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Too Big. FAIL

If you google ‘biggest film festivals’ TIFF will be referenced in most of the top ten results returned. It may not be the largest or most influential festival in the world, but the combination of over 300 films, and the automatic Oscar-bait tag that can be attached to the Cadillac People’s Choice winner makes TIFF a destination for filmmakers and film lovers around the world.

When it comes to web browsers, that’s another story.

I checked out the tiff.net against some of the other ‘big’ festival landing pages using a selection of free web tools and confirmed what the decidedly sluggish response times my Mac, Macbook, PC laptop and iPhone have been telling me for years. The site is not optimized for the web. While this adds weight to my previously posted conspiracy theory (see Why Lines and Not Online) I take no pleasure in having one more reason to deplore the poor performance of the TIFF site. We are just six months away from TIFF 2011 and I for one hope that the powers decouple the entrance point for festival attendees from the bloated .net landing page. With the advent of the Lightbox the previously (and in hindsight blessedly) disconnected web experience for the festival customers has become more integrated, with more cohesive branding, but has trapped visitor and film lover information in the miasma of the corporate homepage.

TIFF please think of your audience. I understand the importance of a unified web identity, but if you can’t fix the entire site in time for the festival, break off the TIFF film listing and schedule portion and try to make some basic improvements for fall 2011. I shudder to think what it is like for visitors to the city trying to access the site on a personal smart phone or tablet using sketchy hotel wifi.

Compared to Venice, Telluride, Sundance and Cannes TIFF.net is the slowest to load – and when compared to the fastest of the bunch (Bella Venezia!) the TIFF site takes more than twice as long to load. Using one of the measurement tools TIFF.net was the only site to generate the message “Processing was stopped because maximum objects size exceeded”. The site was actually so bloated and slow it exceeded the threshold set so that the tool would not erroneously measure time to download video files. Loosely translated – TOO BIG. FAIL.

Suggestions below in no particular order. Note these will not fix all of the problems, but it’s a start.

Either go back to one image per film or engage a service for hosted content management, if only for festival content. Cannes is using Akamai and while their homepage is the only one of the sites I measured that is as image-heavy as the TIFF landing page their pages still load MUCH faster thanks to image caching. And really if I want additional pictures or a trailer I’ll go to tofilmfest.ca.

Separate the web experience for people who know nothing about the organization, and those who just want to give you their money if they could just get to a page showing them what movies are showing that day. No need to take ‘not for profit’ so literally.

Mobilize the nerds. The Lightbox is in the middle of what once was the garment district, and now is home to many large and small agencies and vendors of online solutions. Many of these people attend your festival, follow your twitter, like you on Facebook and eat lunch at Canteen when they can get a seat. Just ask for help.

Your cellphone is not a fucking lantern

I’d say this whole post is one big spoiler – but on the remote chance you actually read this blog, you probably already watch too many movies/tv shows as it is.

Hang a lantern on it
Meaning: a writing device used to openly address an element of the plot that requires the audience to entirely suspend their disbelief so everyone can just get on with believing
-we can go back to the future
-he has done Inception before
-a frozen donkey wheel can move the island back in time
-the hooker with a heart of gold ends up with the handsome ka-jillionaire
-he is Luke’s father
-one girl in all the world, a chosen one will have the strength and skill to hunt the vampires
-they will save Private Ryan
-that’s not an African American con woman kissing you, it’s your dead husband
-it took them that long to figure out they needed a bigger boat
-he knows kung fu
-if you build it
-they’re heeeere
-he was only mostly dead
-he’s Batman
-he sees dead people

A lantern is a writing device. It helps to shine a metaphorical light on a notion or plot point so you can stay with the story and not be taken out of it by your disbelief.

A literal lantern in the form of a freaking cell phone does exactly the opposite; when I am watching a movie a bright freaking light shining in the seat next to me at any point in time will take me out of the story. The writer can hang metaphorical lanterns all over the place but it doesn’t matter because at that point you and your phone and your text or your email or your desire to know the time has taken me out of the movie and back into the real world of people that suck.

We have our entire lives to to go out with friends and family and ignore them so we can text and check our emails and tweet and play Angry Birds. All I ask is if you line up, pay money and sit down to see a movie think about the fact that one day someone just might try to shove that phone where the sun don’t shine if you turn it on during the show.

Why Lines and not Online?

Generously Supported

Over the last few years I have heard the lament in every lineup at every point – the dropoff, the pickup, the rush-why is this not all online yet? Why must the love of film come with the theme park experience of waiting to ride the new roller coaster-sans funnel cake? As technology takes over every other aspect of our interactions with each other, and the management of our personal finances and expenditures, why is a trip to TIFF the waybackmachine of moviegoing?
I have heard, or overheard many theories on the hot sweaty sidewalks in Toronto – they don’t have the time or money to invest in the technology being the most popular. I think that one is a bit more difficult to swallow now since they managed to erect a building in the middle of downtown Toronto in a few short years – an online ticketing process should surely not be that onerous.

I believe that the excellent, creative and enthusiastic minds behind TIFF can accomplish anything they put their minds to – but I think they like the lines. They like us as a hot/sweaty/wet/shivering advertisement wrapped around street corners. They want us as a physical reminder to the city that the festival is coming-because it does seem as if every year there are those who forget. Anyone who has ever stood in line has had a stranger approach them and ask what the line is for – often to be met by incredulity and/or mockery after they hear the response that you are waiting to drop off a list of selections for a movie.

