By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 5, 2010 at 2:40AM
I'm in Santa Barbara for its 25th film fest: 196 films, 18 world premieres, 28 U.S. premieres and a program from 45 countries. The festival runs through Sunday, Feb. 14. Per usual, I'm ensconced in a twee bungalow at the Simpson House--sweet muffins on arrival, Laura Ashley decor, fringed pillows and lamp shades, white venetian blinds, stone fireplace, hot tub, soft bed, classical music.
The fest starts off Thursday night with the world premiere of Flying Lessons, from rookie director Derek Magyar. Shot locally in the Santa Ynez Valley, the film stars Christine Lahti, Hal Holbrook and Lost's Maggie Grace.
Friday brings Sandra Bullock's American Riviera Award. Pete Hammond does the honors, while Leonard Maltin will interview Saturday night's Modern Master, James Cameron. Santa Barbara, like Palm Springs, is timed perfectly to lure Oscar contenders eager to woo the town's many Academy voters. Other nominees getting feted in one way or another include Kathryn Bigelow, Jeff Bridges, Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidibe, Vera Farmiga, Colin Firth, Christoph Waltz, Stanley Tucci, and The Cove director Louie Psihoyos.
Saturday morning I'll conduct my annual writers panel: eight writers talking details about their craft, Inglourious Basterds' Quentin Tarantino (yellow pads and #2 pencils), Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), Up's Pete Docter (the Pixar method), Up in the Air's Jason Reitman (sans Sheldon Turner), Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated), Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek), Scott Neustadter (500 Days of Summer) and Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious). It's my idea of a good time.
Saturday night I'll not cover Cameron in favor of returning to L.A. for the USC Scripter Awards, which I voted on for the first time this year. I've heard it's worth attending.