Tonight’s Santa Barbara Film Festival tribute (the Montecito Award) honored Penelope Cruz, whose Oscar-nominated performance in Parallel Mothers is easily and indisputably the best in her category.

Roger Durling‘s conversation with Cruz focused almost entirely on her 25-year history with Mothers director-writer Pedro Almodovar, which began with her performance in Live Flesh (’97). The chat was easy and comfortable — Durling really knows his Pedro-and-Penelope. But the award-presentation finale was amazing.

During the last lap Cruz had spoken of her lifelong admiration for Sophia Loren. Soon after director Eduardo Ponti (The Life Ahead) introduced a video of his mother, the 87 year-old Loren, who in turn introduced Cruz following words of heartfelt praise. The Loren video was a complete surprise to Cruz.