CURIOUS STRANGER
So this is a line for tickets?

TIFFGOER
This is where I drop off my selections

CURIOUS STRANGER
So can I get in this line if I want to see a movie?

TIFFGOER
Well you have to buy a package – they go on sale in June.

CURIOUS STRANGER
So you are picking up your ticket package?

TIFFGOER
No, I pay for the tickets, then two months later I pick the movies, then I drop off the selections.

CURIOUS STRANGER
So you aren’t getting your tickets today? When do you get the tickets? When can I buy tickets?

TIFFGOER
In a couple of days I can come back and pick up my selections, then make exchanges – then the next day you can come and buy tickets.

CURIOUS STRANGER
Why would you exchange your tickets after you had so long to figure out what you wanted?

TIFFGOER
I may not get everything I want – there is a draw to decide at random which box of selection envelopes is processed first. If I am at the end of the list I may not get my selections as some popular picks may be sold out.

CURIOUS STRANGER
So what happens when you pay for a movie, pick a movie, then they tell you that you can’t see the movie because it’s sold out?

TIFFGOER
I get a coupon to exchange for another movie at the same time – or I can make second choices for the same time. Either way I have to come back and line up again to pick up my tickets and coupons.

CURIOUS STRANGER
Will the line be this long?

TIFFGOER
Longer.

CURIOUS STRANGER
That’s what she said.

TIFFGOER
Excuse me?

CURIOUS STRANGER
Sorry – will the line move any faster?

TIFFGOER
Actually it will be much slower.

CURIOUS STRANGER
And why isn’t this whole thing on the internet now?

TIFFGOER
I don’t know.

CURIOUS STRANGER
What is up with that much shorter, faster moving lineup with the less sweaty and better-dressed people?

TIFFGOER
That is the donor line.

CURIOUS STRANGER
They gave organs to people so they don’t have to line up with the rest of you?

TIFFGOER
No, they give money – like at least a thousand bucks to the festival and they get to have their orders processed before everyone else and buy tickets before everyone else. The more money you give, the earlier your order is processed.

CURIOUS STRANGER
So if I give the festival lots of money I don’t have to wait in the super long lines.

TIFFGOER
Yes.

CURIOUS STRANGER
And if the festival were to get rid of the super long lines, by using the internet but kept the random draw and the processing order in place then there would only be a need for a way to do the exchanges? They could even let you print your tickets off the computer, couldn’t they?

TIFFGOER
In theory.

CURIOUS STRANGER
But if they got rid of the lines then how many people would give them a crap-ton of money to skip the line?

TIFFGOER

CURIOUS STRANGER
I think you’re getting screwed.

TIFFGOER
That’s what she said.

Easy A

Looks like a good candidate for a war-torn doc heavy day.

Easy A

Want this at TIFF

It burns

I love my idevices. They are bright and shiny and beautiful and whenever I unbox  a new one I instantly turn into Gollum and hunch over it rubbing and stroking and calling it my precious.

Movie theatres are dark. I’m not sure if they have to be, I mean I can watch a movie on tv at home with the lights on but at the movies they like to keep it dark when the show starts.

I love movies. I take my vacation every September and see over 20 movies at the film festival.

What I don’t love is the bright shiny light of a device getting in the way of my suspension of frakkin’ disbelief and taking me out of the wondrous spell created by the filmaker during a frakkin’ movie.

Hoping this year there is MUCH less localized light emission during the films, but with the advent of the iPad I’m not holding out much hope that people will get their rub on and then power down before the show starts.

P’s Choice Awards

I will probably post reviews for some of the others movies that I saw, but in some cases I either did not like or dislike the movie enough to spend any time writing about it afterwords.

Best stuff that I saw (I did not see Precious or the Topp Twins)

Best dramatic film – Balibo. It will make you cry unless you are totally dead inside. And even then you might squeeze out a tear or two.

Best documentary – Waking Sleeping Beauty. I still can’t believe that they might have cut ‘Part of your world’ out of The Little Mermaid.

Funniest Movie – Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Amoral is the new black. Watching this movie made me wish they had an Oscar category for dark comedies.

Breaking the curse of my bad French picks: Partir. I’m not sure if this really counts as breaking the streak of bad French movies I’ve seen at the festival, since the leads are Kristin Scott Thomas (Britain) and Sergi López (Catalan/Spain).

Sure thing that lived up to expectations – Up in the Air. Love Jason Reitman.

Bitch Slap Q & A

I realize I get more hits when there are pictures of attractive women. I guess Peggy was right when she told Don that sex sells.

Bitch Slap Q & A

Something Good

Today I’d like to thank my iPhone for saving me from weeping on the subway after Balibo. The first song that played after turning it on was Chaka Khan, Tell me Something Good.

The film was outstanding but I’m damn glad I have the Disney doc next. I must say I haven’t been this good to myself with counter-programming since the year I had Lake of Fire followed by Stranger Than Fiction.

Great Times at Good Hair

Will review later in the week, here’s a pic for now of Chris Rock, Melyssa Ford and Thom Powers.Chris Rock, Melyssa Ford, Thom Powers