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Festival Prep

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Brand New Funk

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I asked my friend to smell me.

I knew I was still clean in my heart and head, but not my nose. My nose was immersed in the aroma of Scotia. So much so that I could no longer tell when the scents of strangers ended and I began.

This Sunday afternoon there was a fairly typical convergence of bad luck and bad timing that can happen at the festival. Throw in the interesting decision to use all of the Scotiabank instead of splitting the human traffic amongst other theatres and having three movies all start close go each other and you have the makings of a disaster worthy of a Midnight Madness pick.
If the weather had been 5 degrees warmer or 5 degrees colder with some rain perhaps there would have even been some real physical harm.
As it was, the amount of time people were trapped in line, well away from venue bathrooms, and more importantly venue air conditioning the more the discomfort levels grew.
I trust that the team will find ways to turn this around. In the past, most notably with the horrific line conditions at the first year of AMC the headsets and volunteers were able to implement change within he week, and continue to improve year over year.
A few things that could have helped today
- Giving the orange shirts Velcro signs so some could see at a glance what theatres were in the outside line.
-Advance notice to partners so someone , anyone could hand out some free $hit. Water, chocolate, tiny coffee – anything.
-Some way for singletons to deal with bodily functions without losing their place in a long line for a movie that is behind schedule.
The worst part is it affected my enjoyment of the film.

Power Bar

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Those of us that remember the birth of the Lightbox recall when the Luma Lounge was the Blackberry Lounge.

One major feature of the Blackberry Lounge was the Blackberry chargers all along the marble bars.

When the branding agreement ended the holes for the cords and the chargers were removed, but the outlets are still there. Next to the alcohol. So yes, while I love all licensed establishments equally I would have to say that for this week I may love Luma the most. I can forgive the removal of the Stompin’ Tom, because the new kid on the menu, Love Punch is almost disturbingly healthy tasting. I fear by the end of the week it may also be my only source of fruits and veggies. The Canada Food Guide has no place at the Festival.

My Kingdom for a Hoverboard

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Have my first short transition today. Lightbox to Ryerson in under an hour between Tim’s Vermeer and Only Lovers Left Alive. The voyage has an added level of difficulty because huge sections of King between the Lightbox and Roy Thompson Hall are closed for red carpet shenanigans. The plan will be to scamper out of the Lightbox, head slightly north and cut east on Pearl to University, the south back to King to jump on the subway southbound around the hump then north to either Dundas or College.

The southern approach to Ryerson through Victoria to join the line on Gould if I’m running early and see tweets about people waiting in line is an option, but it is more likely I will arrive after they have let ticket holders in and I will have to muscle my way through people in rush and eyeballing talent.

The one fly in the ointment is if parts of Pearl are blocked by security to onboard and exfiltrate talent from Princess of Wales. Then I’m frakked.

Two Seasons, One Festival

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We have two seasons in Toronto. Winter (so Stark) and construction.

Every year the natural inefficiency of the first days of TIFF overlap with the denouement of construction season.

Inevitably not only will you be waylaid on your way to films during the first few movies, so will the talent and the programmers on their way to do the intros and Q&A sessions.

Cabs may not help you get between theatres in a timely fashion. The old ankle express may be the best way to go when you are moving around town. It will take until Monday normal transportation to make expected turnaround times. This year with the removal of the former AMC at Yonge and Dundas the Ryerson is now an outlier on the Festival map. With its 1200 soul seating capacity it also takes the longest to onboard. If you have to get to the Lightbox within 30 mins you either need Argo Affleck for an ex filtration or I would recommend hoofing it to Queen, and either jumping in a cab or streetcar. Or Batman Affleck to build a bridge with the Tumbler.

The Subway is your best way back to civilization from Isabel Bader – UNLESS they have scheduled service again this year then a jog down to College and streetcar ride may be your best bet depending on your next destination.

Pack a flask and hope for the best. Winter is coming.

When to line up at the Elgin

Elgin TorontoHad a friend ask when they should line up for the Elgin.

As usual with TIFF there are no easy answers. It’s a huge theatre with horrible sight lines if you are on the side or behind tall people. Also leg room is not great. Not as bad as the Ryerson where circulation goes to die, but it’s a near thing.

If you are seeing something popular early in the festival it would not be insane to go as early as one hour before – and it would not be inconceivable that you would still only get an average seat as they save MANY  for industry and the people with the fancy card get in first. The line may seem terrifyingly long, but that is because people waiting for the Winter Garden are in the same physical lineup that wraps around Yonge and continues around the corner north of the theatre.

