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THE FIFTH ELEMENT: Sir George Martin premieres new work at a special Beatles evening at The Granada

Above, George Martin speaks before Friday evening's "Love, Love, Love" rehearsal at the Granada Theatre. Below, Sir Martin talks to guests at the event. MATT WIER / NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

Above, George Martin speaks before Friday evening’s “Love, Love, Love” rehearsal at the Granada Theatre. Below, Sir Martin talks to guests at the event.
MATT WIER / NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS


Sir George Martin, the “Fifth Beatle,” the producer of nearly all of the Beatles songs, as well as a composer and musician in his own right, made a rare visit to Santa Barbara on Friday.

Mr. Martin was at The Granada to promote the world premiere of his own “The Mission Chorales” with the Santa Barbara Choral Society and Orchestra. He conducts the orchestra on both Saturday and Sunday.

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THE BIG SCENE : Oliver Stone visits with Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leaders in new doc at SBIFF

Director Oliver Stone during an interview with the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo.

Director Oliver Stone during an interview with the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rides a bicycle in his grandmother's backyard in the Oliver Stone documentary "South of the Border."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rides a bicycle in his grandmother’s backyard in the Oliver Stone documentary “South of the Border.”

Film director Oliver Stone first dealt with South and Central America in 1986, with his breakthrough political drama “Salvador.” He didn’t return to the region as a subject until recently, with two documentaries on Fidel Castro (2003’s “Comandante” and 2004’s “Looking for Fidel”). Now he’s taken on another American bugaboo, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in “South of the Border,” playing this weekend at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Stone’s thesis is that Chavez has been demonized in the American press because he hasn’t gone along with business interests, especially when Chavez nationalized the oil industry.

The film then uses Chavez’ success as an opportunity to discuss other socialist revolutions that have followed in Chavez’ wake — in Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador. The short doc may lack in nuance, but it will introduce many to the leaders in the region, and to countries that never turn up on the nightly news.

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A ‘Precious’ Gem — How is Gabourey Sidibe handling her new fame and Oscar nom? We ask

The first thing that strikes you about Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe is the voice. It’s not that one expects the star and title character of the Oscar-nominated film “Precious” to talk in the hesitant mumbled tone heard in the film, but rather that her voice is not even East Coast. Sidibe sounds like a bubbly Valley Girl.

This only emphasizes the astonishing job she does in “Precious,” a harrowing yet uplifting drama about an abused 16-year-old African-American girl. Lee Daniels’ striking directorial debut, based upon the novel Push by Sapphire, mixes grim domestic scenes — featuring a monster of a mother played by comedienne Mo’Nique — with glamorous escapist fantasies. Also appearing in the film are Mariah Carey, who disappears under a black wig to play a social worker, and Lenny Kravitz, playing a male nurse.

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DRINK OF THE WEEK : SBIFF mixologist master award co-winner, the Tarantini

THE BILTMORE'S TARANTINI Nik Blaskovich/News-Press Photos

THE BILTMORE’S TARANTINI
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press Photos

TONIC'S LEADING LADY

TONIC’S LEADING LADY

ELEMENTS' RISING STAR

ELEMENTS’ RISING STAR

We heard that there was a group of people going around Santa Barbara sampling cocktails and selecting their favorites. And we were shocked to discover that it wasn’t us. Turns out the Santa Barbara International Film Festival peeps were out for a second year in a row choosing cocktails for their Chopin Vodka Mixologist Master Award. The winners (it was a tie) are now available to be sipped at their respective bars during the fest and “select VIP events,” which our own team may attempt to sneak into.

In the meantime, we wondered, what are these cocktails? What do they taste like? And who didn’t make the cut? What do our own tastebuds think? The tie went to drinks from Elements and the Biltmore, but the second runner-up came from Tonic. We set out to discover.

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Time of the Wolf — Unflinching Red Riding a stunning crime drama

The buzz preceding the “Red Riding” trilogy came via film journals and British TV blogs, and the eventual screening across one long but tense afternoon lived up to expectations. Based on a quartet of novels by David Peace (one was not filmed), “Red Riding” is an exceptional crime drama, a sprawling narrative that in the UK was primetime viewing but in the States is being released theatrically.

Set in the grimy industrial north of Yorkshire, and the West Riding district, the trilogy follows a secret history of corruption, big business and serial killing. This is the dark, depressed North of the Moors murders and the Yorkshire Ripper (who makes an appearance in the middle film), but also of ex-mining towns, destitute backwater towns, and wounded and angry male psyches.

