I realize, of course, that right now the smart set is betting on The Theory of Everything‘s Eddie Redmayne to take the Best Actor Oscar on 2.22. That, of course, is due to Redmayne having won the SAG Award for Best Actor but don’t kid yourself — it’s currently a neck-and-neck thing between Redmayne and Birdman‘s Michael Keaton, and after last night’s emotional Keaton tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, I’m thinking that…well, that Redmayne might win. Let’s be honest. I’m a committed Keaton guy, of course. He didn’t just give the performance of the year but one of the best of the 21st Century…ahh, what do I know?

Birdman‘s Michael Keaton being interviewed last night by Leonard Maltin at Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre.

Keaton, I feel, is the guy to vote for because (a) he has the comeback narrative (playing a version of himself, re-igniting his career), (b) his Riggan Thomson performance is more of a soul-baring, pull-out-the-stops performance than Redmayne’s, which, due respect, is primarily about simulating isolation by way of physical affliction, necessitating a less-is-more acting style while sitting in a wheelchair, and (c) Keaton doesn’t have a Norbit movie opening on February 6th. (I’m sorry but the Wachowski film is exuding a definite stink and, unfair as it seems, I can’t imagine that on some level that Jupiter Ascending won’t rub off on Redmayne, at least in a pollen-sprinkling sense.)

But Redmayne might win anyway. He portrayed the esteemed Stephen Hawking with feeling, and he’s a cute puppy. He’s been the consummate charmer and campaigner over the past four or five months, and has probably out-schmoozed Keaton on a simple head-count basis.

How was last night’s Keaton tribute? Very engaging and highly emotional toward the end. Keaton was open and gracious and humble, as the situation requires. But the show went on too long. It started at 8:25 or 8:30 pm and ended around…oh, 10:20 pm or thereabouts. It should have wrapped no later than 10 pm. I’ve attended dozens of SBIFF tributes at the Arlington, and every time you can sense the helium starting to escape the balloon around the 90-minute mark.

Why did they show tediously violent clips from Pacific Heights (Keaton’s psycho role) and One Good Cop? Who wants to see Keaton torture poor Melanie Griffith or beat the shit out of some guy? What does material like this bring to the table? Who even remembers Keaton in Much Ado About Nothing? (Not I.) Why didn’t they show a clip from his brave dying-of-cancer performance in My Life? And why not a juicy serving of his two Ray Nicolette performances in Jackie Brown and Out of Sight?

Tributes were supplied by friends, colleagues and former costars Danny DeVito, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges, Winona Ryder, Robert Duvall and Birdman director Alejandro G. Inarritu.

It was also announced that the SBIFF Modern Master Award will henceforth be known as the Maltin Modern Master Award — a tribute to film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, who interviewed Keaton and is also a veteran moderator at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for the last decade or so.

This morning the SBIFF p.r. team sent along an email with several video clips but you have to use Dropbox to access them and it took too long to download, especially with the weak Holiday Inn wifi …eff it.