The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has announced that "Hugo" director Martin Scorsese will receive this years American Riviera Award. It's the first time the award -- which went to Annette Bening last year -- has gone to a director.

"Honoring Scorsese has been a dream of SBIFF's for many years," festival director Roger urling says in the press release. "We're thrilled that it's happening during a year when this contemporary master of cinema is breaking new ground with 'Hugo.'"

I figured he was sure to receive something, but I'd have figured him for the Modern Master Award, which is the festival's highest honor. I wonder, then, who'll be tapped for that. Steven Spielberg would be a real coup. Previous announcements have included Viola Davis as Outstanding Performer of the Year and Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo for the Vanguard Award.

While it might be the first time the American Riviera Award has gone to a director, it's hard to argue that it's intention "to recognize and artist who has had a strong influence on American cinema" isn't perfectly apt for Scorsese.

The presentation will take place on Monday, January 30 at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. Previous recipients of the award include the aforementioned Bening, Sandra Bullock, Mickey Rourke,Tommy Lee Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane.

More awards announcements from the 27th annual Santa Barbara fest as they come. The festival runs January 26 - February 5, 2012.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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