Barbara Singer


For all those in the know, Santa Barbara is one of Southern California’s most beloved beach cities. This city lives up to its reputation for great wine and food, beach bliss and the love of films. Now in its 33 year the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) shines on with great spirit rising above recent fire tragedy, as crowds turned out to welcome film lovers from around the world. I moved here for the destination and my passion for films adding this year as my 13th SBIFF.

SBIFF’s Executive Director, Roger Durling has a vision, which continues to emerge year after year as he encourages film buffs to mix and mingle and make new friends.

With red carpet in place and cameras flashing at the historic Arlington Theatre, the 33rd SBIFF got under way with a new film opener by Emilio Estevez as writer, director and actor called “The Public,” centering on a group of homeless people in the dead of winter, who take refuge from the cold in the Cincinnati public library. Cast members Alec Baldwin and Jenna Malone and others took center stage with Emilio Estevez, even his dad Martin Sheen stopped in.

The annual tributes included a spectacular evening honoring Gary Oldman, the Maltin Modern Master Award, for his accomplishments in cinema reflecting on his outstanding performance in “The Darkest Hour” as Winston Churchill.

Oldman has had an extraordinary career; however, this performance with his incredible make up stands on its own. Another tribute went to Willem Dafoe, an actor with his career playing distinctive characters, he garnered the Cinema Vanguard Award.

Irish actress Saoirse Ronan was well deserving of the Santa Barbara Award, while making another milestone film this year with a realistic performance in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird”, she is not a stranger to the SBIFF arriving at cinematic achievement in past years with awards as Outstanding Performance of the year (“Brooklyn”) and a recognized Virtuoso. SBIFF welcomed actor Sam Rockwell with the American Rivera Award; he was a strong force in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which has received strong accolades this Oscar season. Rockwell, a versatile actor, has 99 films to his credit.

Even if it’s just ten days out of the year, it’s worth the visit during the SBIFF for an opportunity to view over 200 films in endless genres including: crime, food and wine, documentaries, features from many countries, nature reels, shorts, student films and talks with filmmakers. Going to the movies just got better at the SBIFF, because everyone talks about the films and meeting new people. The locals are foodies, so Screen Cuisine is popular, I was moved by the French wine film “Back to Burgundy,” focusing on a wine growing family by Director Cedric Klapisch. I couldn’t help thinking about wonderful wines in Beaune while looking down on vineyards from an air balloon and scouting Dijon for wine and mustard.

Outstanding Performers of the Year honorees were the duo Margot Robbie and Allison Janney in a show stopping performance as daughter and mother in “I Tonya.” This high-strung relationship in the story of figure skater Tonya Harding and her involvement in an attack on her competitor, based on the true story. Janney has achieved numerous awards for this role. Margo Robbie’s company produced the film. Janney, who is best known for her award-winning role on West Wing, shared that while growing up she longed to be a figure skater. As always SBIFF tributed guests go on to win Oscars for their work.

Taking a break from a full day of films, more than once, I head to the waterfront for lunch in The Funk Zone by the pier. Here is a wine lover’s paradise with some of the best wineries along the Central Coast and friendly tasting rooms open with multifaceted wines to savor. It’s a welcoming spot for friends, locals and tourists to hang out. I especially favor the Santa Barbara Winery and their award winning Chardonnay. It’s walkable here to the wineries, restaurants, art galleries located in converted warehouses and buildings decorated with graffiti.

If you are longing for the taste of fresh fish, you are in the right place near Santa Barbara’s waterfront. Stop by The Fishouse for an unforgettable lunch or dinner. Must try the macadamia nut sea bass and freshly cooked clam chowder.

More fish cross over to Stearns Wharf and head to Moby Dick overlooking the water or a short jaunt to the Harbor for one of my all-time favorites Brophy Bros.

Brophy Brothers Seafood & Clam Restaurant dine in or outside and try the crab cakes, seafood pasta and the mahi mahi.

Much revered is the historic landmark and pillar of the community Mission Santa Barbara. It’s what brought me here to Santa Barbara, founded the same day as my birthday with my name in the title, it was fortuitous that my home is located on the street leading to the mission. Known as the Queen of the Missions, there are 21 California Missions, I had visited here time and time again before moving here. The Mission remains an active Franciscan parish with its beautiful rose gardens and year round activities locals and visitors are drawn here for art, music and fiesta dances. A yearly favorite is the Madonnari paintings in pastel of masterpieces below the church steps.

As the SBIFF ended, it reflected city pride with Santa Barbara filmmakers showcasing local documentaries: behind the scenes of events meaningful to Santa Barbara. It tapped into the summer Solstice Parade, the unforgettable Cascarones creators for Fiesta (confetti filled decorated eggshells); the trials and tribulations of a local businessman and restaurant owner of the East Beach Grill and a young Oxnard Channel swimmer. Two things are certain: Santa Barbara is a perfect destination with lots of things to do, fun at the waterfront, shopping at Paseo Nuevo, great museums and theatre and outdoor activities galore and the SBIFF is a great film festival with new films, top celebrities, gala opening party and plenty of movie talk. The California sun shines on Santa Barbara everyday during SBIFF.

Find out more information:  – check here for the festival films and winners, Visit Santa Barbara


You can get right into the holiday spirit in The Rockies of Colorado Springs, Colorado since it is cool, crisp and often snowy at this time.

It was my first choice to bring in the New Year here in the Pike’s Peak region 6,035 feet above sea level with the dynamic rocky-mountain setting.

Old Colorado Springs celebrated its old fashioned holidays with parade and festive street decorations, while downtown Colorado Springs had its tradition Festival of Lights Parade.

My plans were set for an exquisite holiday getaway at the pride and joy

of Colorado Springs, AAA’s Five Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide’s Five-Star longest running consecutive award-winning and “Grand Dame,” The Broadmoor.  It was created and built in 1918 by Spencer and Julie Penrose, who gave so much to the city, including this world-class resort set on 300 acres on Lake Cheyenne.


The Broadmoor is where luxury meets The Rockies. Every one of my visits here have been a timeless pleasure, yet none as beautiful as the holiday season. In its tradition the hotel is generously decorated in all public areas augmented by the culinary masterpiece Ginger Bread House in the lobby. No doubt about it the night lights twinkling on the trees, with its 150,000 lights, are magical and mesmerizing.

When it comes to The Broadmoor, the experience begins on arrival at the airport with their welcoming booth. They were expecting me and greeted me warmly, then whisked me away to the resort for some quality time during the last days of the old year with anticipation of the

New Year.

It was easy to relax in a welcoming suite that was innovatively styled with one touch system controls and lake view, which I loved. I looked forward to early morning strolls around the lake. Here there are many dining options and it is a way of live to eat, drink and be merry. The ultimate in fine dining is consistent at the historic Penrose Room; however, I do favor the chic Summit Restaurant, a French bistro with an American touch and classic dishes. If the Broadmoor’s walls could talk, they would reminisce over the many Presidents, celebrities, entrepreneurs and persons of interest that have savored the lifestyle and plush dynamics of this all-inclusive resort during the decades.


