Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Editor’s note: With Darling Companion opening this week in limited release, we thought we’d unleash Dustin’s review from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, originally posted on January 30, for you to take a bite out of. Woof. The opening night film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has always been a walk-away; generally an under-cooked indie with no distribution and little shot at getting into general theaters. So why kick a film when it’s down? There’s not a lot of value in heaping negative criticism on a new filmmaker who will likely go on to bigger and better things with more experience. That said, the 27th year of Santa Barbara’s festival brought a heavyweight opening night player in writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasdan, and his Sony Pictures Classics distributed Darling Companion. Basically, fair game. Darling Companion is the story of Beth Winters (Diane Keaton), her spine surgeon husband Joseph (Kevin Kline), and the dog that  brings them together. Or at least, it tries to be about them while clumsily pulling viewers into unnecessary side stories that aren’t particularly interesting. The film suffers on every level, but prominent among its faults is an odd pace that steals away any reason to invest in any of the characters, the spotty narrative, or the wholly expected and unsatisfying ending.

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I love sushi. Not just the taste, but the overall experience. For me, sushi is an event – there is ceremony, pageantry, and tradition that I love and respect but know is beyond me historically. It is the only eating experience that, when I receive what will always be a rather expensive bill, I’m not even sort of guilty. To me, that would be the equivalent of feeling bad for paying to see fine art, or an amazing live show. In many ways I consider myself a sushi purist; I avoid rolls with sauces and tempura-covered-whatever, and you can kindly spare me the cream cheese. Nigiri and sashimi are my presentations of choice, and I never stray. One of the vital things, to me, about the sushi experience is giving deference to the sushi chef. When I was in Japan many years ago in a hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant with six seats, I was set straight by the not-so-jolly chef behind the immaculately clean counter. Everything was made clear via pantomime, but I gathered quickly what sushi etiquette was all about. He did not offer soy sauce, or wasabi, and I wasn’t allowed to point at anything  in request. He took my cash before seating me, and began serving whatever he so desired – and it was heavenly. Before I stood to leave he raised his eyebrows inquisitively – I enthusiastically nodded my thanks, at which point he produced a barely-friendly grunt and stepped away through the kitchen door. A master […]

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