Last night’s Santa Barbara Film Festival Chris Nolan tribute was fine. Nolan was gracious and charming in his usual curt-but-frank sort of way, and moderator Pete Hammond asked lively and intelligent questions. And it was cool when Leonardo DiCaprio (wearing a super-short 1930s haircut for Clint Eastwood‘s J. Edgar, which starts shooting on 2.5) stepped out to present the Modern Master award.

Modern Master award recipient Christopher Nolan (l.), moderator Pete Hammond (r.) at Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre — Sunday, 1.30, 8:40 pm.

The after-party happened at some ESPN tin-shack honky tonk-type joint on lower State Street. I’m sorry but I’m not very big on places that have extremely polite, 450-pound, seven-foot-tall black guys asking you for your ID at the door. I was half-interested in chatting with Nolan for a few minutes but I got tired of waiting around and and tired in general so I bailed…sorry.

Nolan’s big take-away quote was “it’s best to pursue the movie you want to see the most…one you really want to see yourself.” (Or words to that effect.) So that means Nolan really and truly would like to see another Batman movie? Honestly? And he’d like to see another Superman movie (which he’s producing)? Because I don’t believe him. At all.

Isn’t Nolan making The Dark Knight Rises (which starts filming in May) as a payback to Warner Bros. for their having bankrolled Inception? And isn’t he helping out on Zack Snyder‘s Superman flick because…well, c’mon, really, why would he want to make a Superman film? Why would anyone?

However well made they may turn out to be, Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Zack Snyder‘s Superman film are essentially (or conceptually, if you will) bullshit fanboy ComicCon movies that will almost certainly do nothing to profoundly affect the cause of great cinema or accomplish anything other than the selling of tickets.

Chris Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio at the finale of last night’s Santa Barbara Film Festival Modern Master tribute.

One of HE’s broken-record rants is that fanboy superhero movies are a blight and a scourge and a form of cultural cancer, etc. All I can say is that Nolan — obviously one of the most talented and fascinating major-league auteurs of the day — is doing nothing to enhance his resume with these projects. I think he’s basically marking time and doing them for the money.

In a Howard Hawks-ian sense Memento was Nolan’s His Girl Friday or Ball of Fire, Insomnia was his The Big Sleep, The Dark Knight was his Red River and The Dark Knight Rises is going to be his Land of the Pharoahs .

Nolan needs to man up down the road and say no to the money and make some kind of little Memento-ish film again. He has to get off the corporate payroll and reclaim his soul by doing something other than make big expensive fanboy movies…please.

Note: This video of DiCaprio delivering his remarks last night looks pathetic, of course. But I’m posting it because at least you can hear what he said. My regular camera had no battery power so I had to resort to my iPhone.