Sunday, July 22, 2007

You can call me Harry Poseur

How could you not be caught up in the frenzy of Harry Potter-mania in this last week? Now, I, for one, have only read the first book, but I have seen all the movies. Hey, now... don't think that I didn't hear you scoff! OK, so I did roll my eyes at movies #2 and #4, but I did quite enjoy The Prisoner of Azkaban (though, admittedly, it took me four sittings to get through... I would last 45 minutes, then fall into a deep slumber on the couch), and the latest, The Order of the Phoenix, wasn't half bad. I'd almost say that the presence of "Luscious" Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) might have even helped, um, "stir" my interest in finally picking up more of the books to get a better handle on what the heck was going on.

But as a fan of all things literary in general, I wasn't going to pass up joining the party for the biggest literary unveiling of ANY kind of modern times: The release of Book #7, aka The Final Harry Potter Book EVER, aka Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So, for the eve before that fateful official release date of July 21st, I hooked with a group of hardcore non-wizard-like Potter fans (who claimed that in my presence they were all only half-Muggle... because no one could be more Muggley than me). We caravaned to the Lake Forest Park Third Place Books, where one of many many citywide Harry Potter release parties was taking place. Third Place Books is an awesome new and used bookstore, situated openly next to a large community mall space with a stage, a big chess board, some food establishments, and the mouth-watering Honey Bear Bakery. We knew they'd have a great shindig.

The parking lot was unsurprisingly packed when we arrived at 9:30pm. As soon as we pulled open the decorated double-doors and were hit by a blast of noise, I knew I was out of my league. There were kids dressed up. There were adults dressed up. There were groups of teens sitting cross-legged on the floor drinking Full Throttle while reading Book #6 to pass the time. There was a Fortune Telling Room, there were quizzes, there was a magician, and even the SCA showed up to whack each other with swords for the entertainment of all. My group split up, as one went to stand in a massive line up adults queuing up for coffee, and a couple of the others went in search of the new Details magazine with Daniel Radcliffe on the cover, where he is looking decidedly hunky and un-Harry-like. (Alas, the magazine was sold out, apparently within the whole shopping complex. Not that we checked. Whatever.)

But the masses were clearly biding their time waiting for midnight. Even though everyone had a ticket showing that they had purchased the book in advance, people still began lining up around 10pm. The electric buzz in the air was undeniable, so much so that the temperature in the building built up to a balmy 80 or so degrees. This Muggle had to take a couple breaks and stand outside in the parking lot where there was a refreshing cool drizzle and a handful of covertly smoking adults. The magician tried to entertain people up until the stroke of midnight, to no avail. The crowd was swarming restlessly.

And here, my dear readers, is the sound of midnight. At 26 seconds into this clip, you can clearly hear when they released the hounds... or the books, rather. Kids, teens, and adults ran screaming through the aisles, yelling, "I GOT IT!!! I GOT IT!!!" Two teenage girls breathlessly flipped open the front of the book and squealed, "The first word is... the first word is... THE!!!!"

I have to say I was impressed at the efficiency of the bookstore employees. The line of over 1,500 people got their hands on the tome within 35 minutes. The bookstore folks kept their spirits up, despite the chaos, and only started to look frazzled as the evening was wrapping up. One redheaded employee in an academic robe sheepishly admitted, "No, my name is not George. It's not even Fred. My name is Steve." As my cohort S and I scooted forward in line, we fell into a chat with a woman and her kids in front of us. The mom asked us if we were each going to get a copy of the book so we wouldn't have to fight over it at home. I said nonchalantly, "Oh, no, we're just getting one for her. I have only read the first book, so I won't be reading it anytime soon..." An eavesdropping 50-something woman snapped her head around to stare at me in shock and disgust, so blatantly appalled at what I just said that I had to laugh and point at her. "THAT is the look I've been expecting all evening!" A Harry Potter poseur exposed!

Still, I'm glad I went. I'm current on all the movies so I have a rough idea of what is going on through Book #5. Plus over pre-PotterPalooza margaritas, I had a major Book #6 spoiler accidentally spilled to me (as a result of me saying that I liked Snape... he wasn't so bad, really, I had said). Ooops. But one of these days I'll buck up and tackle the series. This Potter Poseur is quietly tiring of being ostracized by her friends and co-workers. No, I'm not caving. Truly, such a successful, popular and acclaimed series is most likely actually GOOD, so I'll be looking forward to it. Cheers, and thanks for your understanding and tolerance. :)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

If I was a Simpson...

Now I've seen some brilliant web promotions for movies. From Corpse Bride's website, you could send a custom Message From the Land of the Dead to your friends (this involved your pal receiving a link to a site that would show a skeletal hand awkwardly and verrrry sloooowly writing a message on a dusty mirror). The blink-and-you-missed-it ventriloquist-dummy horror film Dead Silence had a similiar schtick which allowed you to send a Dumm-E-Mail featuring the vocal stylings of creepy-ass dummy stars Cornelius, Billy, and Ursula. Both of these sites created hours of fun and endless giggles for my friends.

And now, with the impending release of The Simpsons Movie, those crafty folks on the World Wide Internets have created the ultimate Web toy that allows us all to experiment with a dream that I'm sure all of us have thought about at one time or another: "What would *I* look like if I were on The Simpsons?" With the Create Your Simpsons Avatar tool, you can choose your hair, your nose, your toothiness (or lack thereof). Choose your pale yellow to brown skin tone. Choose the design on your t-shirt. Voila! Here is your Springfield doppleganger!

