Santa Barbara Award honoring Saoirse Ronan

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Saoirse Ronan will receive the prestigious Santa Barbara Award, presented by UGG®, for her critically acclaimed role in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, an A24 release. Given to a person in the entertainment industry who has made a great contribution to film, the award will be presented to her at a ceremony on Sunday, February 4, 2018 at the historic Arlington Theatre.

“In Lady Bird, Saoirse Ronan has once again proven that she is a force of nature and one of her generation’s most exciting young talents,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “She embodies her characters with a poignant accuracy and ease every time she appears on screen.”

Ronan’s numerous film credits include The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hanna, The Lovely Bones, and The Way Back. She has received Academy Award® nominations for her performances in Atonement and Brooklyn, and recently was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for her performance in Lady Bird.

Past recipients of the award include Isabelle Huppert, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Bill Condon, and Naomi Watts.

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(Source: Press release provided by

SBIFF Introduces 10-10-10 Student Competition Participants

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Out of the box and into the heat of competition goes the 2018 Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) group of 10-10-10 Student Screenwriting and Filmmaking Mentorship and Competition participants.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Educational Director, Amanda Graves, front, addresses members of the media at the 10-10-10 Student Screenwriting and Filmmaking Mentorship and Competition as Michael Stinson, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Competition looks on. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Earlier this afternoon, SBIFF held a press conference at the newly constructed Hotel Californian Alhambra Ballroom in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. After a brief introduction by SBIFF Educational Director Amanda Graves, the Co-Founders and Co-Directors of the 10-10-10 Student Competition, Guy Smith, a long-time Santa Barbara based educator, and Michael Stinson, an adjunct professor of Film and Media Studies at Santa Barbara City College, addressed the conference. Smith’s self-deprecating humor lightened the tone after the recent Thomas Fire and ensuing mudslide in nearby Montecito and proceeded to provide some interesting background on the Competition.

Originally, the Competition required participants to write, edit and produce a 10 minute short film in 10 days. Today, the competition has evolved to include a much more comprehensive process where the participants are paired with mentors and industry professionals to produce a rough cut, receive feedback and incorporate any warranted changes.

Smith also noted numerous 10-10-10 participants have gone on to film schools and to work in industry positions. This year’s competition has four categories: two writing and two directing, one for high school students and one for college level students.

2018 SBIFF 10-10-10 Competition
The 2018 10-10-10 Student Screenwriting and Filmmaking Mentorship and Competition participants at the Hotel California Alhambra Ballroom in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Stinson proceeded to introduce all of this year’s writers and directors, announced the screening date, February 10th, 2018 from 2 P.M. – 4 P.M. at the historic Arlington Theater. and informed the conference the winners of the 10-10-10 Competition would be announced on the last day of the festival.

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Santa Barbara honoring Gary Oldman with Maltin Modern Master Award

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Gary Oldman is set to receive the Maltin Modern Master Award at the 33rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.  Oldman will be honored for his longstanding contributions to the film industry culminating with Focus Features’ Darkest Hour. Leonard Maltin, for who the award was recently renamed after, will return for his 27th year to moderate the evening. The award will be presented on Friday, February 2, 2018 at Santa Barbara’s historic Arlington Theatre.

“Gary Oldman has dazzled audiences for decades with an array of brilliant performances,” stated Leonard Maltin. “With Darkest Hour, he has once again proven that he is a force to be reckoned with, and a true master of his craft.

Darkest Hour takes place during the early days of World War II, as the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Oldman), who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds. Directed by Joe Wright from a screenplay by Anthony McCarten, the film also stars Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Stephen Dillane. Darkest Hour is in theaters November 22, 2017.

The Modern Master Award was established in 1995 and is the highest accolade presented by SBIFF.  Created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry, it was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of long-time SBIFF moderator and renowned film critic Leonard Maltin.  Past recipients include Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Bruce Dern, Ben Affleck, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, George Clooney and Peter Jackson.

