Santa Barbara Int’l Film Fest: Last stop before Oscar gold

Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea
Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams will be honored with the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Fest’s Cinema Vanguard Award today for Manchester by the Sea

In the ancient entertainment industry ritual known as the Awards Season, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is the last stop along the Oscar pilgrimage.

The festival falls after the Oscar nominations are announced but before the deadline for Motion Picture Academy members cast their ballots.

Added bonus: Many of the Academy members live permanently or have second homes in Santa Barbara — the picture-perfect, sunny California beachside community, conveniently located just 90 minutes north of Los Angeles. (Unlike Sundance and its Park City locale, the last time Santa Barbara had snow was the Ice Age.)

The talent line-up for the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival speaks volumes of the outsized influence this smallish city of 88,000 residents has on the Academy Awards.

Scheduled to appear at this year’s fest, running through Saturday, February 11, are Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Dev Patel, Janell Monae, Ruth Nega , Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Isabelle Hupert.

In other words, pretty much all the actors in serious contention for a Best or Supporting Actor Oscar nod.

Sundance and Telluride film festivals are the standard bearers for indie cinema. Cannes, Toronto, Venice and Berlin get far more international attention.

But for the race for Oscar gold, there is no important film festival than Santa Barbara’s.

Stay tuned for more coverage of SBIFF, live from the American Riviera.

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