SANTA BARBARA: Bridges, Firth, Stone and producers

Posted by · 11:54 am · February 14th, 2010

Colin Firth at the 25th annual Santa Barbara International Film FestivalThings are winding down in Santa Barbara.  Today is the last day of the fest, an all-day celebration of Jeff Bridges’s work.  Screenings of “Thunderbolt & Lightfoot,” “Starman,” “The Contender” and “Crazy Heart” are lined up.  I’ll be moderating a Q&A with the actor following the “Crazy Heart” screening at the Lobero Theatre.

Yesterday it was the producers panel early in the afternoon, Patrick Goldstein moderating an enlightening discussion with Lawrence Bender, Mark Boal, Jon Landau, Lori McCreary, Ivan Reitman and Jonas Rivera.  It was a good cross-section of perspectives on the work of a film producer, and certain a diverse mixture of budgets, economics and creative philosophy.

There was a moment when Landau proposed that it was a filmmaker’s responsibility to tackle gravitas and Bender took umbrage with that, positing that the real responsibility is to entertain.  Obviously it depends on the circumstance and no filmmaker should be beholden to either ideology (as Boal, always the diplomat, shrewdly noted).  But it was still funny watching Bender once again defending the frivolity of “Inglourious Basterds” in the face of loftier examinations from Landau, McCreary, etc.

I spoke to Boal at length in the green room prior to the panel, the first time we’ve actually had a lengthy discussion all year.  Mostly it was off the record chit-chat on the year’s contenders, but we spent a great deal talking about Oren Moverman’s “The Messenger” (Boal has had experience with Casualty Notification Offers in his time as a journalist), which he quite liked.

Later in the day I opted for Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border,” rather than Atom Egoyan’s “Chloe,” and I couldn’t have been happier about that.  The film is a superb look at the heads of state throughout the South American nations, those deemed dictators and enemies because they don’t consider the financial interests of the U.S. a priority.  It’s a great piece concerning, among other things, the influence of the International Monetary Fund and the culture of ignorance in this country that has allowed the public perception of leaders like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Néstor Kirchner (formerly presiding over Argentina) and the Castro brothers.

There’s an incredible moment when Kirchner relates a conversation he had with President George W. Bush during which the then Commander-in-Chief stated, rather bluntly, that the best way to economic stability for the Peruvian government was war.

During the Q&A that followed the screening, Stone spoke to that lack of education in the country.  “We are assaulted by an ignorance that’s appalling in our country,” he said, knowing full well he was preaching to the choir.  “Santa Barbara’s a maven.  You may well be an outpost.”  He also spoke to the “amazing hysteria” that builds in the U.S., maybe because of being segregated from the global community by two seaboards.  Who knows?  But it was delightful watching him work through the troubling scenario in his head on stage, eventually shrugging it all away with a “you tell me” to the moderator.

Then in the evening we had the Outstanding Performance of the Year tribute to Colin Firth and an examination of his work so far.  It was a longish but wonderful discussion with moderator Roger Durling, quite revealing of the actor.  Writer Nick Hornby was on hand to present the honor.

Tomorrow it’s back to Los Angeles and back into the Oscar fray for the last three-week push.  Ballots are in hand.  Is there a final ace up anyone’s sleeve?  Time will tell.

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7 responses so far

  • 1 2-14-2010 at 2:06 pm

    Al said...

    I don’t consider Chavez a dictator because he doesn’t agree with some of my principals. I consider him a dictator because he controls the newspapers, television stations, and film industry in his country.

    I’m surprised a film oriented site isn’t troubled by Hugowood.

  • 2 2-14-2010 at 2:29 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Watch the movie. Good stuff. I’m not going to get into a political debate in this space, though.

  • 3 2-14-2010 at 2:38 pm

    SHAAAARK said...

    Isn’t Kirchner from Argentina, not Peru?

  • 4 2-14-2010 at 3:01 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Yes, Morales is Peru. My mistake.

  • 5 2-14-2010 at 3:27 pm

    PJ said...

    Actually Kris, Evo Morales is the president of Bolivia. Was Bush referring to Bolivia instead then?

  • 6 2-14-2010 at 4:22 pm

    geha714 said...

    I know this is not a political forum and I expect this to be the only time I bring politics here.

    AI is absolutely correct about Chavez.

    I was recently in Venezuela and the situation is just alarming: The highest inflation in the continent, Caracas is the most violent city after Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and there’s no drug war there. Lots of food shortages and blackouts.

    I don’t like the GOP, I despise Fox News, the Tea Party people are insane and I agree in some points with Stone, but he’s wrong about Venezuela. He’s just following his ideology and nothing else. Don’t be fooled by his doc.

  • 7 2-14-2010 at 4:43 pm

    Al said...

    To be honest I wasnt trying to start anything political, just saying its not the economic theories that give me a distaste for Chavez, rather his control of media and arts.