My wish list on my short sojourn included a day at The Broadmoor Spa for my favorite Hot Rocks Massage; this is the place to kick back, relax and renew with treatments galore, refreshing indoor pool and comfy lounge- a time to forget all cares. Late afternoon, it was shopping time in those stunning fashion boutiques, where I indulged in some jewelry and knitwear while taking advantage of the winter sales.


Sure, it’s effortless to spend every moment at The Broadmoor and never leave the resort, yet there is a curiosity to visit Downtown Colorado Springs. The temperature was brisk and fine for walking and to stop by

Acacia Park to watch the ice skaters in the middle of the city. Through

December there are holiday events like: holiday afternoon tea, Colorado

Springs Philharmonic concerts, a train excursion to Pike’s Peak on the Cog Railway with Mr. and Mrs. Santa, sleigh rides and round the city holiday performances.

New Year’s Eve in Colorado Springs draws the crowds downtown for entertainment and music broadcasted on large screens plus fireworks.

The Broadmoor delights with its year New Year’s Eve gala and offers a special NYE package with overnight visit, dinner and party. The New

Year’s Eve party was sensational with orchestra and entertainment, joined by visitors from near and far. My New Year’s sojourn here is what memories are made of, those moments have stay with me through the year. Georgia O’Keefe once said, “If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it-it’s your world for the moment.”

Colorado Springs has its own year round style, check out or call Colorado Springs CVB at 800-888-4748.

Find out everything about The Broadmoor at or call 855-634-7711.   Happy New Year!





While most of the nation is knee deep in ice, snow and freezing rain, the unsurpassed place to be is Santa Barbara, California in sunny, superb weather. This picturesque seaside resort offers endless pleasures highlighted by its awesome annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), now in its 29th year and just weeks before the Oscars, recently tributed Oscar notables for 2014: Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, Cate Blanchett, Bruce Dern, Robert Redford and more.

Opening night kicked off the SBIFF with anticipation and excited fans. ECO friendly Santa Barbara welcomed renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle to introduce her documentary “Mission Blue” to raise awareness of ocean underwater disasters.
Joined by directors Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon, Ms. Earle is dedicated to preserving oceans for posterity. Festival tributes followed with an evening for Best Director David O. Russell (“American Hustle”) and award-winning actress Cate Blanchett received Outstanding Performance Award for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.” She told everyone,“It was confronting and excruciating and terrifying and hilarious and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
In Santa Barbara, the lifestyle is casual with high style events paced with sophistication. Of all the events in the city, the SBIFF is the most special and quite accessible, you can hob nob with Oscar contenders, view up to 200 films, premieres and Oscar nominated pics and attend industry panels represented by writers, producers and directors of the top movies. Banners and searchlights draw crowds to The Arlington Theatre, the historic and beloved venue in Santa Barbara.
On any given day, it’s the place to meet people from every US state and numerous countries of the world; everyone on State Street is talking about films. The SBIFF has the knack of bringing people together to gab about what they saw and what they will see. When film buffs are not in the theatres between 8 am and 10 pm, there’s plenty of seaside fun and sights to see. There’s time to enjoy sailing, fishing, kayaking, whale watching or dining at the Santa Barbara Harbor. Nearby is the popular Funk Zone with wineries, designers, art galleries and more to explore. A must see is the Mission Santa Barbara and the historic Courthouse for photo opportunities.
Red Carpet evenings are always dazzling, especially when Santa Barbara’s esteemed resident and superstar, Oprah Winfrey of Montecito, was honored with the Montecito Award for her prolific body of work to a sold out audience. She was greeted with a standing ovation and she followed it with, “I appreciate you all coming out, but really, you could have just come over to my house.” She noted that it was an honor to be honored in her hometown and proclaimed, “I love you Santa Barbara.” We all loved her in Lee Daniels,“The Butler, “ and in “The Color Purple.” Another exciting tribute was in recognition of the successful 5 film unique collaboration of director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, the Cinema Vanguard Award, which represents their fearless and uncompromising work.
So what’s a feast for a film festival? Not only were there celebrities in Santa Barbara, its restaurants, wineries and hotels were stars of the Santa Barbara Film Feast. Savoring here were the best plates, wines and special packages combining lodging, film tickets and restaurants. More than 36 prix-fixe menus offered memorable tastes of 3 courses before or after films. Some of my favorites were great food at Paradise Café, Olio e Limon Ristorante, Blue Agave, Santa Barbara Winery and Grassini Family Vineyards tasting room; plenty to pick and chose. Santa Barbarans like to eat and see films about food. They watched “Make Hummas Not War,” “Cesar’s Grill,” and “A Year in Champagne.”

Forever handsome Robert Redford, who grew up in California, was in Santa Barbara to receive the American Rivera Award for his major impact on American film. Redford admitted,” I spent a lot of time in Santa Barbara, surfing and spending time in the mountains. You all in Santa Barbara have a wonderful community and this festival… well, I’m just happy to be a part of it. I take this honor very seriously and with humility.” He was recognized for his amazing performance in “All is Lost” and so many others, as well as his lifelong mentoring of filmmakers at his Sundance Institute, named for his breakout role as the Sundance Kid. Welcoming Redford to the SBIFF was a great moment and he received the award from Festival Director Roger Durling.
In the final days of the festival, actor Bruce Dern was honored as a Modern Master for his 50 years in film and “his part of a lifetime” in “Nebraska.” Closing night of the SBIFF was a special evening hailing the popular romantic trilogy: “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and the closing film “Before Midnight.” The director/writer Richard Linklater, actor/writers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke greeted fans and discussed the film after the screening.
The 700 volunteers were again applauded and festival winners were announced:
Panavision Spirit Award Independent Cinema: “Noble” (Ireland)directed by Stephen Bradley and Best International Film Award:”Eastern Boys” (France)directed by Robin Campillo.
See the complete list of winners at
You can be sure that Santa Barbara is a fabulous destination year round, especially during the SBIFF, just refer to Travel and Leisure Magazine, who recognized the city at SBIFF 2014, as a Media Sponsor of the film festival. Find out everything about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at or call 805-963-0023. Film Feast at and about Santa Barbara at See you next year Jan. 15-Feb.1. at SBIFF 2015.

Wild about Branson, Missouri? You should be; it’s positively entertaining. When the sun comes up in the scenic hills of southwest Missouri’s Ozarks, visitors are getting ready for showtime. It’s is all about entertainment, 100’s of shows and there’s never a dull moment. The Branson experience is for all ages and it’s a positive way to celebrate music and mirth from morning to night. Planning takes priority here, since there is so much to do. There’s a small town family atmosphere with friendliness and activities that provide unforgettable moments for family and friends seeking get together vacations to celebrate romance, reunions and special events.

Many options for accommodations fit all budgets; make a deal to fit your budget and lifestyle. Stay and play at Thousand Hills Golf Resort in their luxury 1 & 2 bedroom condos, B & B’s like The Branson House, hotels & motels and inns galore and swanky like the Hilton Branson or Chateau on the Lake. It does take arranging to make each day meaningful, check out the most popular shows, adventures and accommodations and jot down the schedule. You can be as busy as a bee or free to wander and drop-in to shows or theme parks.

