2009 SBIFF Montecito Award and Tribute to Kate Winslet

Reviewed by William Conlin at The Santa Barbara Film Festival.

On the second night of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the 2009 Montecito award was presented to Kate Winslet, star of The Reader and Revolutionary Road.

I was fortunate enough to be on the Red Carpet with Mrs. Winslet and saw firsthand how enchanting she truly is. Many of the reporters and cameramen on the press line lost their train of thought and simply said “You look beautiful tonight,” to which she would flash her incredible smile and laugh.

After entering The Arlington Theater, Mrs. Winslet was ushered on stage while the audience roared with applause. Interviewer Leonard Maltin invited Mrs. Winslet to take a seat and when she saw herself being projected on the screen she jumped out of her seat crying: “Oh no! It’s a large version of me!”

Leonard Maltin’s questions for Mrs. Winslet were, like most of his interviews, engaging and informative. During the retrospective, clips from 9 of Mrs. Winslet’s films were presented, ranging from the mega-blockbuster Titanic to Mrs. Winslet’s first film Heavenly Creatures. She discussed working with Peter Jackson, her relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, and how she mastered the style of period films.

After her interview, Festival Director Roger Durling spoke for a moment about how big a fan of Mrs. Winslet’s he is, then introduced actor Bill Nighy to present her award. Bill Nighy’s introduction was not only genuine but also highly amusing. He recalled a time where he was flying with Mrs. Winslet, who, terrified by turbulence, began to hold his hand. At that time Bill Nighy began to pray for turbulence.

Mrs. Winslet’s acceptance speech was short, but extremely sweet. She stated that she loves what she does and is extremely grateful to have the life she enjoys. As she finished her speech the audience sprang to its feet and gave Mrs. Winslet a standing ovation.

Earlier that evening on the red carpet, I asked Leonard Maltin who his Oscar picks for the year were. Without hesitation he immediately stated Kate Winslet for The Reader. If Leonard Maltin and the Arlington audience are any sign, I think Mrs. Winslet has the Academy Award locked.

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