Earlier today HE reader “Mike” complained about my Santa Barbara Film Festival doings thus far. “Why the obsession with the festival’s back-slapping, glad-handing interview sidebars?,” he wrote. “What about the bread and butter? It’s a film festival, for Christ’s sake. Surely it’s not hard to see a couple a day and drop a few comments. What are your favorites so far?”

HE to “Mike”: “The back-slapping, glad-handing interviews ARE the festival’s bread-and-butter. Bringing brand-name celebs to town in the heat of Oscar season is what the SBIFF does — what it’s famous for.

“The films that show at SBIFF are always curated with careRoger Durling and his staff do the best they can, and most are quality-level as far as it goes — but for various reasons the SBIFF never gets the pick of the litter. You would hope that they’d screen some of the more interesting Sundance titles, but they never do (and not for lack of trying).

Every so often there’s an interesting doc or odd foreign feature in the lineup. I take them as they come.”

Right now I’m watching Neil LaBute‘s House of Darkness, an eerie seduction drama with Justin Long and Kate Bosworth. Synopsis: “A man drives a woman home after they meet over drinks in a local bar. When she invites him into her home for a nightcap, the evening doesn’t follow the familiar path toward seduction.”

Later this week I’ll catch Justin Kurzel‘s Nitram, a drama based on the saga of Australian mass murderer Martin Bryant. Costarring Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia,

Nitram had its big premiere at last July’s Cannes Film Festival; Jones won the Best Actor award. Pic received a limited theatrical release in Australia last September.