My recent visit to Branson was a first for me. Curiosity brought me here after hearing so much about it and I have met many performers, who return yearly like Tony Orlando. Country music gets me going and the tributes to those country favorites inspired my trip. Autumn is so colorful with breathtaking views of rolling hills and three lakes. I am told Christmas is exceptional with special lighting and shows.

No kidding, this was My Typical Branson Day:
Morning breakfast in my spacious condo at Thousand Hills Golf Resort, the large kitchen was a plus for having a bite to eat or a cup of coffee at leisure.

10 A.M. Started my day with A Tribute to John Denver as James Garrett, a friend of John’s, who sang all his hits and shared anecdotes of the late great John Denver. My all time favorite was “Country Roads.”
12 P.M. Lunch break at Branson Landing, the newest waterfront shopping and dining experience. The casual atmosphere and distinctive good food lakeside at Black Oak Grill made it friendly choice. There was even time to drop by some shops and grab a chic new dress to wear out to upcoming shows.
1:30 P.M. Headed up from The Landing to historic downtown Branson for a visit to Dick’s Old Time 5 & 10, the merchandise here is overwhelming with items from times gone by and collectibles that you thought you would never see again at bargains that you wouldn’t believe. There were plenty of antique stores adjacent on this main thoroughfare.
3:30 P.M. A luxury Table Rock Lake cruise on the Show Boat Branson Belle offered another show and three-course dinner. It was a daringly different show MADE IN THE USA, on an Americana paddle boat moving along the Lake as Master magician and comedian Christopher Jones, was an intriguing Master of Ceremonies, joined by aerial violinist Janice Martin and The Showmen Singers, enhanced by breathtaking exterior views of the Ozark Mountains.
8 P.M. Hooray for Hollywood, a nostalgia voyage through the magic of movies and those favorite musicals of all time. Wildly original, it’s been considered the #1 show in Branson with scenes from movies we all know like “My Fair Lady,” “Mary Poppins,” “Singin’ In The Rain,” “Les Miserables,” “The Lion King” and so many more. As film clips grazed the big screen, talented singers and dancers presented a glittering salute and spectacular live performances from those great films. It was a must see for this movie buff and exhilarating to watch top notch dancers with routines from “Flash Dance,” “Footloose,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Fame.”
Our veterans and active military are always honored at every show, there is an ongoing sense of patriotism in Branson. There’s even a Veteran’s Museum,which exhibits wartime items and stories of courageous men and women in the military. Our American flag is prominent in Branson.

You can’t forget our musical legends, as you hear them up close and personal at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre. LEGENDS IN CONCERT is where celebrity look alikes actually sound and perform as Diana Ross, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, The Blues Brothers, Brooks & Dunn with every familiar movement to the last detail. A rotating line-up captures the very essence of their stars you love: Johnny Cash, Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Cher and more surrounded by elaborate sets and effects. Outdoor adventures, another source of Branson entertainment with Zip line, Kayaking, Fly Fishing, Segway tours in Dogwood Canyon Nature Park and more.
A world of adventure and delight is at Silver Dollar City, which continues with Shows plus handicrafts and demonstrations in pottery making, homemade bakery, candy and ice cream delights. A must see here is the Marvel cave a natural wonder 300 feet below the surface with a total of 600 stairs to reach this deep limestone cave. Home-style restaurants galore can be found on the extensive grounds. Also it has its own railway and the Wood Roller Coaster that twists upside down.
Good times can be found at Branson theme parks, water rides, family adventures, caves and caverns, as well as riverboat cruising. One visit to Branson and you are sure to return to see the shows you missed like ABBA, Frankie Valli, The fabulous Twelve Irish Tenors, an Eagles Tribute and all the activities you didn’t have time to experience.

Find out everything about Branson by contacting Branson CVB or Branson/Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention Bureau at 800-296-0463 (toll free) or A few facts about Branson:


100+ live shows
240+ restaurants
Moderate climate with four distinct seasons
Top Industries: Tourism, Healthcare, Retail and Education, Housing/ Real Estate
3 area lakes with hundreds of miles of pristine shoreline


Local airport served by Air Tran, Frontier and Branson Air Express, Southwest Airline

It’s a well know fact that Santa Barbara, California, is hailed as the American Riviera, as well as a great escape; moreover, every winter it is the esteemed location for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. No doubt the 28th SBIFF was the best ever with 13 Oscar nominees tributed or participating. Record crowds packed this illustrious seaside resort for premieres, tributes, films, parties, panel discussions and film feasting, which filled 11 glorious festival days. Everyone was excited about visionary Ben Affleck, the season’s multi-award winner for “Argo” as Santa Barbara named him MODERN MASTER honoree.
Santa Barbara is an amazing city that gears up for its annual SBIFF beginning with festival banners flying along the main thoroughfare State Street; 600 volunteers prepared to launch the festival and its events and opening night marks the first red carpet turn out at the historic Arlington Theatre with spotlights flashing downtown.51e39ae70
The SBIFF is in the city spotlight as the marquee dazzles, paparazzi cameras flash and fans and filmmakers turn out to celebrate the 2013 festival. Opening night was the key to the festival momentum with welcoming remarks from Doug Stone, Chairman of the Board and Festival Director Roger Durling, who has contributed to the powerful recognition of the SBIFF during his 10 years at the helm. Noteworthy,, the festival sponsors Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin make it all happen. Doug Stone has remarked that the SBIFF has made a significant impact on the film industry.First time director Henry Alex Rubin introduced his new film “Disconnect” and cast members. The tradition tented opening night party filled the Paseo Neuvo shopping district with food and wine tastings, music, dancing and festival excitement with décor from the film “The Shining.”
Let the tributes begin….for actor, Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, this year was his year to shine. His film “Argo,” a captivating thriller and story of how a CIA agent poses as a filmmaker to help free American hostages in Iran escape in 1979. He moved from actor to director in the course of the film keeping the sense of truth of the story. It has received raves since it was premièred at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2012 and now on to multi-awards from Golden Globe, Producers Award to BAFTA to Academy Award, Affleck is the man of the hour and the Modern Master of the SBIFF, who claimed it is,” probably a once in a lifetime experience for me.” Film critic Leonard Maltin traversed Affleck’s career. He was surely celebrated in Santa Barbara; on hand his longtime friend, Matt Damon, presented this award with accolades.
In a 90-minute tribute, legendary screenwriter and director Quentin Tarantino took center stage to receive the AMERICAN RIVIERA AWARD, as a fully packedaudience listened intensely to the makings of the genius filmmaker’s journey. He is a man passionate about his craft with honors for his latest script “Django Unchained; he opened up to Los Angeles Times film writer and interviewer Jim Horn and praised the actors, who have brought his characters to life. Audience reaction to clips of his work on “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill 1 & 2”,“Inglorious Basterds” and others, reaffirms the huge respect for his work, even though Tarantino opted to go low key with no red carpet flash. We could well observe that Tarantino was touched by the award and Santa Barbara’s warm reception for his work.
Steven Spielberg’s exceptional film “Lincoln” 2012 was portrayed by extraordinary actor Daniel Day Lewis, two-time Oscar winner with an accomplished film career. He was honored by the SBIFF with the MONTECITO AWARD for his prolific career and vivid portray of Lincoln and the steps he took to pass the 13th Amendment. The son of an English Poet Laureate, this fine actor seemed shy, yet he opened up during an intimate interview and intrigued the audience. His co-star Sally Field presented the coveted award with praise and admiration. The film programming for the SBIFF is always diverse and has something for everyone’s tastes. At any time of the day 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. the crowds line up at The Metro Theatre for thrillers like “The Body,” comedies like “Blumenthal,” documentaries and foreign triumphs like “A Royal Affair” and “Barbara”, shorts, animation and more. This festival promotes nature films, Social Justice films, Student Films 10-10-10.

