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Countdown to Oscars

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
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I was sick with food poisoning yesterday, so I am only now getting around to writing up the exciting events of Monday night, when the Santa Barbara International Film Festival honored Geoffrey Rush with its Montecito Award for his outstanding body of work (previous honorees have included Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Javier Bardem, Kate Winslet, and Julianne Moore) and Rush and his co-stars from “The King’s Speech” with its inaugural Best Ensemble Award.

The two-hour ceremony began with a montage of highlights from Rush’s three-plus decades of work. (He is one of only 25 people to have snagged an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony.), Then, the Australian actor took the stage, was greeted with a loud standing ovation, and participated in an extensive Q&A with film critic Pete Hammond, during which he remarked upon everything from his good fortune (for many years he just hoped to find work in Australia, and was as shocked as anyone to be thrust into an international career at the age of 45 by his Oscar-winning performance in “Shine” [1996]) to his new Australian stamp (“For just 55 cents you can lick my back… it used to cost a helluva lot more!”). Finally, Colin Firth, an SBIFF honoree last year, took the stage to present the actual award to Rush, and — as you can see in the video below — both made it quite clear that their on-screen bromance in “The King’s Speech” closely resembles their off-screen affection for one another.

Moments later, festival director Roger Durling came out and urged the audience to stick around for just a few more minutes for a special presentation: the festival’s first-ever Best Ensemble Award. Then, out came “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper — last week’s DGA Award winner, and therefore the favorite to win the best director Oscar later this month — who was flanked by Firth, Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter, the three principal members of his SAG best ensemble award-winning cast, and who also paid tribute to some of its senior members who were unable to join them that night, including Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, and Claire Bloom (who, he chuckled, made all of them just “one degree removed from Charlie Chaplin“). Carter took the microphone to accept the award — in her inimitable way — on behalf of the group, and with that the evening’s victory lap for “The King’s Speech” — at the end of a week or so period in which the film won top honors from the PGA, DGA, and SAG, and also generated a field-leading 12 Oscar nominations — came to a close.

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