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(Source: Press release provided by

Film Capsule: Darkest Hour (Wright, 2017): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina, Atonement) delivers the goods with Darkest Hour, a moving dramatization of Great Britain’s decision to go to war against Germany in 1940. Newly-named Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, portrayed by the award-winning English thespian Gary Oldman, leads the way in Darkest Hour as he sets out to unite the country after the ouster of his predecessor, the pacifying Neville Chamberlain. With strong costuming, production design, make-up and hair styling, the film easily qualifies as a period piece. Darkest Hour is also the recipient of six Oscar nominations including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Production Design, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.


Like Churchill himself, Oldman was up for the task in a leading performance that entertains in one moment and inspires in the next. Utilizing extensive make-up and hair styling provided by Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick, Oldman not only acts the part he looks the part! Aiding in most of the emotionally riveting scenes is Actress Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as Churchill’s young, sensitive, doe-eyed secretary, Elizabeth Layton, who mouths her boss’s speeches as they are delivered. In addition, acclaimed Cornish actress, Kristin Scott Thomas (The Party, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), portrays Churchill’s doting wife, Clemmie, and brings a much-needed sense of balance, propriety and grounding to the Prime Minister.

As the German army’s drive pushed through France toward the North Sea, Churchill decides to sacrifice a brigade of four thousand soldiers near Calais to distract and slow the German army to buy time to evacuate Dunkirk where some 300,000 British soldiers are pinned down under German Air Assault. The beaches of Dunkirk sit a mere 21 miles across the English Channel from the Cliffs of Dover. Hope of evacuating the 300,000 trapped soldiers off the beaches of Dunkirk is slim to none. Unable to get naval or air support from the United States, and facing a harbor cluttered with sunken ships prohibiting safe navigation for the British Navy, a “volunteer civilian navy” is called upon to rescue the stranded soldiers. The outcome of the war, the British way of life and a free Europe are at stake. British filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirkalso Oscar-nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, portrays the rescue/evacuation in an ultra-realistic, highly cinematic treatment.


Meanwhile, as the Prime Minister of British Parliament, Oldman continues to holds his own and then some as the crotchety Churchill. However, once the moment comes for the war declaration, Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s (Inside Llewyn Davis, Amelie) lighting, camera angles and use of camera lenses creates a spectacle drawing the viewer as the resolve deep inside Winston Churchill is revealed. Costuming and production design are at their best here, in my opinion. And, Oldman delivers a consummate speech performance complete with Churchill’s trademark guttural delivery and an earthy, rumbling, emotionally tempered pitch. In my opinion, these Parliament-set scenes are the heart of the film. The soul of the film belongs to the “tube” scenes where Churchill empathically engages commoners on their feelings surrounding the threat the Germans pose.

Full of political intrigue and military maneuverings, Darkest Hour is set against Great Britain’s ill preparedness for war and early appeasement/isolationist stance which was discussed by American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in his senior college thesis and published book, “Why England Slept,” (an illusion to Churchill’s book on Germany’s rise to power from 1932-38, “While England Slept”). Lord Halifax and Chamberlain, portrayed by Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane, as members of Churchill’s inner-sanctum War Council, plot against Churchill in an attempt to force into Parliament a “vote of no confidence.” Churchill manages to stay one step ahead of them while avoiding utter annihilation at the hands of the German army.

Darkest Hour is an emotionally-riveting, historical bio-drama with arguably the year’s Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Moreover, a strong mise-en-scene makes Darkest Hour a must-see film with the highest recommendation. A masterpiece.



Santa Barbara’s Cinema Vanguard Award honoring Willem Dafoe

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Willem Dafoe will be honored with the 2018 Cinema Vanguard Award at the 33rd SBIFF, which runs from January 31st to February 10th, 2018. The actor will be celebrated for his remarkable role in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, an A24 Films release, which opened in October to critical acclaim. The Tribute will take place on Thursday, February 1st at the historic Arlington Theatre.

“Willem Dafoe has brought countless unforgettable characters to the big screen,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “His role in The Florida Project perfectly embodies his talent and imagination. It is an honor to celebrate his work with the Cinema Vanguard Award.”

The Cinema Vanguard Award was created in recognition of actors who have forged their own path – taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Previous honorees include Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Stanley Tucci, Peter Sarsgaard, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ryan Gosling.