Industry panels are a big attraction, The Director’s Panel represented the top director’s films up for awards and the Movers and Shakers bring out the major producers, while The Women’s Panel is an inspiration to those women looking to succeed in the film business. All participants have a story and depict their journey to reaching their achievements.
SBIFF’s Executive Director Roger Durling was talking about Amy Adams, when he declared, “She embodies what the CINEMA VANGUARD award is about and after her performance in “The Master,” the time has come to recognize her talent and versatility.” Four time Academy Award nominee was tributed for taking risks as so many characters that we memorable. She is a small town gal from Colorado, who made good and tells, “ I hope I’m just getting going.” Amy Adams received her award from her director/writer of “The Master” Paul Thomas Anderson wit co-star Joaquin Phoenix in the audience to honor her.
Fans turned out to see this year’s popular star Jennifer Lawrence, who has won many awards this season. Younger fans still loved “The Hunger Games” and her part as Katness, the fierce survivor. She spent time chatting and signed autographs before receiving her award for PERFORMER OF THE YEAR for “Silver Linings Playbook” from David O. Russell, the film’s director. She has her own star power. Screen Cuisine and Film Feast Pairing films with the city’s Film Feast is a great way to explore Santa Barbara. It’s the pleasure of food and drink, dining with award winning cuisine with fixe prix 3 or 4 course meals. The choice is a variety of 25 restaurants joined with tasting rooms and lounges, you can try many. With four film districts, it’s easy to try restaurants near target film venues for lunch and dinner. Whatever you savor from tacos to seafood, Italian or French
and American or continental eateries from harbor to downtown and up town, it’s a value and a treat in eat in style. There are hotels that have film room packages, too. Mix and match from Film Pass to Film Feast-what a way to go. Screen Cuisine is a new category this year with films like “A Year in Burgundy.” “Family Meals,” “Spinning Plates”- the Audience Choice Winner.

Film Feast at the Wine Cask This is how it works: Departing from the Santa Barbara Hotel – SBIFF hub, downtown State Street, it’s a short walk to swank Wine Cask Restaurant, (, located in a historic home of a Santa Barbara first family for a lavish 3 course lunch of Local Organic Roots Salad, Poached Pacific Whitefish paired with local wines, followed by dessert of pairing Wines & Chocolates at Grassini Family Vineyards ( in the adjacent building. Articondo Bordeaux Blend with Madagascar 67% dark chocolate, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with hand dipped Hispaniola 60% dark chocolate and my favorite Estate Sauvignon Blanc Reserve with milk chocolate ganache in a chocolate turtle. This was a tasting to devour……must do this. Moving on to the movies “Spinning Plates” depicted 3 USA restaurants from high end to family run. Everyone was talking about this unique film. Later in the day, dinner was divine at The Arlington Tavern (WWW.ARLINGTONTAVERN.COM) with their fish speciality of the day. We finished just in time to walk across the street to The Arlington Theatre for the VIRTUOSOS AWARDS.
Tasting at the Grassini Family Vineyards tasting room These performers were the ones recognized for breakthrough erformances in 2012, they were Ann Dowd (“Compliance”), Omar Sy (“The Intouchables” from France), Elle Fanning (“Ginger and Rosa”), Ezra Miller (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), Eddie Redmayne (“Les Miserables”) and nine year old, youngest
Academy Award nominee Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”). The Virtuosos received their awards from Benh Zeitlin, Director of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
Film feast at Olio E Limone The next day was another Film Feast meal; dining at the incredible Olio E Limone,(, which was celebrating 100 years of Julia Child, featuring many of her favorite dishes featured. It reminded me that I was in attendance at Julia Child’s 90th Birthday in Marina del Rey, California, where 15 chefs prepared each course with love for dear Julia. My courses were: #1 Insalate of pears & baby greens & gorgonzola cheese #2 Filetto di Branzino/stripped bass filet & spinach #3 dessert was Tiramisu-I continually recommend this restaurant. You can’t forget it! Their Olio Pizzeria is an in-spot. The SBIFF welcomes more than 70,000 visitors; it’s the place to be and to see new films. The weather is pleasant and the locals are friendly. The SBIFF closed with the premiere of “Wasteland” by writer/director Rowan Athale. Visitors to Santa Barbara must stop by Mission Santa Barbara, The Historic Court House and The Harbor.
Find out about the festival, films and the winners at
Film Feast for lodging and dining at
Everything about Santa Barbara at

There’s no place like Santa Barbara; it’s the paradise getaway that everyone seeks. Residents love it; film people love to live here, and filmmakers locate to film here. Every year the highlight of the city is the Santa Barbara International Film Festival
(SBIFF), a spectacular Winter event. The 27th SBIFF welcomed film lovers, stars, professionals and visitors from everywhere for a whirlwind 11 days of distinctive traditional tributes, awards, panels and all day ongoing films. Savvy Festival Director Roger Durling’s imminent choices of honorees were the talked about Golden Globe and Oscar buzz winners for the year’s best performances in films.


The city was immersed in everything film with Film Feasts at local eateries and Film Sleeps from budget inns to boutiques hotels, B & B’s to luxury resorts. The coveted SBIFF Pass is the ticket to pleasure. The best way to enjoy the coastal charm of
Santa Barbara and the thrill of the film festival is to reserve a Film Sleep and a Festival Pass. You know it’s SBIFF time of year with the banners and posters decked out on State Street, the main street of the city and the searchlights at twilight directing everyone to the historic Arlington Theatre. Opening night was a mega sold-out event, red carpet with no ribbon cutting, just a warm welcome from Board President Douglas R. Stone and Festival President Roger Durling, in the presence of Mayor Helene Schneider and other City dignitaries, celebrities and the stars of the evening with sponsor The 2012 Opening Gala started with a bang as Director Laurence Kasden premiered his new film, written by Kasden and his wife Meg, “Darling Companion” with stars Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton signing autographs for cheering fans. Everyone got a kick out of loveable dog Kasey, who plays Freeway, the lost dog and focus of the film. Opening night after bash was filled with music, tastings, wines from local vineyards and more at the beautiful Paseo Nuevo courtyards.

