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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The only way is up — Pete Docter of Pixar speaks about his helium-filled adventure ‘Up’

Pixar continued its string of hits in 2009 with the poignant, swashbuckling and often hilarious “Up.” As consistent as the films have been, so too have the filmmakers, as three years of interviewing the directors has shown. Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton and another one of Pixar’s original crew, Pete Docter (“Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.”), are all affable, talkative, friendly creators who never seem to tire of answering questions about their films. Docter grew up in Minneapolis, but he knows Santa Barbara from visiting his grandparents here, and he’ll return once again to screen “Up” and take part in the Festival’s screenwriter and director panels this weekend.

In “Up”, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) attaches thousands of balloons to his house and goes in search of Paradise Falls to fulfill a promise to his deceased wife. He has a stowaway, Russell, an eager boy scout, and a later meeting with a boyhood hero, Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer).

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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!

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This man can move: Savion Glover at Lobero


Tap-dancing wonder Savion Glover brings out his dancing art from somewhere deep within his thin frame. Like a Rasta shaman, he conjures multilayered syncopation, pushing and pulling the beat, compressing and exploding over and over into showers of rapid-fire foot movements. At nearly 90 minutes of dancing with only a short break, Mr. Glover thrilled the Lobero audience on Sunday night in a personal, packed show.

He has been amazing theatergoers since he was 12, and his tour brings a four-piece jazz ensemble along with a young protégé called Cartier for a deep examination of tap-dancing. Whereas traditional tap-dancers coast along on top of the music, with gaps left by the band for the dancer to fill, Mr. Glover is the fifth instrument.

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Italian (Opera) for Beginners: At the beginning of her career, Shu-Ying Li takes on her fourth Butterfly


When asked what will make Shu-Ying Li’s portrayal of Madame Butterfly different in the upcoming production of Opera Santa Barbara (their 24th), the soprano looks down for a few seconds, lost in thought, until surfacing with a broad smile. “Because I’m Shu-Ying!” She then bursts into a laugh, which then spreads to those around her. Miss Li knows that what she has said has made herself sound somewhat of the diva, not befitting someone just beginning a professional career.

But she also knows that its her self-confidence that has gotten her this far, thousands of miles away from her native China, along with dashes of good fortune and helping hands.

The role of Madame Butterfly is one that still goes to more non-Asian sopranos than Asian, although in recent years many able singers from China, Japan, and elsewhere have made the role their own.

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