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(Source: Press release provided by


Posted by Larry Gleeson


Wednesday January 31, 2018 @ 8:00pm
Arlington Theatre

The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG®, will open with the worldwide premiere of the public at the Arlington Theatre on Wednesday, January 31, 2018. the public, written and directed by Emilio Estevez, stars Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Taylor Schilling, Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Gabrielle Union, Jacob Vargas, Michael K. Williams, and Jeffrey Wright.

“I’ve long admired Emilio Estevez as an artist – actor – director.  With the public – I feel he has done his most personal and fully realized work. the public speaks wonderfully about our current divided country – but it also does not preach – it keeps us cinematically immersed.  I can honestly say this is the proudest choice for opening during my tenure at SBIFF.  I cherish the friendship with Emilio and admire his accomplishment with the public,” stated Roger Durling, Executive Director of SBIFF.

the public follows a group of homeless library patrons, who, after learning that emergency shelters are at capacity during a brutal Midwestern cold front, refuse to leave Cincinnati’s downtown public library at closing time.

In what begins as a nonviolent Occupy sit in and ragtag act of civil disobedience, quickly escalates into a stand-off with local riot police, a no-nonsense crisis negotiator, and a savvy DA with lofty political ambitions.

Amidst dropping temperatures and flaring tempers on both sides of the lockdown, uncertainty looms around how the situation can be resolved without resorting to violence, while law enforcement officials and local media spin the facts to serve their own political agendas.

This David versus Goliath story puts the spotlight on some of our nation’s most challenging issues: homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction, and sets the drama inside one of our last bastions of democracy-in-action: your public library.

“I’m absolutely delighted, thrilled, and humbled to be chosen by Roger Durling for the great honor of kicking off SBIFF 2018 with the public. Roger’s long standing commitment of supporting independent filmmakers makes the Santa Barbara International Film Festival a vital showcase for artists. Once again, the festival will screen a wide and wonderful variety of distinguished films and our picture has indeed, found itself in some lovely company,” says Emilio Estevez.

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Film Review: The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro, 2017): USA

Posted  by Larry Gleeson

Leading the way in the 2018 Oscars race with a whopping thirteen nominations including Best Director and Best Motion Picture is Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, based loosely on the Universal Pictures 1954 sci-fi classic, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) wrote, directed and produced the film with a classical touch paying homage to 1950’s pop culture including a mid-film, stunning black and white ballroom dance sequence. Del Toro’s attention to detail allowed for a easy suspension of disbelief as the narrative followed a lonely, mute janitor who befriends an amphibious creature at a top secret research facility at the height of the Cold War.


British actress, Sally Hawkins (Maudie, Blue Jasmine) portrays the mute, Elisa Esposito. Hawkins’ expressions and body language are quite convincing as her curiosity leads her to the creature, a mesmerizing, demi-god figure with expressive eyes and a physique reminiscent of the alien in the 1987 science fiction film, Predator. For her near-silent performance, Hawkins received one of the thirteen nominations associated with the film with a Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth)  portrays the Amphibian Man, most often referred to as The Asset by the U.S. military and its top secret research apparatus.

In its essence The Shape of Water is a full-fledged romantic fantasy. Frenchman Alexandre Desplat’s musical score delights during the film’s fairy tale-esque opening and closing and augments the high emotional points of the film to a T. Desplat also shares in the film’s Oscar nods with a Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score). But it’s Elisa’s ability to reach out and connect to the Amphibian Man through eggs and jazz music that drives the film on a more visceral, human level. Who can’t relate to the power of finding connection? What makes this connection especially powerful, however, is not only the abuse the two lovers have endured prior to connecting, but it’s also important to note the film is set up against the “no prisoners taken,” “shoot first ask questions later,” Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Directives are given and orders are to be carried out. Or else.

Fortunately, Elisa only works there. But she’s not immune. While she’s a low-level “cleaning woman”  who seems to enjoy hot baths, boiled eggs and exploring her sexuality (and not necessarily in that order either) as much if not more than her occupation, she does witness the Amphibian Man being abused. Surprisingly though she’s not alone as she has well-developed relationships with her co-worker, Zelda, portrayed by Octavia Spencer, and her neighbor, Giles, portrayed by Richard Jenkins.  Both actors received Oscar nods for their performances with Spencer receiving a nod for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and Jenkins getting a nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.