Kevin Kline & Diane Keaton

Every day is movie day at the SBIFF, so I adorned my Pass and headed for the Metro Theatre on State Street for films by day and for tributes by night enroute to the Arlington. Multi-award winner Viola Davis was the headliner for “Outstanding Performer of the Year.” Her riveting performance as Aibileen, who revealed social injustices, as amaid in the 60’s, to a white journalist writing a tell-all book in “The Help” caught everyone’s attention.
Everyone was thrilled the SBIFF honored the amazing career of 82 year old, Christopher Plummer, for his five decades of acting in theatre, films and Television. He was presented the highest honor the “Modern Master Award” by director Mike Mills of Santa Barbara. Plummer has received continual accolades in Mills’ film “Beginners” depicting the life of his late father, former Director of the Santa Barbara Art Museum and his Gay life change at age 75. In addition, Plummer is presently receiving nods for his character in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Academy Award winner director, writer, producer, film preservationist Martin Scorsese has been a major influence on American Cinema. He wowed everyone with his stories and revelations including 3-D clips of his latest hit “Hugo.” He received the “American Riviera Award” from the film’s actor Sir Ben Kingsley, referring to Mr. Scorsese as ‘the consummate storyteller.’
It was unanimous that the French stars of the award winning silent film “The Artist,” depicting a 1927 bygone musical drama, starring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, dazzled Santa Barbara. This irresistible duo and their writer/director Michel Hazanavicius converged on the “American Rivera” for the “Cinema Vanguard Award.” And the “Virtuosos Award” went to the year’s favorite outstanding performers: Damian Bichir, Rooney Mara, Patton Oswalt, Melissa McCarthy, Andy Serkis and Shailene Woodley.
Film Feast tableside is wining and dining at Santa Barbara’s best eateries: At past festivals, I have enjoyed Olio E Limone, Blue Agave and Kunin Winery. Feasting for filmgoers was a Fixed Price -3 Course tasting Meal, prior to getting off to the movies. There are seasonal specialties for this special fixed price feast. Dining in Santa Barbara is always a popular past time and there were plenty of participating restaurants.
I was delighted this SBIFF 2012 to dine at The Paradise Café, 703 Anacapa Street, 805-962-4416. It’s just minutes from the movie action with lots of local charm, perfectly located right off downtown State Street. The proprietor was none other than City Councilman Randy Rowse, who took time to welcome us to his home town comfy café and let us know this is the only eatery in town with an oak wood grill. You can be sure the oak flavor gives a tasty edge to their high quality meats and fish. We dined on the Film Feast 3-Course Menu. Course #1 Oak Grilled Artichoke with marinated roma tomatoes, Course #2 Double Cut Pork Chop with Logonberry mustard for me and Scottish Salmon basted with olive oil and herbs for my friend-delicious generous portions, Course #3- Dessert: Paradise Pie, everyone’s favorite, a semi-sweet chocolate mousse with expresso butter cream icing and cookie crumb crust, definitely a winner. We liked the ambiance and the Santa Barbara upscale trendy style here and the hopping bar with the signature Paradise Margarita. We fe;t we must return for the famous Paradise Burger, which is described with raves. Dine here for Lunch and Dinner and Sunday Brunch.The Paradise Café is definitely worth a visit, and don’t forget to say hello to Randy Rowse.
Film Sleeps – After an eventful film day, decide where to stay. Curl up on the “American Rivera” with many lodging options, which range from budget Best Western Plus to numerous Inns: East Beach inn, Harbor Inn, Lavender Inn or downtown hub at The Santa Barbara Hotel, as well as B & B’s like the Simpson House or enjoy top of luxury at the Four Seasons, The Biltmore Santa Barbara or beautiful Bacara Resort & Spa.


Film Package Deals include a 2-night stay, complimentary breakfast and dinner for 2 at a fine restaurant, plus a 4-film mini-pack, starting at $479. The candor of filmmakers at the notable producers, directors, writers and women’s panels was worth the price of the tickets. Successful in their fields and their films nominated for Academy Awards, they gave advice and
inspired attendees, who were aspiring in the respective fields. A visitor to Santa Barbara is also able to go sailing in the morning on the Santa Barbara coast or explore Santa Barbara’s history with a visit to the ‘Queen of the Missions’, the Santa Barbara Mission and the historic Santa Barbara Court House; this is certainly the essence of Santa Barbara.
As the SBIFF 2012 came to a quiet end, I reflected on films that made a difference to me: “Samsara,” a photographic world phenomenon of people and places by Ron Fricke, the documentary “West of Memphis” based on injustice in Arkansas, where three boys went to prison for a crime they didn’t do and the French (Quebec) winning film “Heat Wave,” which caused four
people to interact leading to a tragedy. Banners came down and another great SBIFF festival came to a close. Get to Santa Barbara and the SBIFF any way that works: by air to LAX or Santa Barbara Airport, by car or Greyhound Bus via Freeway 101 or direct via Amtrack Train, car free. Festival passes range from all access to limited access depending on fees, which are partially tax deductible. Tickets can be purchased for films, tributes and panels individually.

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No wonder everyone flocks to Santa Barbara each Winter. It’s a yearly phenomenon
to be there for the winning movie star tributes, non-stop screenings, food dining feasts and round about parties. Speaking of film festivals the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) has become a world-class whirlwind happening, not to mention that Santa Barbara is always a California resort paradise. When it’s festival time those anticipated Oscar winners, esteemed and new filmmakers, and avid film lovers converge on State Street for 11 days of flicks, fun in the sun, and night time movie star dazzle. While others are huddling together and freezing across the nation, you can be sure that everyone in sunny Santa Barbara is thrilled to be enjoying the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The 26th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival started off with a megaphone blast, which prefaced the festival screenings with a rousing trailer of film crowds depicted in marching animated Legos. The Lego head honcho attempted to tame the crowds by sputtering, “I’ve got a megaphone!” This theme extended to the latest 2011 poster, which popped up all about the city and theatres. There are always surprises at this festival. What a creative endeavor of marching Lego bricks, the fabrication of 16-year-old English animator and drama student Harry Bossert! He collaborated with Santa Barbara music man, Parry Gripp, lead vocalist and guitarist for the punk pop band Nerf Herder, as well as co-owner of the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate. Bossert jetted to Santa Barbara, all expenses paid, and was given a Platinum Pass to all events.

The Historic Arlington Theatre, as the core of the festival, was a packed house for Opening Night and every tribute night. With a warm welcome from SBIFF Board President Jeff Barbakow introduced Festival Director Roger Durling and Lynda.Com, an education software firm and the major presenting sponsor. How does he do it? Roger Durling has the knack of inviting yearly Oscar nominated actors and filmmakers long before they are in the running for awards. They arrive to the SBIFF weeks before garnering Academy Awards for amazing tribute evenings and are embraced by the Santa Barbara community. Again, he was right on, 2011 marks my SBIFF #6 and it gets better and better, as recognition for this major film festival resounds internationally. Such a diversity of independent and international films is a film lover’s delight.