If you have any kind of Visa bring it – sometimes, especially in the first few days the rules for getting into the Visa Screening Room are vague and the volunteers are given conflicting info – so even if you can’t get in the fancy room, you may be able to get in the advance entry line. Line and room privileges may only apply to Gold and higher, but sometimes any Visa card will suffice.

I would normally recommend going for the first row in the balcony instead of trying for the floor – but over the past couple of years they have been blocking those off for special members, Visa cardholders or industry as well. Middle floor OR the sides on the aisle closer to the stage is good – the aisle seating is slightly more angled so you get unobstructed views even if it’s crowded. If you are long of leg and short of torso it can make all the difference.

Unfortunately the aisle seating on one side (closest to the stage) is also often reserved as they have started to save that area for talent as well – makes sense, as if they stay to watch the film they are usually escorted off that side of the stage, and then they get all the awesome leg room AND they don’t have to go as deep amongst the non-talented.

Normally I wouldn’t share this info, but since I cancelled my Infinite card in a fit of pique last year due to poor TIFF-related benefits I’m just as screwed as anyone else.

You’re So Money

Bitch I Bought The Airline meme

During the pre-search for TIFF some films jump out and smack you like they’re mad at you, ride you hard and leave you wet and wanting to just place your order.

This year the first time I actually screamed to a deity during my perusal of the site was when I read this

Unforgiven

But wait, there’s more.

Unforgiven starring Ken Watanabe in a Japanese remake of Unforgiven with samurai instead of six-shooters.

Thank you TIFF.  I totally promise to remember this moment of unadulterated, unconditional love the next time the website crashes.

 

2013 Selection Pre-Search

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Picked up the 2013 Entertainment Weekly Fall Movie Preview. This year I went for a physical and digital copy instead of buying two copies (one for work and one for home).

Every year I go into this thinking that there are going to be nearly 300 movies to choose from so I don’t need to worry about using the release dates in EW to winnow down my choices and ever year I am wrong.

Also, every year I say that I will end up seeing the movies that are released in late September or early October anyway so I don’t need to waste one of my precious tickets on them, but inevitably I end up seeing at least one or two movies that will be out in a month OR I end up waiting a year until something is out on Netflix or DVD because I get so burnt out after TIFF I find it almost impossible to enter a movie theatre for months. Seeing movies with regular audiences where at least one person is part of  a couple that was dragged there and didn’t choose to wait in numerous line ups and pay double just reminds you how many people feel compelled to illuminate the entire fucking theatre during a movie multiple times to check the time.

You know what time it is? It’s movie watching time.

I truly look forward to the day I lose it in public and just creep up on someone checking their facebook in the middle of a movie and grab it and just quietly run out of the theatre.

While it is safe to assume at least half of the Gala films will be released before the end of 2013, it isn’t always as easy to tell with the Special Presentations. I enjoyed the delightful Thank You For Sharing last year as a schedule filler, convinced it would be released within months due to the Gwyneth and the Ruffalo – and that it was actually quite lovely, but it has yet to be released.

Rush, August: Osage County and  The Fifth Estate will all be out before the end of the calendar year.

 

 

Pick Your Package

Packages for TIFF members go on sale June 25. Visa cardholders can buy their packages on July 3. Everyone else can buy their packages July 10.

There is a handy wizard on the TIFF site to help you pick your package. They ask you if you want to get a good value, or if you want to focus on a theme.

But really, the questions should really get at what you want to get out of the festival.

So, here’s my guide.

packagewizardA

Fairly simple.

If you are confused about the difference between wealthy and rich google ‘rich vs wealthy chris rock‘ and watch his bit that explains it much better than I ever could.

If you can take time off work get a day pack or multiple flex packs if you want more options as the constraints on the day pass often leave you with few options until second and third screenings at the end of the week.

New twist over the past few years more and more movies are being tagged as ‘premium’ screenings, meaning unless you get a premium flex pack (around 60 bucks per film) you will have a very small selection of films that are eligible for the gen pop My Choice packs in the first 3 days of the festival. So if you are planning to take time off work odds are you don’t need to take the Friday off unless you think you will be seeing some premium movies.

No matter what you pick, unless you are going for leadership level you will need to have some level of patience and the ability to wait in line for upwards of an hour OR be a power user of the internet and know how to hold your mental shit together if you see an error message on a site or if some or all elements on a page do not load the first time you hit a link.

Rules Of The Mixtape

Rob Gordon I keep feeling old this year. Maybe it’s that the demo of the member line skews a couple of decades above the crew I’m used to sharing a spot on the cold concrete with each year, or maybe it’s that I’m just old.