Another dynamic deserving of attention is the exquisite and remarkable aqua-marine color palette utilized in the film’s production design. Yes, the film received a nod for Best Achievement in Production Design for the team of Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin. Throughout the film, clips from 1950’s sit-coms are diagetically placed on set via television sets. Norman Vincent Peale’s best selling self-help book, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” is subtly intertwined in a conversation with Michael Shannon’s somewhat diabolical and altogether sadistic character, civilian Richard Strickland, who oversees and is charged with carrying out the US military’s research on the Amphibian man and his superior to great affect.


I would feel amiss at this point if I didn’t mention the film’s Oscar nominations not previously noted: Best Original Screenplay for Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor; Best Achievement in Cinematography, Dan Laustsen; Best Achievement in Costume Design, Sequeira; Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira; Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Christian T. Cooke, Glen Gauthier and Brad Zoern; and, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Sidney Wolinsky.

This is a wonderful film. Admittedly, it was my “early” (before Oscar nominations were announced) film of the year as I originally watched the film over the holidays on a date. Highly recommended!

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (McDonagh, 2017): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh’s tragic, dark comedy about a rural Missouri woman, Mildred Hayes, who becomes frustrated with the local authorities’ ability to solve the murder of her daughter, continues its impressive run this award season garnering three Actor Awards at the SAG-AFTRA Screen Actors Guild Awards – Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell) and Best Ensemble Cast. These accolades come on top of four Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay (McDonagh), Best Dramatic Film, Best Actress (McDormand) and Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell). And, it doesn’t stop there. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, received seven Oscar nominations – Best Picture, Best Actress (McDormand), Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell and Woody Harrelson), Best Original Musical Score (Carter Burwell), Best Original Screenplay (McDonagh) and Best Film Editing (Jon Gregory). The Oscars, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is scheduled for March 4, 2018.

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' BAFTA film screening, New York, USA - 05 Nov 2017
Writer/Director Martin McDonagh

Playwright/Director McDonagh penned and directed the film starring veteran actress Frances McDormand (Fargo, Almost Famous, Moonrise Kingdom) as Mildred Hayes. McDormand turns in a spectacular performance as does Sam Rockwell as a small-town, racist, law enforcement officer who still lives with his mother. They both have plenty of support with moving diatribes from Woody Harrelson as Chief of Police, William Willoughby, Peter Dinklage as the local pool hall hustler, Caleb Landry Jones as billboard advertiser Red Welby, and Lucas Hedges as Mildred’s son. In addition, Abbie Cornish and Zeljko Ivanek turn in a few memorable moments as Anne Willoughby and the Police Desk Sergeant. Hats off to Sarah Finn for her casting. But it’s McDonagh’s dialogue that allows the characters to deliver deep emotional pitches. And, in my opinion, therein lies the magic of the film.

The film opens with MIldred, a woman in her 50’s driving down a country road to a non-diagetic operatic score from Carter Burwell signalling Three Billboards is not an ordinary, run-of-the-mill rural yarn. Far from it. Tragedy and a sense of forlorn are in the air as Mildred seems to notice for the first time three well worn billboards faded and tattered with the words “EBBING BILLBOARD ADVERTISING.” She slows to a stop reverses direction and the camera shows the three billboards in unison as they stretch across the horizon and into the distance as if tombstones.

From here the film follows Mildred as she places three large advertisements that catch the attention of the local media and the entire community – “RAPED WHILE DYING,”   “AND STILL NO ARRESTS?” and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?” With the community on edge, tensions rise as Rockwell’s character, Officer Dixon, takes matters into his own hands first to defend his Chief and later to bring justice to Mildred and her family. Rockwell’s physicalities are spot-on and his performance makes a powerful case for an Oscar. Meanwhile, Mildred is facing the fallout from the community and McDormand delivers a powerful, emotionally-moving performance embodying the anger, fear and frustration of a rural Missouri woman who is seeking answers – who is demanding answers. Along the way, various situations and scene work allow the cast considerable room to stretch and flex their acting chops. This is only one tidbit of the tasty treats inside Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Surprisingly, the film comes is at an hour and fifty-five minutes. The run time is deceptive as the dialogue is sharp, albeit somewhat repetitive, and it allows the characters to deliver subtle nuances in their respective deliveries. An often overlooked component in film is the mise-en-scene, its variations of imagery and what it translates with its cinematic language. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, pokes and prods the viewer while McDonagh’s writing and the cast performances continuously reel in the audience. In the end, the film does seem to ask more questions than it really answers. And that’s not such a bad thing in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Highly recommended.