With an ovation, French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner introduced his Opening Night film “Sarah’s Key,’’ starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Cinema Vanguard Award SBIFF 2009. The film, which took years to be made, finally took off when the book became a runaway best seller. This compelling film centers on an American journalist (Thomas), discovering a story of 10 year-old Sarah, who locked her little brother in a cupboard to save him as a French group rounded up the Jews in 1942. She is challenged to find the truth of what happened as she writes about that horrific historical time. This touching story evolves from present to past in flashbacks. After the riveting screening, there was the Opening Night gala party bash, as always, at the Paseo Nuevo courtyards, filled with food tasting from local restaurants and cocktails from sponsor Chopin Vodka, combining music and dancing.
After the kick-off, it was pick your films from 170 choices and on to movies at the Metro Theatres around town. I love those French films and En Focus Quebec provided some great pictures. Cameras flashing, Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”) arrived with her husband legendary Warren Beatty, to receive the American Rivera Award presented by Kevin Costner with his fond praises. Big fan Roger Durling reflected on her career (SBIFF Montecito Award 2005) with a film retrospective and candid interview. Moving on (he does it all) director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan (“Inception”),who was hailed for his great cinema mind and career, received the Modern Master Award from his award winning film’s star Leonardo Di Caprio, caught up in Nolan’s film tale of complex layered dreams.
James Franco, a festival favorite, took the Outstanding Performance of the Year Award.
As an avid film buff, I had seen all the Academy Award winning films; yet here in Santa Barbara, I can see the filmmakers and actors on panels and tributes. How great is that! I was in awe of Danny Boyle’s film “127 Hours,” based on a true story of a mountain climber trapped under a boulder in Utah and looked forward to James Franco’s (“127 Hours”) tribute for Outstanding Performance of the Year. Franco, co-host of the 2011Academy Awards with Anne Hathaway, arrived late but quickly became a crowd pleaser as he revealed tidbits about his life. Studying for a PhD in English at Yale, he keeps busy plus making films like the final Spider-Man and appearances on TV’s General Hospital. Poking fun at him was his witty pal, Seth Rogan, who presented the award.

Oscar favorite “The King’s Speech” was right on target with the Montecito Award tribute
to Geoffrey Rush, who jetted out from Sydney, Australia to Santa Barbara and returned the same day. He was joined by cast members Colin Firth (SBIFF Montecito Award 2010) and Helena Bonham Carter for an Best Ensemble of the Year Award. Director Tom Hooper was beaming as award-winner Colin Firth bestowed Rush’s Montecito Award to his speech teacher.
The red carpet sizzled at the Arlington as Nicole Kidman greeted fans before receiving the prestigious Cinema Vanguard Award for her 20-year career. There were rave reviews for her latest film “Rabbit Hole,” which I screened that morning, revealing how a mother copes with the loss of her child and the offender. Kidman is an actor who takes creative risks with her many film choices of daring, flawed, and unique characters. She quickly noted, after viewing her film clips, “This is me and those are the characters I play.”

Santa Barbara is a natural beauty, nestled between Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and a
charming city with Spanish-colonial design. Its beautiful harbor makes it a premiere resort destination. Between films I head for the harbor. It’s my favorite lunch hang out; dine on fish at Brophy Bros Restaurant beside the yacht filled harbor haven! I can’t resist a stop at the beautiful Santa Barbara Mission for photos and then on to the art walk to enjoy miles and miles along the beach on Saturdays and Sundays. Opposite the beach art walk there are many Central Coast wine tasting rooms, all within walking distance and the wine is fine here. Shopping will always be my passion and State Street has it all from chic boutiques, vintage and antique ware, Nordstrom’s and the stylish Paseo Nuevo shops. During a film break, I popped into Juicy Couture and bought a matching black-jeweled hat and scarf. A visit to the beautiful Santa Barbara Art Museum on State Street was a cinch, since it was one of the film venues. It’s a joy to wander through this Spanish style walking city and screen films; there’s plenty to do.
Dining is a favorite Santa Barbara pastime. SB Film Feast foodies were enticed with 30 regional eateries and their specialties for prix fixe meals. What a great chance to try new places for a 2, 3 or 4 course sampling and then catch a movie. This was my chance to savor dining with a friend at OLIO E LIMONE, (17 W. Victoria); it’s the best of the best. Here the courses are the stars and should receive awards. Celebrities filled this intimate setting. Glancing through the room I spotted actors Rob Lowe, Billy Baldwin and Christopher Lloyd savoring dining here. Immediately we felt welcomed, and from then on we experienced superb authentic Italian cuisine, great service and casually elegant ambiance. Chef Albert Morello adds his Sicilian touch to his dishes and his charming wife Elaine is a warm and friendly hostess, who will encourage you to try Olio Pizzeria next door for lunch or dinner too. It’s certainly an upscale favorite and just looking at the menu turns on your taste buds. Try #1eggplant soufflé with goat cheese and warm tomato sauce,#2 pasta sampling with pumpkin ravioli, spinach tortellini and garganelli with lamb ragu and #3 delectable veal scaloppini sliced with artichoke hearts and lemon sauce. For dessert, we loved the #4 chocolate banana pudding. Dining at Olio E Limone is an inspiration to return soon and discover more of the menu.
I wasn’t keeping track, but I venture to say that I saw 23 films and attended all the tributes and the Movers and Shakers panel. One of my most liked evenings is the Virtuosos Award, honoring exceptional performances in recent films, I agreed with the choices John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”), Leslie Manville (“Another Year”), Jackie Weaver (“Animal Kindom”), Hailey Steinfeld (“True Grit”) and Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”). Their performances were outstanding and their futures look bright.

Santa Barbara and Montecito have a strong connection with the SBIFF and celebrities,
many of them do live here. Last year Santa Barbara local and Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges had his special day, and I notice in a store window on State Street a plaque recognizing his 2010 win with a picture of Bridges and his wife Susan.

The film, which impacted me, was “Face to Face” by director Michael Rymer, based on transcripts of alternative justice resolutions, winner of the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema. I enjoyed the East West Cinema Award from Japan “Patisserie” combining pastry and life in Tokyo. Bizet’s “Carmen” in 3D, London’s Royal Opera House Company, was the stunning closing film in Real D, a view of the performers up front and personal: a dazzling way to view opera and theatre. SBIFF audiences raved about the music scene documentary “Troubadours” (Audience Choice Award) as it followed James Taylor and Carol King in the 60’s & 70’s. In days gone by I actually saw them both perform at the Troubador Club in West Hollywood. More awards went to local and student filmmakers, short films, documentaries and more.



All winners are listed at As always the SBIFF pleases all, who attend from all over the world. This year was exceptional. SBIFF is a perfect reason to visit Santa Barbara.

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It’s a fact that girlfriends really do need to get away from time to time, just to relax, renew and bond. Once a year my life long friend, Ellen, lures me to Ojai, California, for a welcome retreat. Ojai is the perfect place for a spiritual connection; the essence of discovery here excites my senses. Ojai is a place to visit for all seasons. I’ve grown to cherish our reunion getaways, while looking forward to Ojai and its festivals, food and fairs.

Ojai is a vibrant small town suspended in time that can be considered a temporary refuge from a busy daily city routine. Located about 75 miles north of Los Angeles, a quick drive to Ventura on the 101 Freeway with an easy right turn on the 33 Freeway leading into downtown Ojai. Its claim to fame, Frank Capra’s 1937 film “The Lost Horizon” dubbed this hidden valley Shangri-La. Since then, all who come here, live here and experience Ojai have found their own unique paradise.