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Kirk Douglas and his ‘Posse’ : Still active, the 93-year-old receives a tribute from Quentin Tarantino and a rare screening

 Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas ask each other questions in front of the crowd after the showing of "Posse" at the Lobero Theater. ROBBY BARTHELMESS/NEWS-PRESS


Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas ask each other questions in front of the crowd after the showing of “Posse” at the Lobero Theater.
ROBBY BARTHELMESS/NEWS-PRESS

 Above, Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas are shown speaking at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday. At right, the two shake hands backstage after the Q & A session.


Above, Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas are shown speaking at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday. At right, the two shake hands backstage after the Q & A session.

In recursive moment of movie love, Kirk Douglas and Quentin Tarantino fans gathered on Sunday afternoon at the Lobero for a meeting with the two stars. Mr. Tarantino overflowed with appreciation and love for Mr. Douglas, whose 1975 film “Posse,” was specially screened for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In turn, Mr. Douglas revealed himself as a Tarantino fan, steering the chat away from Sunday’s film screening to tout “Inglourious Basterds,” Mr. Tarantino’s’s recent World War II drama.

These are, of course, the moments on which SBIFF has built its legacy. And Sunday’s screening also showed how SBIFF can hustle and improvise and provide special moments beyond the de rigueur tributes. The screening springs from last October, when Mr. Tarantino appeared at the Coral Casino to receive SBIFF’s 2009 Kirk Douglas Award. Starstruck himself to meet one of his childhood heroes, the two became fast friends.

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RISING STARS : Four out of five attendees light up SBIFF’s 2010 Virtuoso Awards

 From left, Michael Stuhlbarg, Saiorse Ronan, Carey Mulligan and Emily Blunt recieve the Virtuoso Award on Sunday. ROBBY BARTHELMESS / NEWS-PRESS


From left, Michael Stuhlbarg, Saiorse Ronan, Carey Mulligan and Emily Blunt recieve the Virtuoso Award on Sunday.
ROBBY BARTHELMESS / NEWS-PRESS


 Carey Mulligan, above, Michael Stuhlbarg, above center, Emily Blunt, above right in grey, and Saiorse Ronan are shown on the red carpet on Sunday before receiving their Virtuoso Awards.


Carey Mulligan, above, Michael Stuhlbarg, above center, Emily Blunt, above right in grey, and Saiorse Ronan are shown on the red carpet on Sunday before receiving their Virtuoso Awards.

Young, talented and British: that could sum up a majority of this year’s Virtuoso Award honorees at Sunday night’s special event at the Lobero. Consider the list: Irish-raised Saoirse Ronan, who plays the young murder victim in Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.” London-born Emily Blunt, who plays the young queen in “The Young Victoria.” And Carey Mulligan, who went from Westminster to stardom as the seduced and seductive schoolgirl in “An Education.” Screams from a sparse but enthusiastic crowd gathered outside the Lobero and watching the red carpet greeted each star’s arrival.

Odd man out was Long Beach native Michael Stuhlbarg, who jumped from decades of Broadway theater work to unlikely leading man in the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man.” Mr. Stuhlbarg is more than twice the age of Miss Ronan, but to audiences, they are all fresh faces who delivered some of 2009’s best performances.

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The Quiet Man — SBIFF Virtuoso Award recipient Michael Stuhlbarg comes into his own as ‘A Serious Man’

Michael Stuhlbarg talks quietly in run-on sentences, in a warm voice that’s like the light of dawn spreading into a bedroom. This marks a total change from the frantic, desperate Larry Gopnik he plays in the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man,” who wakes up from a contented middle-class slumber to find everything crumbling around him: his wife is leaving him, his kids ignore him, his job is threatened and he is tempted by a sexy neighbor, Mrs. Samsky. His comic spiritual quest for answers forms the backbone of the movie, but the flesh is Gopnik’s face, the way he moves through the scenes.

Stuhlbarg was born and raised in Long Beach, but his acting career took off in 1989 after graduating from Juilliard, and he’s been working in New York’s theater scene and elsewhere ever since. But it’s only now, in his 40s, that he’s come to Hollywood’s attention. He’s been nominated for a Golden Globe for “A Serious Man,” which itself has been nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture), and now he comes to SBIFF to receive a Virtuoso Award.

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Bucatini’s Briannastini

Nik Blaskovich / News-Press

Nik Blaskovich / News-Press

There’s no bar at Bucatini, unless you count the divider that looks into the prep area and the pizza oven. After all, watching all those delicious pizzas going in there and coming out oozing with cheese and sauce is not exactly conducive to drinking. But, mamma mia, this corner restaurant on Haley and State has a cocktail menu that it’s proud of, and they have the long-term workers to prove it.

The Farmers Market on Tuesdays means fresh ingredients at the front door, and Eddie Chavez tries to incorporate many of them into his drinks. Chavez has been here as manager for three years, after moving on from an eight-year stint at the Wine Cask, and his imprimatur is on the entire menu.

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