Montecito At The Movies

Before the deluge finally abated late Sunday afternoon, it looked as if surfing legend Shaun Tomson could have grabbed one of his old longboards and hung ten all the way from his Montecito home to the Arlington Theatre later that evening. That’s where “Bustin’ Down the Door,” Jeremy Gosch’s new film about the small band of Australian and South African surfers – including Tomson – that invaded the North Shore of Oahu and eventually turned surfing into a professional sport, becoming superstars along the way, had it’s world premiere as part of SBIFF. The film was produced by Tomson, who joined several of his old colleagues and other well-known surfers on the red carpet (finally not soggy) at the Arlington for the screening.

The film was a monster hit, easily selling out the Arlington (the venue was only maybe two-thirds full for double Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett the night before). A second show has been added for Thursday, Jan. 31, again at 7:30 pm at the Arlington.

(And while we’re on the subject of surfing and Montecito, “Surf’s Up,” the animated film that was a hit last fall and stars Montecito’s Jeff Bridges as a Dude-style former surf champ turned recluse, surprisingly grabbed the third slot for the Best Animated Oscar, denying SBIFF guest [and last week’s MJ cover story] James L. Brooks’ “The Simpsons” a shot at the golden boy.)

“Juno” screenwriter Diablo Cody would have been the hot ticket at “It Starts with the Script” last Saturday, except the annual writers panel was canceled less than 24 hours earlier. The official explanation was that some of the writers had contracted “the flu,” which reportedly ran rampant at Sundance the week before. What with the ongoing writers strike though, it’s hard to tell if this wasn’t the scribes’ version of the blue flu.

Directors Panel at the Lobero

But that just makes Jason Reitman’s appearance at this Saturday’s directors panel even more of an event. With only his second film (“Juno”), the director has already scored Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations, neither of which his much more famous dad, Montecito’s Ivan Reitman, ever enjoyed in his ongoing 40-year-career.

At the producers panel last Saturday, “Juno” producer Lianne Halfon said Reitman’s self-assured nature, enthusiasm for the script, and innate understanding of its tone gave her the confidence in his ability to direct the film despite his only previous credit being “Thank You For Smoking,” which closed SBIFF in 2006.

“Jason really looked at all the different characters in the movie,” she said. “He didn’t relate more to the kids than the adults. He regarded them all equally, which was key, and that came out in the film.”

Also on the high-powered panel, slated for 11 am at the Lobero: Academy Award nominees Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”), Brad Bird (“Ratatouille”), and Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”), plus raunchy comedy kingpin Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up,” “Superbad,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”).

Most of the “East X West” film, programmed by Montecito actor-director Tim Matheson, have already finished their run at SBIFF by now, including two that were already garnering raves: “Blind Mountain,” about a young woman sold into marriage in an antiquated but still practiced tradition in China, and “Vexille,” a Japanese anime that also uses CGI, set 70 years in the future that has drawn comparisons to last year’s “Paprika.” Among Tim’s, Roger’s (and my) picks for this weekend: “The Mourning Forest,” a gorgeous poetic film that played at Toronto and was nominated for Cannes’ Golden Palm.

Summerhood at the Metro

He didn’t want to trade on his cousin’s name at all, which is why “Summerhood” writer-director didn’t even use his last name when introducing himself. But, yes, Jacob Medjuck is related to Joe Medjuck, Ivan Reitman’s producing partner in Montecito Pictures and the producer of innumerable films from “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters” to “Disturbia.”

Jacob still lives in Canada, where the Reitmans and his uncle once lived; his first feature is a memory piece of his years at summer camp – shot partially on location at the old camp – that echoes some of the playful humor and teenage high jinx of his cousin’s movies. It had its world premier on Tuesday and plays again this Thursday at 1:30 at the Metro and Friday at 1:30 at the Lobero.

Red Carpet Rumors

If the first half of the 23rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival was marked by torrential rain, get ready for a flood of a different sort for the second and final weekend.

Montecito and Santa Barbara have always been vacation destinations and quiet getaway spots for Hollywood types and other celebrities – witness the influx of stars and politicos for Oprah’s Obama bash that took place late last year (2007). But that was a private, invitation-only affair. When Angelina Jolie shows up on Saturday evening to pick up her Outstanding Performance of the Year Award, she will be by far the biggest entertainment figure to have put herself out in public in Santa Barbara in anyone’s memory.

Nary a week goes by when virtually all the weekly pop mags, tabloids, and Page 6-type columns (even a pregnant Cate Blanchett made the New York Post on Sunday) don’t have some sort of item about Brangelina – She’s pregnant! They’re breaking up! She’s adopting another baby! He misses Jen! – it’s a wonder anyone remembers that they both act too (the Academy certainly didn’t, snubbing Jolie for an Oscar nod, making SBIFF’s award rather strange). Brad Pitt probably won’t walk the red carpet, but we’re told he’ll be in town.

So prepare for a paparazzi presence on the order of Britney heading off to jail at around 7 pm Saturday night, or hunker down at the Metro for a night of films and avoid the area all together.

Ensconcing yourself in a theater isn’t a bad idea anyway, as SBIFF always programs some of the most highly anticipated films against the special events. On Friday, the French films “Priceless,” “Beneath the Rooftops of Paris” and “Circus Rosaire” all have screenings, as do both the Tenacious D documentary “D Tour” and “Red Hot Chili Peppers: Untitled.” Saturday night offers the reverential “Man of Cinema: Pierre Rissient,” from Variety columnist Todd McCarthy , the U.S. premiere of “Fugitive Pieces” and “Hills of Disorder” and screenings of “The Edge of Heaven” and “The Aerial.”

Randomly Heard

Answers to questions I posed on the red carpet from some of SBIFF’s early guests:

Cate Blanchett on whether awards season gets easier the fourth time through: “I just got off a plane from Sydney this morning, and being pregnant it’s a little bit discombobulating. But it’s a nice form of discombobulation.”

“I’m Not There” director Todd Haynes on Heath Ledger’s death: “I can’t wrap my head around it because it’s still so new. I’m in state of shock. I’ve been walking into walls since Tuesday. It’s unreal and wrong and so tragic. He was so rare and so special. I just can’t fathom it.”

“Away from Her” star Julie Christie on whether playing an Alzheimer’s patient affected her own view of aging: “It made me and many people more aware of their mortality. Life is not always an easy ride. You have to be prepared for whatever eventually comes. Maybe not in this sort of way, but there are many ways we meet our demise.”

“There Will Be Blood” producer Daniel Lupi on director Paul Thomas Anderson casting Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role: “He wrote it for Daniel but before getting Daniel to say yes at all. But he called the character Daniel. So I don’t think he wanted anyone else.”