This avatar creator, I believe, is actually an amazing social experiment to inflict upon all your friends. Sure, after some playing around with your own image, you start to get an idea of what your friends may look like in this yellow world. However, start an email chain and require all of your cohorts to respond by attaching their self-made 'toon. This simple task turns out to be an extremely revealing insight into your friends' self-image. Some creations are right-on, others are strangely baffling. What were they thinking?

For a taste of the fun to be had, here are some of your favorite Moviepie contributors (at least how they see themselves!)...

Friday, July 06, 2007

a TIFF rant already?! the fest is still two months away!

Those TIFF Bastards have really done it this time.

In addition to raising prices YET AGAIN for the 2007 film fest, they have -- in their infinite stupidity -- actually done away with the 30-coupon book.


The 30-coupon book was, in the past, one of the best deals going. It was the first thing to sell out every single year. It's been around FOREVER. It entitled you, and whomever you wanted to share it with, 30 TIFF split however you saw fit (1 ticket for 30 movies, 2 tickets for 15 movies, whatever).

But it is gone -- GONE -- from the ticketing options this year. Just GONE. No explanation. Instead, the TIFF Bastards have bestowed upon fest-goers new lame passes -- the "Festival Experience" pass, where they pick the movies for you; the Family Passes; and the Midnight Madness pass. Thing is, none of these passes come close to being any kind of bargains. The MM Pass (which gets you one ticket to each of the ten MM screenings) is actually MORE expensive than if you just bought a book of 10 coupons and ordered ten MM tickets your own damn self.

Nevermind the fact that, now, people wanting 30 coupons will have to buy three books of 10 coupons...which means the fest can tack on their $2 (or whatever it is) per-item surcharge THREE TIMES instead of just once.

People are LIVID.

One friend of mine was so (rightfully) upset that she actually contacted the festivals's customer disservice department. Below is her account of what happened, which she emailed to all her fest buddies, and contact info for anyone else wishing to complain:

Hi everyone,

Most of you already know the 30-coupon book was eliminated from this year's Film Festival ticketing options. For those of us who ordered 30+ coupons either on our own or to share -- this essentially increases the coupon price by 16% -- i.e. the difference between a 10-coupon book and a 30-coupon book. I know some people were also concerned about having to submit multiple order forms, and the inconvenience of doing so.

I sent a complaint to -- I got both an e-mail response as well as a phone call from Peter Reitzel, Senior Manager, Customer Relations and Ticketing. I know some of you have also complained, but I don't know if you'd gotten responses or not, so I wanted to let you know what I'd been told.

He said the reason for eliminating the 30-coupon book was "long term planning and efficiency" -- (yes, that's a direct quote). He said the festival was introducing a lot of new products and it was inefficient to have so many product options and thus decided to eliminate the 30-coupon book because it was essentially the same product as the 10-coupon book. He said many people were also intimidated by the 30-coupon book. He said it was not a decision driven to increase revenues. His exact words -- "not just unilateral money-making". He said the festival generally tries to keep their price increases at inflationary levels (although 16% doesn't really fit with that.) He also said that most of the new product offerings (although not all) were for the benefit of first-time festival goers or those who weren't comfortable with the regular ticketing process. I said that if there was a need to reduce product offerings, it felt to me like there were new products for new consumers, at the expense of eliminating something that worked well for long-time consumers of the festival -- and that made me feel undervalued as a long-term fan. He agreed he could understand this.

He didn't seem to get that public accessibility and affordability go hand-in-hand.

So how does this all lead to efficiency anyway... apparently the intention (although not clear on the website) is that if someone orders multiple 10-coupon books, they'll all be considered a single package and it will be expected that the film orders for the full package will be on a single order form. So for those of you who were concerned about having to submit multiple order forms for separate books of 10 -- no worries. You can put them all together. However, for those of you who group orders to get around those pesky phone fees, there may be a bit of a problem. I asked him why this wasn't more clear on the website, and he said it would be clear on the confirmation form after you submit your order. And then if you're not happy with that, and want to break up the order into separate packages, you'd need to call and complain.

I asked if there was any chance they'd reconsider bringing back the 30-coupon book, or introducing price breaks for those ordering multiple 10-books. He said they do a post-mortem every year, and the best thing to do was lodge a written complaint with So if you're upset by this (or you just want to help me in my complaint) please send a message to Feel free to pass this info on to any of your other festival friends.

p.s. If you're feeling really strongly and also want to call Peter Reitzel directly, his phone number is 416-934-5830. (I mentioned that I knew several other people who were upset by this, and he gave me a somewhat snarky response... so I told him that I'd be giving out his number.)

And, today, she sent this update after I asked to reprint her email:

By all means, please feel free to reprint my e-mail (with whatever additional comments you feel are necessary to the Moviepie blog).

Peter Reitzel had asked me "what I wanted" from our conversation and I said two things -- firstly, the truth. If it's a revenue-based decision, just say so. Be honest with the fans because we understand there's a need to make money. But he repeated several times that it wasn't a revenue-based decision. Secondly, I wanted some reassurance that they'd give careful consideration to bringing back the 30-coupon book (or some other volume coupon price break) next year. He said they do a post-mortem every year and look at complaints. So anything that helps get the word out and encourage people to e-mail their complaints to sounds good to me. I did get the sense that e-mail complaints would be taken most seriously because not all the phone calls get logged, despite what the operators might say.

So there you go. Are you pissed off with the Toronto International Film Festival? Want to air your grievances? Git to writin'!