Sunday, July 19, 2009

The countdown begins...

I can’t believe I let this go for so long. Or maybe I can…getting linked to through the TIFF site drives my traffic well above its usual two readers, and who wants to spew into a vacuum, so naturally I’ve slacked off. But we’re now less than eight weeks out, the summer days and weeks racing by at a frightening pace, draft after draft of movie-themed bile and bilge getting tossed and/or forgotten without ever seeing pixel to screen, and as I battle a humid bout of SAD under the overcast Toronto sky, I figured it’s time to get back to it, no?

So to get caught up: ticket packages have been on sale for a couple of weeks now, and I did get mine, after a few false starts. Went up to 55 Bloor on my lunch break and, oh yeah, not there any more. My bad, I forgot. Sign on the door sez go to 2 Carlton so I hop back on the subway and get off two stops south. Only to be told, “Um, we’re just a phone bank, you’ll have to go to” and here’s where I buggered it up again because I could have sworn the guy said Yonge/Dundas Square, where the ticket pickup and box office was last year. Next day, attempt two, I’m wandering the food court like an idiot, wondering if the fates once again have it in for me. Fortunately I’ve got the latest mailing in my bag, which I should have checked in the first place, and whaddya know: Nathan Phillips Square. In other words, six or seven blocks away from any festival screening room, yards from striking city workers, and basically not in any particularly sensible spot. Couple of days later at lunch I finally hike over there and buy the 10-pack.

I think I burned myself out last year. My end total was something like eighteen screenings (I got two 10-packs and brought friends to two films). I’m a film nerd, or at least used to be, but at that pace they start to blend together and one’s stomach becomes a solid tumor of food court Thai that doesn’t clear out until Halloween. I’ve often been envious of the 30-screenings folk and the critics who achieve the same saturation level, but I suspect that I’d be throwing in the towel around Wednesday if I seriously attempted it. So this year, the plan is one 10-pack and four, maybe five additional individual tickets once they go on sale on September 9th, and hopefully no three-flick days.

Of course, the closer the day actually gets, I’m sure I’ll change my mind again. As both my devoted readers know, the three week stretch surrounding FanExpo (weekend before Labour Day) and the end of TIFF is the absolute highlight of my Toronto year. There’s the day the Program Book comes out (August 25th this year), which to me is like Christmas, New Year’s and every birthday from ages four through twelve all rolled into one, an evening of spreadsheets and schedules and cross-referencing and picking my top ten and backups sometime around two AM, then three days of nerding out at the convention centre, the annual family visit over the holiday and then six days off work and lugging notebooks, scripts and my camera all over hell and gone for those magical screenings.
My impressions so far? Can one have any, two months before the fest? Of course….of note so far:
  1. Yes, I know I just finished bitching about it, but the box office situation is a major bugger. I really hope there will be more than one spot to buy same-day tickets during the festival, and that it’ll actually, you know, maybe be at one of the screening locations.
  2. Last year was stage two or three of the TIFF’s gradual elimination of the Visa Screening Room Special Presentations from accessibility to the hoi polloi. A couple of years back, you could still get SP tickets as part of your packages, but if bought individually they were hiked up to gala price. Then last year all the SPs were priced out of range, unless they were premiering in the Winter Garden screening room, which seemed to be decided rather arbitrarily by the programmers and what movie was screening where was only evident when one looked to choose their package picks. Rumour has it this year the general rabble will be able to view movies in the best screening room left in the city (since the Uptown fell), though we will be relegated to the balcony lest the donors get student-stink on their Armani. Which isn’t terrible, the Elgin theatre is still a dynamite place to see a movie from any altitude, though if you have vertigo you may want to wait for the second or third festival screening.
  3. The initial titles released on the TIFF website (largely SP, but a few other programs as well) are by and large droolingly enticing. And this Tuesday the Midnight Madness program is unveiled. Last year I saw six of the ten MM flicks, though after my experience at Martyrs I’ll definitely choose a bit more sparingly. Colin Geddes still has, I’m convinced, the best job in the festival, and if he finds anything this year half as glorious as The Burrowers or Not Quite Hollywood it’ll make up for any duds in the rest of the fest for me.
  4. In the past two years, Time magazine did two features each year a week apart on the fest, in fact in 2007 it made the cover of the Canadian edition (and just that edition, I’m fairly certain). Now that Time no longer publishes a Canadian version, I wonder how in-depth the coverage is going to be.
That’s it for now. I’m going to focus a bit more on this blog over the next couple of weeks with memories of TIFF past, my impressions of the summer blockbuster season so far and a blow-by-blow FanExpo report so stay tuned.

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