Time to Shine

Sandra Bullock may finally be having her time in the sun. After the critical and popular success of “Speed” and “While You Were Sleeping” in 1994 and 1995, the actress has never been off our marquees, from thrillers and romantic comedies. But the big awards have eluded her, until now.

11 Amazing Days, 10 Starry Nights.

This year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival almost throws down a gauntlet with that slogan: we’ve got so many must-see events, we dare you to get to them all! And we know. We’ve seen those people in line, heck sometimes we’ve been them, too: the hardened determination, the 1,000-yard stare of the film addict. More stories, more inspiration, more celluloid, more tributes, more buzz, more, more, more!

So, to help you all out, we’ve taken the challenge and come up with 11 daytime films, and 10 nighttime events, with some extras thrown in. The schedule changes often as popular films get second, third and fourth showings, but here’s what we can tell you so far. Good luck!

OPENING NIGHT: The kick-off event film, Derek Magyar’s Flying Lessons, a you-can’t-go-home-again tale starring Maggie Grace and Hal Holbrook, is only part of the evening. There’s the anticipation, the opening speeches, the red carpet, the adrenalin, the old and new friends, and the party afterwards.

Friday day: “Red Riding 1974/1980/1983”: Cult UK crime drama wowed critics with its smart adaptation of David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet. Think “Prime Suspect” level of goodness. Three 90-minute episodes, one stunning morning starting at 10 a.m. Metro 4.

Friday evening: Sandra Bullock receives the American Riviera Award at the Arlington Theatre. This seems to be Bullock’s year, and we’ll see what the rather shy Bullock makes of it all.

Saturday day: “The Beaches of Agnes”: Grande dame of the French New Wave movement, Agnes Varda is still making personal documentaries in her 80s. “The Gleaners & I” screened at the Fest back in 2001 (and re-shows here this year 10 a.m. Sunday). But “Beaches” is a joyful examination of how art keeps you young. Essential. (Museum of Art, 1 p.m.)

Saturday evening: James Cameron has appeared at several SBIFFs in years past, as a award-giver, but no doubt Avatar makes him the king of the world again. The Modern Master Award goes to him at the Arlington.

Sunday day: I fancy “Les doigts croches” aka “Sticky Fingers” (1:15, Metro 4), Ken Scott’s tale of six gangsters who, despite not much talent, heist $2 million. This is one of the films in the fest’s Focus of Quebec sidebar, and maybe one of the best.

Sunday evening:
the Chopin Virtuosos Award evening gives you five stars for the price of one: Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), and Emily Blunt (Young Victoria). At the Lobero.

Monday day: The Intertubes have been buzzing with the rise of director Soi Cheang as one of Hong Kong’s most promising, and “Accident,” produced by Johnny To, solidifies that idea. It’s a story about a professional assassin who can make his hits look like accidents…until one of his associates dies by accident. Or does he? You see where we’re going here? (1:15 p.m., Metro 4)

Monday night: Kathryn Bigelow receives a retrospective during the day, and then sits down for a conversation for Outstanding Director of the Year at the Lobero.

Tuesday day: Mother (Madeyo) is the latest crime drama from the director of both “The Host” and “Memories of Murder,” Joon-ho Bong. A mother (Kim Hye-ja, an actress usually seen is standard melodramas) searches for the killer that framed her son for murder. But her own justifications and methods, as well as her relationship with her son, are not all they appear to be. Bong is currently one of Asia’s greatest directors, and the film should not be missed. (4:30 p.m., Metro 4).

Tuesday night: No awards this evening, so take a break with the mystery thriller, “Private Eye,” a Korean film set at the turn of the century. Class, society, and backroom dealings come into play when a body dumped in the woods is picked up by a medical student. (9:45 p.m., Metro 4)

Wednesday day: Oveja Negra has the buzz of being one of the best Mexican films in years. Directed by Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz, this is a comedy about two friends trying to get out of their dead-end ranch jobs while being thwarted by the owner’s son and an attractive girl. This is part of the Fest’s Latino Cinemedia sidebar.

Wednesday Night: The David Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking will be awarded to the harrowing “The Cove” at the Lobero. The film will follow, and a gutsier doc was probably not produced last year.

Thursday day: I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) is the story of the fall of the haute bourgeoisie in turn-of-the-millennium Milan. However, it stars Tilda Swinton, among many other surprises, and is a gorgeous work from director Luca Guadagnino. (4:30 p.m., Lobero)

Thursday night: Julianne Moore will receive the Montecito Award at the Arlington Theatre, for her work in “A Single Man” but also for a history of amazing films.

Friday day: Abebe Bikila is the topic of biopic “Athlete,” the first African to win Olympic gold—Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964—and who ran his marathon barefoot. Yet his story also has a tragic twist, and a surprising ending. Davey Frankeyl and Rasselas Lakew manage to make a film both informative and uplifting. (1:30 p.m., Metro 4)

Friday night: More multiple actor celebrations: The Cinema Vanguard Awards will be presented to Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air), Peter Sarsgaard (An Education), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) at the Lobero.