Probably that second one. Whenever someone asks me, as they inevitably do, what movie I’m looking most forward to seeing I want to ask them if they have ever made a mixtape. Back in my day, the kids would use cassettes and record music, sometimes from other cassettes, sometimes from records, and even occasionally from the radio, carefully hunching over the buttons in order to filter out any commercials. Those were tough times. We had to really work for our entertainment back then. It didn’t leave a lot of time for shenanigans.

Tangent. So, mixtapes. Or to put it in more common parlance, a playlist. When asked about what film out of the approximately 30 I plan to see if my legs and liver make it to the end of the festival I must always ask the person to consider the mixtape playlist. When making a playlist you do not try to fill it crap and include one awesome song that will make you want to just skip through everything else. You want it to start off good, build up to something great, then awesome, back to great, then good , then epic and so on and you must always finish strong.

2008 was the year I took everything I had learned about picking films through trial and error over the years. Every year since I have tried to duplicate the level of enjoyment I got out of the festival in ’08. I opened with 9.99 – unforgettable if only for the stop motion animated coitus. Then Lovely, Still a movie so engrossing that even having a Weinstein sitting behind me constantly checking his phone  and kicking my seat could not spoil my enjoyment. I followed those up with More Than A Game where a still cavalier LeBron cried during the Q&A and Every Little Step where everyone cried during the Jason Tam audition for Paul. There were a few ups and downs in the week but that year, more than any other year is why I keep doing this. I had the first screening of Slumdog where the entire audience at the Ryerson rose and clapped along for the end credits. In one of the daytime holes my friend convinced me to add the Wrestler – and that was also the year of Flame & Citron, Deadgirl, Apron Strings, The Brothers Bloom and Medicine for Melancholy.

I can’t pick a favourite before the festival starts. I can’t even pick a favourite after it’s over. If I did it right it’s all good. So today, with two more sleeps until it all begins as far as I know I have the perfect mixtape queued up and all I have to do is hit play.

I Need A Drink

20120825-074639.jpgI am aware that 7:30 AM is too early to start drinking, however I don’t quite feel like orange juice is going to do the trick right now. Quick list of tips for people placing their orders online – sorry I won’t get this done in time to help people with an 8:00 AM slot, may the odds be ever in your favour.

I recommend a PC with a modern version of Internet Explorer. The people at the box office use PCs and it just seemed safer – I have doubts about the amount of Mac+Safari or Chrome regression testing.

First – if you have time organize your picks by alphabetical order with the date, time, location and number of tickets (ideally in a spreadsheet with columns).

Create a second spreadsheet with the picks organized chronologically.

You can select your films by title, which will involve you selecting the letter of the alphabet the English name of the film starts with in the schedule/programme book. If the film starts with ‘The’ put that after the rest of the title in your spreadsheet so when you alpha sort it is in the correct order. Example ‘Thieves, The’.

When you select the title of your film, you will get a new page where all showings available for your package are listed. Select the correct showing.

Then you get to select the quantity and add to cart.

Lather, rinse and repeat.

You can also select your films by date. You click the date on the calendar, and then scroll through a page listing the films showing on that day. Select the film, and then your quantity.

A couple of minutes before your start time get your email, package ID and password entered in the form.

Copy the package ID to your clipboard as you will need to enter it again at the end of the process before you submit your order.

If you are expecting a call or have a text-y friend turn your phone off – you will not want to be interrupted.

Wait and hit login when your time window starts. You will not be able to login until your time window.

Calm the f**k down. Breathe.

Try not to look at the countdown. It will drive you insane.

Do not click checkout until you are finished. Just keep going back to select films.

You will need to select your picks one at a time. You can go either by date or by film title.

If you select a film and it doesn’t appear to be off sale but you don’t have the ability to select any quantity from the drop down, try again by selecting the film by the other method (title  or date). Or go back to that film at the end of your order and try it again.

If you wait too long on the page where you are supposed to select quantity the browser may refresh – just verify if your tickets were added to your cart.

Relax – it is unlikely you will run out of time.

Overall it was stressful, but that is more because it was a change to the process, not because the site had many problems. There were a few moments when I swear I could actually feel the load on the site getting heavier – and the response time got a little sluggish. About halfway through my order entry I got a crazy refresh that make it look like I needed to login again – I just clicked ‘Select Films’ at the top and it sent me back to the cart view. I may have soiled myself slightly, but except for that little blip it was ok. Even if I had to start over again I probably would have had enough time.

If you have ever had a job that involved data entry or were a cashier you will be thankful for your ability to zen out and click your way through the process.

Best of luck to everyone and happy festival.