With a backdrop of natural beauty nestled in the valley of east-west mountain ranges, it’s easy to unplug and explore the area by walking, hiking, biking and horseback riding. Nearby Lake Casitas awaits opportunities for boating, fishing and more. One way to meet the locals is to walk, jog or bicycle on the Ojai Valley Trail; it’s just nine miles long.
More rare than gold are the sunsets at twilight on the Topa Topa Mountains; it’s the Ojai’s Pink Moment, the glow of the evening light shading the mountains. Yes, Ojai is a tranquil setting to retreat from stress and commitments with substitutes of scenic beauty and spa nourishments.

Early Ojai residents were Southern California Chumash Indians, who named Ojai with their word for moon. As one of the oldest and smallest towns of Ventura County, Ojai became a city in 1921, although it was settled in the 1800’s. You know you are in Ojai when you see the historic Arcade in the downtown heart of the city. This multi- arched Spanish style arcade houses art galleries, boutiques, eateries and its casual inviting atmosphere continually draws visitors to its doors and windows. With the vision and financing of Edward D. Libbey, an early settler and rich glass manufacturer, the layout of the town was realized and created with architect Richard Requa. This includes the iconic post office tower, the former hotel that is now The Oaks Spa, restored by fitness guru Sheila Cluff, and the architectural pergola in front of Libbey Park facing the arcade.

This quaint Americana community is truly a mecca for the arts and artists. So many of the popular happenings are in downtown Libbey Park: art, music and theatre draws the crowds. On every block, around every corner and under the Arcade, you’ll find art galleries featuring local artists others from near and far. We can tour Ojai Artists’ Studios and see artists at work all about the town and even join in film festival fun taking place at The Ojai Center for the Arts.

Emerald Iguana environs

On past girlfriends’ visits to Ojai, we have stayed at top places like the elegantly casual Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and the feel great fitness destination of The Oaks at Ojai Health Spa. This time Ellen made the reservations and surprised me with a new place, a residential hilltop oasis called The Emerald Iguana. Relaxation and quiet high priority, just one glance at green surroundings in this woodsy area, I was ready to kick back and relax. Finally it’s gal’s time in a unique individual two story chalet-style cottage set among lush trees with a cozy living room with a fireplace and full kitchen. We settled in, took our meeting, greeting and chatting walk, while exploring the gardens and cottages around the lovely grounds of The Emerald Iguana.

Dinner at Suzanne’s Cuisine

One of the simple pleasures, a long awaited visit to Suzanne’s Cuisine (805-640-1961), meant a creative gourmet meal with a European flavor. It’s been said that the dining experience at Suzanne’s begins the moment you walk through the door. As a first time visitor, it was first romance in this rustic setting. Then dining was truly love at first taste. The succulent Sautéed Jumbo Shrimp with Goat Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells on a Bed of Marinara Sauce made me happy, and Ellen, a second time visitor, was pleased with her Rosemary Roasted Rack of lamb with a Mustard Herb Crust. We couldn’t resist their dessert, especially the Crème Brule and Fresh Fruit Cheesecake.

Late night at the Emerald Iguana, we sipped fresh brewed hot tea by the fireplace and exchanged ideas regarding the next day’s plans. Rising early, I wiggled into my hot new Italian Vitamina stretch jeans, finally my first pair of skinny jeans, which fit like a glove. As we met for a leisurely complimentary breakfast poolside, we agreed that we had little knowledge of the Ojai Valley and its environs. So we kicked back let the Ojai Trolley take us through the town and on to the suburbs of Meiners Oak, a colorful valley suburb. On board for was town historian Rose Boggs, sharing stories of growing up in the valley.
For lunch we joined friends at colorful Los Coporales, a downtown authentic Mexican restaurant, family run. Located adjacent to Libbey park, it serves traditional and grandma’s recipes. Next on the agenda ‘girls gone shopping’-we headed for The Arcade and ventured in and out and about the shops: Made In Ojai-jewelry, soaps, crafts, gifts of Ojai, Kingston’s Candy Co.-all those old fashioned candies we remember – pez to pop, Kindred Spirit-seasonal clothing, gifts, jewelry and Human Arts gallery features furniture, ceramics, glass, textiles and more in a decorative setting.

Everyone ends up at Bart’s Books sometime; it’s open-air book haven with about 300,000 books, new, old and rare. Seating is everywhere a reader can find a niche. When they are closed, readers can chose any book on the exterior and pay by the honor system – by tossing the money over the door. Just across the street was my newest discovery, the wonderful RTK Studios of decorative glazed tiles. I love those amazing Catalina tiles and saw their images in this gallery bungalow; these beautiful tiles enhance so many Ojai spots. Before dinner we stopped by the Ojai Vineyard shop for a tasting treat from winemaker trendsetter Adam Tolmach, nice tastings for $12.

We were ready to savor the best of Ojai, so we booked dinner at The Ranch House,
(805-646-2360) known for a superbly prepared natural foods located in a woodland hideaway. We opted to dine in the garden; our gourmet choices were tasty, I decided on the special Irish Salmon and Ellen finally chose their Grilled Diver Scallops, we were both pleased. They have an endless award-winning wine list; we tried the Ojai Vineyard White wine. Before departing we toured the Herb Garden and the Bakery, I loved their Olive Bread and took a loaf with me. Back to our comfy room for cup of tea and chatting away.

Ojai Hot Rock Massage at the Oaks

There are no set rules that girlfriends on a getaway must spend every moment together. With that said, after two days, we pursued our own interests. You won’t find us fishing, or golfing, a favorite past time at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and Soule Park. Ellen headed to The Oaks at Ojai, seeking fun fitness classes and aqua-tone pool workouts as well as their 1000-calorie per day spa food and cooking demonstrations. It’s a low-key spot – no need to dress up here. Guests are welcomed solo at a bargain rate for one day or as many days as needed. We were close enough in town to meet here for massages in the afternoon. I relished the Ojai Hot River Massage; their signature treatment with those wonderful hot rocks that hit the spot and my girlfriend opted for the Ojai Olive Oil Body Soufflé. Later I went on to indulge my passions of shopping and films.

I made my way to the The Lavender Inn, a historic Bed & Breakfast, so close to everything: everything Ojai, dining and films. With colorful rooms here and delicious homemade breakfast, I enjoyed the fresh coffee, fruit and frittatas in the garden. A nice touch was snacking on local wines and cheese in the late afternoon. I can’t resist the Rainbow Bridge Natural Food Store across the street for lunch and munchies.

The shopping bug had bitten me, as I ventured to my favored shop the Treasures of Ojai, just steps away. Here I have found antiques and antique jewelry, vintage clothes and customized local jewelry. Now I keep a special drawer for my own Ojai treasures from this eclectic store: with compliments galore on my sliced turquoise necklace designed by local artist Maruschka.

During my stay in Ojai, I was drawn to banners for the Ojai Film Festival. I am and always will be a movie addict, which has lead me to film festivals all over the world; my favorite festivals are the Cannes International Film Festival, visiting twelve to date and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, I have participated in five.

Just a short walk to the Ojai Art Center, everyone was gearing up for the 11th annual Ojai Film Festival ( 805-640-1947) for three days of screenings, seminars and gala awards presentations. While checking–in, I was introduced to Festival leaders, Artistic Director Steve Grumette and Executive Director Jamie Fleming, who have encouraged industry professionals, independent and regional filmmakers to fill the slate of 61 diversified films and participate in seminars and tributes, while exploring the human condition, thereby bringing peoples of the world closer together. The casual and approachable atmosphere of this film festival, plus the proximity of the screenings, an array of narrative features, documentaries, shorts and animation hailed this festival as a quality event. Lifetime Achievement awards went to Actor Craig T. Nelson and Cinematographer Michael Chapman; candid discussions at the their seminars were informative.

