Cate Blanchett handled last night’s tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival like a champ. She knows the game, knows what’s coming, doesn’t miss a trick. Sharp, classy, obviously gifted, no games or issues. Moderator Pete Hammond asked good questions, kept the gushy flattery to a minimum and concluded the on-stage discussion within a reasonable 90 minutes. Rooney Mara delivered the award presentation speech, and Blanchett’s acceptance remarks were gracious and succinct. Everyone was happy.

I fell in love with Blanchett — slightly, a little bit — during a roundtable discussion for Steven Soderbergh‘s The Good German (’06), or roughly seven years ago. Six or seven journalists around the table, Blanchett in the middle. Early on she grabbed a pencil and started drawing doodles on a notepad as she answered the questions. I saw the drawing as a kind of escape mechanism, a form of creative withdrawal. It was like something Jackson Pollock might do…loved it! I decided then and there that Blanchett was X-factor and my kind of lady. Three years later I saw her Blanche DuBois in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Wow.