Last night’s Santa Barbara Film Festival tribute was a presentation of Cinema Vanguard awards to Up In The Air‘s Vera Farmiga, An Education‘s Peter Sarsgaard, Inglourious Basterds costar Christoph Waltz and Precious star Gabby Sidibe. (Lovely Bones costar Stanley Tucci was also honored but in absentia — he’s directing a play in New York.)

At Santa Barbara’s Lobero theatre during last night’s Cinema Vanguard tribute: (l. to r.) Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Roger Durling, Peter Sarsgaard, Gabby Sidibe.

Festival chief Roger Durling handled the introductions, patter and chit-chat with smoothitude and high intelligence. It was all to the good.

Sarsgaard was the wittiest, I thought — he always is. Razor sharp, fast on his feet, straight-shooting, resistant to gushy platitudes, etc. I admired Waltz for his no b.s. answers and his general reluctance to grin too broadly. Farmiga’s plain-spokenness was equally appealing. And Sidibe was cool — she’s very bright, confident, likable.

Durling declined to ask Sarsgaard why he had a Bruce Willis shaved-head cut. That would have been the first question out of my mouth. He’s playing Hector Hammond in The Green Lantern — maybe he had to go tennis-ball because he’s wearing a wig or something.

It would have been cruel to ask Sidibe — by all indications an emotionally vibrant woman with a healthy outlook on everything — why she’s so excessively obese, but that, honestly, was all I could think of as I sat there (second row, right in front of Sharon Waxman ) last night.