It was obvious the independent films screened were uniquely rare and interesting. I was attracted to the documentaries especially the thought provoking “American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi,” better known as Condi Rice and Soenke Wortmann’s award-winning Narrative Feature “Pope Joan,” Best documentary Short: “Ingelore” from Frank Stiefel and the Festival Theme Award: John-Keith Wasson’s “Surviving Hitler; A Love Story.” These were a few of the enjoyable films I screened. The Ojai Film Festival is a perfect reason to visit Ojai.

Steve Grumette (artistic director), Barbara Singer and James (executive director of the Ojai Film Festival

Ojai remains in my mind long after my visit; it is unforgettable experience to be there, especially with a special friend. Here is a walkable town, where something is always happening. Take time to discover the magic of Ojai.

For everything you need to know about Ojai contact:
OJAI Visitors Bureau – 1-888-OJAI NOW
The Emerald Iguana
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
The Oaks at Ojai
The Lavender Inn
Suzanne’s cuisine
Los Caporales Restaurant
The Ranch House
Treasures of Ojai
Ojai Film Festival

It’s been said a destination photo is worth a thousand words, so you can image a film is just like being there. The exciting Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival 2010 (LABRFF) stirred up recollections of my fabulous trip to Brazil and memories of Rio de Janeiro, known as the “Marvelous City,” right here in the “City of the Angeles. LABRFF,now in its third year has caught on with the Brazilian community, celebrities from Brazil and foreign film lovers. Brazilian films mirror many lifestyles and locales with insights into high life, low life and slums of its many cities.
My visit to Brazil was a real travel adventure and a treasured memento. Rio is like no other city in the world; its harbor is a breathtaking phenomenon and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. This city combines a pulsating metropolis with distinctive resorts. Just watching a Brazilian film causes your heart to beat faster. LABRIFF was a five-day whirlwind of over 6 films combining drama, comedy, short films and artistic documentaries, plus informative seminars and colorful parties with the purpose of showcasing the art and talents of Brazilian filmmakers. Two comedy movies, filmed in Rio, were audience favorites: Elvis and Madona and In Therapy.

My own visit to Brazil was quite a whirlwind, and it was set up by my travel agent cousin in Mexico. Since it was a Girlfriend’s Getaway, he booked us at the best in Rio: the exclusive and legendary Copacabana Palace, Avenida Atlantica 1702, Rio, a beautiful old world hotel; its designer was renowned for the Negresco in Nice and the Carlton in Cannes. All were fabulous palace hotels, and I enjoyed residing at all three. My friend, Myrna, was a cousin of the Brazilian icon and actress Carmen Miranda, and we often caught her films, and this really peaked a longing to visit Rio.
Our first night escapade was linked to Myrna’s accident in Argentina, toppling in the street in Buenos Aires, garnered her a cast from foot to knee. While sipping caipirnhas (Brazilian liquor with lime, sugar & ice cubes) in the Copa Bar, two Cariocas-Brazilian guys, Claudio and Jose Carlos, residents of Rio, caught our attention, since one had a broken arm and was also in a cast. Before we knew it, they joined us, and we were attempting to speak Portuguese intermingled with Spanish. We answered, “Yes, Of Course,” when they asked if we wanted to go to samba and hear some music.
The next evening a car picked us up and delivered us to an exclusive residence in Leblon, where the wealthy reside in Rio. This turned out to be the family home. An orchestra was tuning up to play in the spacious living room. Claudio’s mother was a violinist with the Rio Symphony Orchestra; it was here we enjoyed a concert and lavish party and later that night a samba club. In the days to follow, we had a private car take us to visit the sights of Rio. My experiences included going to samba schools where we watched groups prepare for the famous Carnival, shopping, dining, watching kite flyers and volleyball on the Copacabana Beach, and enjoying hanging out at Ipanema Beach. My highlight was visiting the factory of the famed jeweler and gem cutter, H. Stern. It was amazing to watch gem stones cut and faceted into gorgeous jewelry. Just like Enterprise, they pick you up and bring interested tourists to their factory. I couldn’t resist a purchase of an amethyst pendant and learned that the deep purple are the most valuable. I continued marveling over H. Stern’s jewels that I have seen throughout the world. Our new friends kept us busy, and we enjoyed an insider’s view of Rio.

Must See in Rio:
Corcovado – An amazing train whisks you up to the Stature of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks the harbor of Rio.
Sugar Loaf Mountains – One of Brazil’s top landmarks can be visited by aerial tramway;
it was breathtaking to look down and just be there.
Maracana Stadium- It’s the largest Stadium for football/soccer in South America.
The Botanical Garden- Fabulous plants from all over the world


Must Do in Rio:
Museum hopping to historical buildings.
Take a samba class and check out the nightlife in Zona Sul.
Check out the Carmen Miranda Museum- especially her fabulous costumes and hats
Play volleyball on Copacabana Beach.


Must try in Rio:
Bargain shopping in the streets.
Shopping at the Sunday Hippie fair in Ipanema.
Fresh fish at Sobrenatural (samba music on M-W-F)
Nightlife in LAPA

Brazilian films are often surreal and thrilling, winner of Best Film of LABRFF was Cabeca a Premio, the story of a wealthy woman and pilot and their impossible love. Another moving film was Time of Fear, filmed in Sao Paulo and its prison system: a young man is imprisoned for killing a stranger with his car; his mother (Andrea Beltrao Winner of Best Actress)) fights to free him with the help of a lady boss (Denise Weinberg Winner Best Supporting Actress). Eye of the Storm garnered Best Screenplay based on revenge. Beginning with murder the story flashes back to how it all happened. Festival Jury President Fernando Meirelles introduced his Academy Award nominated City of God, for which he received critical acclaim as director in 2003, dealing with the violent gangs of the suburbs near Rio; it was a part of the Rivival Brazilian Cinema.

DZI Croquettes, a tie for Best Documentary, traced the history of 13 male performers who portrayed ultimate women in dance, comedy, costumes and entertainment. Liza Minelli tells in the film how she introduced them in Paris, and the co-winner The Man Who Bottled Clouds chronicled the music and life of Humberto Teixeira, who paved the rhythms of Brazil with music he wrote for singer Luiz Gonzaga, while he was a lawyer, composer and politician.

Journalist Nazareno Paulo and producer Meire Fernandez created this exciting film festival. Bravo to the cinematographers who captured the likeness of Brazil in film and enhance the stories through the camera. Lights, cameras and glamour added to the momentum, which took place at the Los Angeles Landmark Theaters.
Other places worth a visit are Bahia, Brasilia (capital city), the busy metropolis of Sao Paulo and the dramatic Iguassu Falls. If you don’t have a chance to visit Brazil, then come to LABRFF 2011. Muita obrigada (thank you very much) LABRFF for a great film festival with lots of great films, good company, spirited parties and memories of Brazil.