Whether you’re on the film majors e-mail list, an avid surfer of local news sites or just someone who happens to pay attention to what’s going on around them, you’ve probably noticed that something’s happening in Santa Barbara. Something big. That’s right boys and girls, it’s time once again for our very own annual celebration of all things cinematic, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Now in its 22nd year, SBIFF has become the place to be for filmmakers and famous folks alike in the post-Golden Globes, pre-Oscars awards season milieu. This year’s festival runs from Jan. 25 through Feb. 4, and it will feature appearances from big names such as Al Gore, Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker, Alejandro Gonz0lez Inarritu, Will Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen and Djimon Hounsou.
As the glitterati migrate to sunny Santa Barbara, you might be wondering if there’s room for little old local you on the red carpet? Honestly, probably not. But there is room at many a screening for students and Santa Barbara locals alike. For just $37, the price of a few pints of halfway decent beer, you can score a four-film Mini-Pak of tickets that gives you admission to four separate films or can be used to get four people into one movie.
And that’s just the beginning. Tickets for the festival’s films and events can run up to $1500, but there are plenty of ways to see a screening without spending big bucks. So, now that you know that you can afford to attend the festival, the question is which films are worth braving downtown traffic and packed parking lots to see? Never fear, Artsweek is here, with a list of the films worth spending your beer money on. For schedules and more information about tickets, check out www.sbiff.org.
In case you missed last year’s Reel Loud Film Festival, make sure you take this opportunity to see the movie that is quite possibly one of the funniest films to come out of UCSB in years, “Sister Mary Catherine’s Happy Fun-Time Abortion Adventure.” This film, about exactly what its title implies, is a wild romp with enough political incorrectness to make Bill Maher blush. “Sister Mary Catherine’s Happy Fun-Time Abortion Adventure” is part of a program of local student shorts playing at 6 p.m. at the Marjorie Luke Theater.
For something a little more international in scale, check out one of the many movies making their world premiere at the festival. If psychological thrillers are your thing, see “Spiral.” This movie manages to make a telemarketer interesting and features Zachary Levi from “Less Than Perfect” and the underrated up-and-comer Amber Tamblyn. Fans of “Sex and the City,” “Office Space” and those oh-so-witty Sprint ads should check out “Music Within,” starring Ron Livingston as the real-life Vietnam vet who helped establish the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a mix of drama and comedy and a great vehicle for the talented Mr. Livingston.
Film buffs should see “Man in the Chair,” about the last surviving crew member of “Citizen Kane” and “Living With Lew” about a young Hollywood writer using comedy to cope with a terminal illness. Two feel-good films worth waiting in line for are “Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life” about a group of guys trying to get their friend’s wheelchair on the MTV show “Pimp My Ride,” and “Blind Dating,” which focuses on a couple struggling to overcome their cultural differences and stars Jane Seymour and Chris Pine.
Finally, check out some slightly less well-known documentary films that you might to look up on Google beforehand, including “United Gates of America” about the phenomenon of gated communities, “The Passion of the Mao” about the life and times of Mao Zedong and “Taking Guns From Boys” which is about a U.N. Force Commander trying to bring peace to war-torn Liberia.