With the Academy Awards ceremony in doubt because of the writers strike, sighting movie stars on the red carpet is becoming an endangered sport.
Organizers of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival -- which started Thursday and continues through Feb. 3 -- promise that Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett and Marion Cotillard, fresh from their wins at the Jan. 13 Golden Globes nonevent, will make an appearance.
The festival packs a 220-film schedule with premieres, panels and parties. Sessions devoted to nature, extreme sports, Asian, Latino and Eastern European cinema should satisfy the craving for uncommon fare. With the labor dispute as a backdrop, the screenwriter panel should prove as lively as it is informational.
Passes range from the four- and 12-film Mini Pak ($36 and $102) to the Platinum Pass ($1,600) for all screenings, panels, tributes and parties. Passes and individual tickets for tributes are available in person at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St. in Santa Barbara), online at www.lobero.com/calendar/sbiff2008/ or by phone at (888) 456-2376. The Arlington Theatre box office at 1317 State St. also sells the Mini Paks.
You'll be in the thick of the action if you book a stay at the Hotel Santa Barbara ( www.hotelsantabarbara.com). The State Street property hosts the festival headquarters and is within walking distance of theaters and venues. The hotel offers a five-night stay, deluxe accommodations and continental breakfast and dinner credit at Bouchon or Opal restaurants for $1,069 including tax for two. Contact Nadine Turner at (888) 259-7700 or e-mail email@example.com for details and reservation.
For more information, go to www.sbfilmfestival.org.