Film Review: Phantom Thread (Anderson, 2017): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Paul Thomas Anderson’s (There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, The Master) latest addition to an already strong body of work lifts his art and craft to a higher level with the film, Phantom Thread. Starring standout British actor (though he resides in New York) and three-time, Leading Actor Academy Award Winner, Daniel Day-Lewis, as a fastidious and renowned, 1950′ British dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock, Phantom Thread is essentially a traditional romantic piece delivering a sweet twist.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville as Reynolds Woodcock and his sister, Cyril, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.

In addition to Day-Lewis, up-and-coming actress Vicky Krieps (Pitter Patter Goes My Heart) holds her own and then some as Day-Lewis’s onscreen counterpart, Alma, a waitress who first becomes Woodcock’s mistress and eventually his wife. Throughout the film Alma is portrayed  as Woodcock’s undoubted muse and unrelinquished lover. In addition to Krieps and Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread features the talented and award winning British stage and screen actress, Lesley Manville (Another Year, Topsy-Turvy) as Reynolds’ icy sister, Cyril. Cyril is the business manager of the dressmaking House of Woodcock. All three deliver mesmerizing acting performances as a sorted macabre triumvirate. Day-Lewis, considered by many to be the greatest living actor and known for his role-immersive approach to acting, made an announcement this would be his last film due to being overly straught emotionally with sadness from his work in Phantom Thread.

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Phantom Thread Director, Paul Thomas Anderson.

Anderson, an American filmmaker, wrote, directed and, is also listed as Director Of Photography, (uncredited) on IMDb. Anderson delivers an exquisite Phantom Thread mise-en-scene aided immensely by Mark Tildesley’s lovely production design brings to fruition the 1950’s London interior. Johnny Greenwood delivers a composite musical score augmenting the delicate moments the film offers up while affectively accentuating the darker moments. Along with Day-Lewis and Manville, both Greenwood and Tildesley hail from Great Britain.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.

However, the real treat of the film is to watch Day-Lewis channel Woodcock’s couturier passion and artistry. Woodcock has developed a habit, steeped in female superstition, of stitching secret messages into his creations. Taught by his mother and with an astute attention to detail and uncompromising approach to design, Woodcock creates original masterpieces reflecting his commitment and energy. One especially charged scenes has Woodcock, in pursuit, creating a dress for Alma as part of the romantic courtship process. Before becoming Mrs. Woodcock, Alma would first become a fashion model and a integral part of Woodcock’s stable of seamstresses under the watchful eye of Woodcock and his sister, Cyril.

Daniel Day-Lewis, left, and Vicky Krieps in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread

While Phantom Thread lacks a traditional Hollywood narrative structure, it stands proudly on its own as an art cinema film. Anderson’s stylistic choices include a non-linear narrative structure employing the use of flashback. One technique I found particularly interesting is his crafty use of the journalistic interview. The ambiguous ending left not a trace of doubt to the film’s art cinema characteristics and trademark values. As for the director’s intent, I speculate some self-reflexivity with the director’s first two initials, P.T., being the first letters in the film’s title, Phantom Thread. Anderson’s long-time (since 2001), relationship partner is actress and comedian, Maya Rudolph.

While Phantom Thread may be difficult for some to follow due to its non-linear structure, it delivers an exquisite reflection on the art of romantic relationship through a 1950’s London dressmaker vehicle. The film’s run time is a little heavy at 130 minutes. Yet, it is not tiring. Rather, it is majestic. One of the year’s best films. Highly recommended.