Skipping the Festival

After five years of faithful attendance at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival I am prepared to let it pass me by this year. Part of the reason is the lackluster quality of the films I have seen the last two years. For several years, festival entries dotted, and even topped, my Top Ten lists; the last two years, nada. Some films, like the one about the Chinese bicyclist, have been excruciatingly bad. Furthermore, if there is a film that people generally rave about, there’s a good chance that it will open commercially: this certainly was the case in 2013, as I caught Caesar Must Die (excellent), The Sapphires (mediocre) and Hannah Arendt (disappointing) in the months that followed.
Second is the experience itself. Why show up an hour early to get a number, sit in a grubby theater (Metro 4) in a packed house, often in the front row or two, and in place of trailers have to watch the same tired Film Festival lead-in? Even worse are Opening and Closing Nights, when the line at the Arlington snakes around the block, all for a movie that, if good, you will be able to walk into with no wait a month or three later. The price may not be significant, but it, too, doesn’t favorably compare to films in commercial release.
I like the buzz, it’s good for the community, it can be fun running into people and talking to strangers in line, and I may miss the scene. But for one year, I will see if I can do without it.

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