Posted by heatherjenosilva on:
While the term "virtuoso" is usually applied in a musical context, surely it can be stretched to include theatrical talent in the case of Carey Mulligan (An Education), Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria), Saiorse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), all recipients of the Virtuoso Awards at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Lobero on Sunday evening. And since the line-up (which was also supposed to include first-timer Gabourey Sidibe of Precious who ended up canceling her appearance) was certainly female-laden, virtuoso could also in this case be synonymous with "ingenue." While the composed Stuhlbarg easily held his own in a veritable sea of flashing legs in short dresses and 5-inch heels (we'll talk about the fashion later, a somewhat unrelated but unquestionably important element of the evening's glamour), the glaring youth and perfectly coiffed female actors were naturally riveting in a virtuoso kind of way.
Moderated by Entertainment Weekly editor Sean Smith, the awards featured each actor speaking with Smith individually on stage and then together as a panel. One by one, the actresses ascended the stage stairs, climbed tentatively onto the tall director's chair next to Smith and then politely fidgeted with their dresses (some flashy in sequins, others more demure in silk and I couldn't even tell you what Stuhlbarg was wearing) as to not flash the audience. Smith then pitched softball questions to the actors ("Do you feel like there are good roles for women today? What was it like working with Peter Jackson/Cohen Brothers/Stanley Tucci? How did you prepare for this role? What's the best advice you've ever received? What's the worst audition you ever had?") to varying degrees of articulation and adroitness. For the most part, all of the actors receiving awards were thoughtful about their answers, replying with a candidness (or at least skillfully rehearsed sincerity) and self-awareness that emboldened their charm. Stuhlberg, with a strong background in theatre, spun his own brand of appeal through a quiet stage presence (and a revelation that he briefly studied with Marcel Marceau).
The evening ended with a somewhat incoherent but entertaining presentation by local celeb Anthony Zerbe, whom SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling assured everyone would recognize from the movie The Matrix. Zerbe quoted a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, rambled briefly about the aptness of the title virtuoso and then bestowed the awards upon the 4-actor panel as a grand finale to the evening. The best part? Listening to actors you admire intelligently articulate their craft and love of their profession without rubbing in the fact that their shoes cost more than my monthly car payment.