Thursday, September 08, 2005

TIFF Entry #4: The fest is starting…let the moviegoing begin!

It’s here! Day one of the film festival has finally arrived and, with it, a mélange of excitement, frustration, last-minute tips and an underlying urge to dig in my heels and slow down the process so that the whole extravaganza might be savored for as long as possible. It always flies past in the blink of an eye and always seems like it’s over much too quickly.

In the meantime…

As press coverage for the fest begins, it seems more and more outlets are echoing some of the sentiment I expressed in my Open Letter to Piers Handling from TIFF 2004.

There was a GREAT letter to the editor in today’s print issue of the Toronto weekly NOW (alas, their letters aren’t available online) that essentially criticized the fest for its high ticket prices and shameless disregard for the audiences that have, over the years, made it great. Amen to that, I say!

There was also a small item in the Saturday Star’s A&E section (Sat. Sept. 3rd), pointing out the precise amount that prices have risen – a whopping $3.75 PER TICKET since 2003!!! (again, can’t find a link!) Single tickets are now more than $18, not including taxes!

Today’s Globe & Mail tackles the ticket-pricing issue, as well, but their story makes it sound like fest-goers don’t really seem to mind the increase. HUH??? Which film-going fans did they talk to??? ‘Cause all of the folks I know would rather see a more reasonable inflation rate…more like a quarter (25 cents, that is) a year, not $2.50.

Oh how I wish CityTV’s kick-ass consumer specialist, Jee-Yun Lee, would do a story on the economics of attending the festival as a “civilian.” I suspect, though, that most news media are hesitant to be critical of the fest in any way, lest their credentials be revoked. Ah well.

I packed my festival bag today, and thought it might be helpful for fest newbies to list a few key items that no festival attendee should be without. There seem to be two schools of thought with regard to fest preparedness – those who believe they should bring along everything they own, and those who adopt a more minimalist, only-the-necessities packing process. I fall somewhere in the middle. My own personal belief is that, aside from your tickets, the following items are important (but by no means mandatory!):

* Knapsacks are fantastic but, please, not the massive I’m-going-hiking-through-the-Himalayas monstrosities that barely fit into a seat of their own, let alone into the space in front of your feet or under your seat. They’re huge. They’re awkward. They’re excessive.

* Folding camping chairs (to alleviate the standing-in-line fatigue) sound like a nice, comfy idea in theory, but trying to find space for them (even re-rolled back into their casing) inside theaters is a pain for everyone. Small – and I stress SMALL – folding stools, though, can be very handy and are much more audience-friendly in terms of portability.

* Snacks are a must, but not in loud, crinkly bags. Small tupperware containers are ideal (and wonderfully environmentally friendly!) for carting around fruit, cookies, vegetables or sandwiches. Plus, they’re delightfully quiet. Just one initial *shhhhhwclunk* sound when opening, and another upon closing. Ahhhh.

* If you’re spending the entire day out at the fest – as in, your first movie is at 9am, followed by three or four more movies, ending sometime around 11pm – think about packing a stick of deodorant. Seriously. Especially if the weather’s going to be warm, or you’re going to be running from theater to theater. Trust me, no matter how many odor-fighting ingredients your antiperspirant contains, they ALL need to be topped up during a long, long day like that. Your fellow moviegoers will thank you. (Also, if the forecast calls for hot, humid, sweat-riffic weather, there’s nothing wrong with rolling up an extra T-shirt and taking it along for a mid-afternoon change.)

* Water! Somewhere in the list of dos and don’ts, I mentioned that a neat trick (and one that lightens your load) is to bring your bottle to the theater(s) EMPTY. All venues have water fountains where you can fill up before the movie starts or before you dash off to your next film. Those giant litre bottles are somewhat unwieldy, so you may want to downsize for the fest and just bring along the single-serving size to refill throughout the day. After all, will you really be drinking an entire litre of water in one sitting at one movie?

* Breath mints. On behalf of all the people you’ll be talking to in line, in your seat, waiting for the washroom, wherever – thank you.

* A copy of the official festival schedule. It has start times, running times and end times for every film showing every day of the festival and is an invaluable resource to have on hand. Of course, you can also pick one up at any festival venue, but reading and tossing them repeatedly is a waste of paper…so take one and keep it with you.

* And, depending on your tolerance for cold, a long-sleeved shirt or a sweater (or the like) to wear during screenings. The theaters are often quite chilly and the air-conditioning cranked, which sounds lovely in theory, until you’re halfway through a film and asked to leave because your chattering teeth are irritating other patrons.

That’s about it. Sure, umbrellas might be needed on rainy days, and you might want to pack some Tylenol for those pop-up headaches, but otherwise…you don’t really need much else.

As for movies, I saw my first today…but it was an inauspicious kick-off, I’m afraid. It was the New Zealand comedy 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous (3/8), which was royally pooped upon by the local weeklies and practically invites criticism based on its title alone. I went in with lowered expectations and regret to report that I did not enjoy it. The film – which has shades of Ma vie en rose -- tells the story of Billy (Andrew Paterson), an overweight, mildly effeminate boy living on a rural New Zealand farm in the 1970s. He’s gay, but is too young to understand it. Things don’t get much better when he’s assigned to befriend Roy (Jay Collins) – the new kid at school, who turns out to be a weird, obsessive, freaky “poofter” who’s almost immediately in love with Billy. The core of the story was interesting, and the alienated-kids theme worked to some degree, but the acting was, for the most part, stilted and forced, which is to be expected, I guess, given the fact that the cast was made up of first-timers. But the thing that bothered me most was the character of Roy, who’s so freaky and weird that he becomes unlikable and unsympathetic. Why would the audience ever side with him? And why did Billy’s best girlfriend turn into a raging bitch at the drop of a hat? And why…nevermind.

The Q&A afterwards also reminded me of one of my fest pet peeves: needless ass-kissing. The way some of the audience was talking, you’d think this was the Greatest Coming Out Movie Ever!

Yeah, not really.

Celebrity Sightings: None. It’s only day one!

Roger Ebert Sightings: OMG! OMG!!!!! I was going to say no, but he’s BEING INTERVIEWED ON TV RIGHT NOW! (I know that doesn’t count. I’m just saying.)

Line Buzz: Too soon for any talk of which movies are great and which ones blow, but there was chatter about the price increases and declining attendance by long-time festgoers.


amnestee said...

If that interview is taking place in Toronto and is, indeed, a live interview, Roger Ebert may well be a TIFF 2005 attendee. Which increases your chances of spotting him. Continued good luck. And sorry about today's film.

Vickie said...

Oh, I know for a fact Roger's here. :-D

I fully anticipate a sighting (or several) this year, based on the films I'm seeing -- LOTS of premieres, and premieres often = Roger Ebert in the audience.

the_voice said...

Kiss kiss, bang bang was funny (with one oddly paced section), and Sarah Silverman was absolutely hilarious.

Vickie said...

Today, I was in line with an older woman who said she hated the movie she'd just seen...and it was the Sarah Silverman one! Although, I'm not sure this woman was Sarah's target audience -- some of her stuff can be VERY very racy.