Saturday day: A British director, Peter Strickland, filmed his first movie in Romania, and “Katalin Varga” looks like it comes from outside time, all primitive and violent. Folk-horror at its grimiest, it shies from the gore and goes for the psychological. (Hopefully Saturday will be a sunny day outside the theater…) (8 a.m., Metro 4)

Saturday night: The other star of “A Single Man” Colin Firth receives the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award at the Arlington Theatre

Sunday day: The Dude will Abide on Jeff Bridges day, honoring one of our own with a selection of his best films: The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Starman and The Contender. (Wait, no Lebowski?). The man himself will undoubtedly put in an appearance. Starts 8 a.m. Metro 4.

Sunday evening: Closing night film is George Gallo’s “Middle Men” about the shady beginnings of Internet commerce, but the event is also a chance to thank everybody for a job well done, and look forward a the long-deserved full night of sleep.]

Sandra Bullock earns the American Riviera Award at SBIFF

“The Proposal” earned her a Golden Globe nomination, but her role as the go-to Leigh Anne Tuohy in the football drama “The Blind Side” won her the Golden Globe. Call it another victory for the psychic Santa Barbara International Film Festival — they knew the right year to honor Bullock with the American Riviera Award, and she will be in town Friday night to sit down for a chat in front of a few thousand of her fans.

In a recent interview with Scene, Ms. Bullock talked about such events, her desire to dance, and her most important “machine” — her body.

Do you get trepidations about these kinds of retrospectives?

Oh absolutely. You feel that you need to be dead! A retrospective should happen only after you pass. (laughs) I like going to work and going home, and that creative atmosphere, but that whole press side is unnatural and uncomfortable. But when I went (to the SBIFF in 2007) to present Forrest Whitaker with his award I was relieved that all it focused on was the work. I realized how rare it is in our business to have this discussion about the art and the craft, to just hear (Forrest) talk and what he remembered and the experiences. I have a hard time getting out from under my rock, because it’s a pretty big place, but when I heard about (the award) for me, because I experienced it once, it was really nice. I’m excited to do it again.

Does it give you a chance to think about the “narrative” of your career?

I try not to look back on anything I might have said that was captured on celluloid or at an award show. If I go back I will nitpick and complain and roll my eyes and think, what was I thinking? There are times when I do look back in broader strokes, but I don’t ever want to judge or regret anything. Because if I hadn’t taken the path I took I wouldn’t be sitting (where I am now), being very happy. I find it difficult to take complements. So, you know, don’t go back on the Internet and look for yourself. You have to stop (looking). It’s the only way to maintain who you are supposed to be, you have to cut it off or you’ll start adjusting (to what other people say).

After “Speed,” could you have had a career as an action star?

I guess. You never know. I wasn’t supposed to get “Speed,” you know? They had other people who they wanted. The only reason I was in “Speed” was Jan de Bont … I auditioned with Keanu (Reeves) on a little metal chair and a fake steering wheel, and pretended as if. And somehow I got the role … to the chagrin of Fox at the time. I was shocked that anyone put “Speed” in the theaters. So, no, I didn’t see (action film scripts) after. But I love action when it’s really rooted in a good story. I have no interest in pulling out a silencer and looking bad-ass for its own sake.

I’ve read you were very interested in dance as a child.

I’ve danced all my life. I did classical, which I hated and was so not suited for it physically or emotionally, and then I discovered jazz and African and modern. I was good at expressing myself emotionally through dance. I just have such a deep, deep, deep, deep-rooted love for dancing and the freedom it gives me. I didn’t have the discipline or the want to be waif-like. When I’m in a place where I can do it I’m freer than anything else, even more free than my acting.

So why haven’t you danced in a film yet?

The nice thing about physical comedy is that it’s an expression like dance. It’s the timing of how you use your body, whether you’re pulling it about, over a chair, walking it through a room. To be able to trip and fall and make it look like it happened to you … is dance. It’s the same kind of thrill; it’s the expression of emotion with your body. And that emotion happens to be humor.

How do you balance your physical comedy with the studio not wanting their star to injure herself?

I run into things constantly because my brain is far ahead of my body, so I’m accustomed to banging into things. You plan it out, you prepare. When I don’t know a prop is going to do exactly what I need to do, I won’t do it. But I’ve done some idiotic things. I don’t want to injure this machine I have. It’s gonna fall apart on its own eventually. I have a good gauge of how far I can push, and it’s pretty far. I can credit that to Helga Bullock (Sandra’s mother) who made me take dance and gymnastics despite my complaints. Thank god she did, she gave me a tool for a profession I kinda like.

Did you meet the real Leigh Anne Tuohy, who you play in “The Blind Side”?

Oh, I had to meet her! I didn’t get who this woman was. The way she holds herself, the melody of her voice, I had to figure it out. Phonetically it was working, but it wasn’t working as Leigh Anne. But once I put it on its feet, it altered how my energy was. And in my body movements, I made it more rigid and clipped like Leigh Anne, and all of sudden the voice worked. But if I had done her 100-percent this whole film would have been “The Leigh Anne Tuohy Story.” There would be no football! There’s not enough film for Leigh Anne so I pulled it back a little bit, so there was room for the other characters.

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