Last night’s Annette Bening tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival (i.e., a bestowing of the American Riviera Award at the Arlington theatre) was a pleasure — good conversation between Bening and SBIFF festival chief Roger Durling, a toney film-clip reel that Durling had personally supervised in editing, a gracious award-presenting speech from Kevin Costner and a pace that moved right along.

An elegant after-party was held at the sprawling Montecito estate of SBIFF board of director honcho Jeff Barbakow and his wife Sharon. Anne Thompson, Dana Harris and I corralled the attention of Warren Beatty, Bening’s legendary husband, for 25 or 30 minutes, covering several bases including 21st Century film distribution and the ridiculous cost of high-end, ultra-high-def home theatre systems.

A Focus Features Oscar strategist is contending (naturally) that Bening, a Best Actress contender for The Kids Are All Right, is surging from her Golden Globe win and an entirely possible if not expected (she says) SAG win, and that Deadline‘s Pete Hammond is now predicting a Bening win and that “she’s due” and all that. Hey, if it happens, fine. I’ll be stunned if Natalie Portman doesn’t take it but whatever.