“Love & Mercy” actress Elizabeth Banks and “Room” wunderkind Jacob Tremblay will likely enjoy a boost on the awards circuit, as they—along with Paul Dano (“Love & Mercy”) and Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”)—are among the recipients of the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s 2016 Virtuosos Award. The 31st edition of the festival runs from Feb. 3 to Feb. 13.
Though such precursors—like festival Audience Awards and critics’ prizes—may have no directly measurable effect on the Oscar race, attention to particular films and performances can lead voters to take a second look, or help a title to rise to the top of the screener pile.
For Banks, whose performance as Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Leadbetter in the Brian Wilson biopic is “a thing of wonder,” according to critic David Thomson, the SBIFF honor not only adds to a great year, but also returns the late spring release to the conversation—and the same applies to supporting actor frontrunner Dano. For Tremblay, the child star of “Room,” it’s an opportunity to distinguish himself from counterpart Brie Larson. And for Edgerton, it’s a chance to rise above the lukewarm critical and commercial reception of “Black Mass.”
SBIFF has a knack for choosing unsung names that go on to Oscar nominations and wins: past Virtuosos Award recipients include J.K. Simmons, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rooney Mara, Gabourey Sidibe, and Melissa Leo, among many others. In addition, this year’s festival will honor “Black Mass” star Johnny Depp with Maltin Modern Master Award and “Spotlight” cast members Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams with the ensemble American Riviera Award.