San Francisco's main thoroughfare was transformed into the corner of Hollywood and 'Vine Ness' when the San Francisco International Film Festival celebrated its own awards season at the Regency Center. Swoonable actor Jeremy Irons popped over from across the pond, adorable animator John Lasseter zipped over from across the Bay, multidimensional screenwriter Stephen Gaghan hopped up from LA, and precocious indie filmmaker Richard Linklater eased over from Austin, all to accept ovations and crystal trophies from a quartet of distinguished presenters. For celeb-shy SF, the evening was an exercise in posting, tweeting, and 'gramming - can you get Parker Posey and Zooey Deschanel in the same shot? Is Jeremy Irons as alluring as he seems on screen? Did John Lasseter wear a black-tie aloha shirt? (Yes, YES, and thankfully no.) The evening began high up in the Regency Lodge, a gothic revival paneled steampunk set that originally was used for Masonic initiations. Guests were instructed to dress in "Hollywood Glamour," which provided plenty of room for interpretation, particularly if you take a cue from Linklater's "Slacker." Fortunately, more men opted for black tie, dinner jackets, or suits, while women used the occasion to show off some sparkle or at least some clavicle. A seated dinner was served in the Regency Ballroom, where long white-draped tables gleamed with dark green foliage, lemons, silver candles, and an abundance of white phaleonopsis orchids by stealth party designer Helen Hilton Raiser. (Who knew? We did!) Taste Catering's delectable dinner was equally cinematic, with an English Pea soup and Parmesan Bread Pudding sandwich nodding to Irons' early assignment as the French Lieutenant, followed by Chicken Breast with Broccoli Pesto and spring vegetables presumably to counteract the camera's purported five pounds onscreen, followed by alternate plates of coconut and chocolate desserts, both gluten free, which prompted a agents' round of negotiations and exchanges not unlike the studio contracts of yore.
Once dinner was underway, the evening was introduced by new Executive Director Noah Cowan, who emphasized the focus was to raise funds for the San Francisco Film Society's three initiatives: to inspire youth through education, engage audiences through exhibition, and support filmmakers through residencies and that all-important remuneration. And then the star spotting began, enhanced by the cool cats in the 'house' band of Marc & The Casuals playing snippents of walk-up-to-stage music that gives every awards ceremony its distinctive soundtrack. Perpetually gamine actress Zooey Deschanel presented the Kanbar Screenwriting Award to Stephen Gaghan, referencing his out-of-sequence timeline for "Traffic," his interwoven plots for "Syriana," and his love of intrigue and complexity. A film reel of clips of Gaghan's films includes a throwback-Thursday-worthy scene of Deschanel in the 2002 film "Abandon." He noted that earlier in the day, a group of Lowell High film students had asked him about the hardest part of writing, which he conceded was, "Starting." (True, that.) Comedian Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf in "Frozen," presented the George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award to head of Disney Imagineering John Lasseter, noted for his genre-breaking direction of the "Toy Story" films, "A Bug' Life," "Cars,"and producer credits for Pixar's "Finding Nemo," " Wall-E," "Up," and "Brave," and Disney's "Frozen, among many others. Lasseter spoke about the founding of Pixar and the mentorship of founder George Lucas and then Steve Jobs, and how the Bay Area culture of innovation and technology was essential for his work, which he hoped was 'deeply entertaining.' "Anywhere else they would say, 'that's not the way we do things,' he enthused. "Here they say, 'go for it!'" Indie actress Parker Posey introduced director Richard Linklater for the Founder's Directing Award in memory of Irving Levin, noting that her on-set blog for "Dazed and Confused" seeded pranks that followed Linklater in interviews to this day. Linklater spoke about the importance of freedom and creativity and mentorship, and how films have the potential to have such impact, noting, "Film feels like a primal need we've had for thousands of years, but filtered through a very modern apparatus." And finally Jeremy Irons received the Peter J. Owens Award from Wayne Wang, who directed Irons in the 1997 film, "Chinese Box." Wang kept his introduction short, allowing the reel of Irons' in "Brideshead Revisited," "Reversal of Fortune," "Lolita," and "The Lion King," to fill the room with familiar gasps and sighs. As one would expect of someone trained at the Old Vic, his speech was classically gracious, appreciative, and witty; noting that his award was in the shape of a spike, he quipped, "Which is what I hope my career does." Later in the evening, we asked him privately if he prefers to play characters who are good or evil. With the arch of an eyebrow, he replied, "Well, I don't really know the difference." Too bad the cameras weren't rolling for that classic cameo.
Keeping it reel-to-reel: Gala Chairs Victoria Raiser and Todd Traina, Director Gia Coppola, George Gund IV, Nancy Livingston and Fred Levin, legendary agent Fred Specktor, timeless head-turner Lauren Hutton, Melanie and Larry Blum, major movie mover Maurice Kanbar, Heidi Castelein, Bulgari's movie-star-handsome Daniel Diaz, Susie and Pat McBaine, Priscilla Geeslin, indefatigable Jeannette Etheredge, Randi and Bob Fisher, Nancy Lasseter, Sara and Austin Hills, Donna Huggins, Susan Swig, Alex Fisher, Dagmar Dolby, Natasha and David Dolby, Kathryn and Bo Lasater, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, Leigh Matthes, Jan Yanehiro who is no stranger to the camera, Nathan Turner, Katie Traina, Amanda Todd, Deepa Pakanathian in costume-worthy McQueen, Allison Speer, Leslie and Nick Podell, Stephanie Plexico, Alec Perkins, Mary Pang, Ivan Bekichev, the Battery's Xochi Birch, Denise Bradley-Tyson, the Astaire-debonair Alex Chases, Serena Fairchild, Elizabeth Fullerton, Tamara Brown, Lynn Hale, Holly Ruxin, Leslie Berriman and Nion McEvoy, and a whole host of cinephiles who favored the film fest fete for a fine flash of fame.