Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton Kick Off 27th Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Sony Pictures Classics

The 27th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival, of which The Hollywood Reporter is a major sponsor, kicked off last night with the world premiere of Lawrence Kasdan's charming dramedy Darling Companion, which Sony Pictures Classics will put into limited release on April 20.

Kasdan and a chunk of his cast and crew -- among them Oscar winners Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton, supporting players Ayelet Zurer and Jay Ali, and an adorable dog named Kasey -- all showed up at Santa Barbara's historic Arlington Theatre to introduce the film to a capacity crowd of more than 2,000. (They were joined on the red carpet by local resident Julia Louis-Dreyfuss of Seinfeld fame, whose short film Picture in Paris will play at the festival on Saturday.)

Darling Companion -- which also features two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest, Oscar nominees Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepard, and Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss -- was very warmly received, and could appeal to the same demographic that came out in force for the Keaton vehicle Something's Gotta Give (2003) nearly a decade ago.

Kasdan's film was preceded by an airing of Enrico Casarosa's La Luna, a cute seven-minute Pixar short that the director said was inspired by his always-squabbling father and grandfather, which scored a best animated short Oscar nomination last Tuesday.

Screenings of Kasdan's other films -- which include Body Heat (1981), The Big Chill (1983), Silverado (1985), The Accidental Tourist (1988), and Grand Canyon (1991) -- will be held at the festival throughout the week. (On Friday afternoon, I have the privilege of moderating a Q&A with Kasdan and Kline following a screening of The Big Chill, which is just one of the six films on which they have collaborated.)

Because SBIFF is held each year right around the time that Academy members receive their final ballots, and because more than 100 Academy members are believed to live in and around Santa Barbara, many Oscar nominees make the roughly two-hour trek up from Los Angeles to participate in the festival, either as an tribute recipient, presenter, or panelist.

Indeed, over the course of the next 11 days, the festival will host no fewer than 21 of this year's Oscar class, including: best actress nominee Viola Davis (The Help) on Friday night; best original screenplay nominee J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) on Saturday afternoon; best supporting actor nominee Christopher Plummer (Beginners) on Saturday night; best director nominee Martin Scorsese (Hugo) on Monday night; best animated feature nominee Gore Verbinski (Rango) next Friday afternoon; best actor nominee Demian Bichir (A Better Life), best actress nominee Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and best supporting actress nominee Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) next Friday night; and best supporting actress nominee Berenice Bejo and best actor nominee Jean Dujardin (The Artist) next Saturday night.