Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How to Schedule Movies and Not Go Crazy (Part 4)

Since the film schedule has gone live, this is becoming increasingly unnecessary, so rather than my usual novel, I'll be brief. The process from here on in is fairly simple: When the schedule goes live, you'll be given the opportunity to choose your films and plug them into a personal schedule. Fill in your first choices, then your second. Then, dig through the schedule and add as many additional films as you feel comfortable with. Don't worry about cluttering the schedule, because you'll need those additional films to fill in the inevitable gaps.

This can get wildly complicated, since the movie times very, very rarely conform to your needs and desires. For example, Saturday the 16th is currently a hell for Asian film fans, since Invisible Waves, Woman on the Beach, Syndromes and a Century, Family Ties, Big Bang Love Juvenile A and the Election/Election 2 combo all have wildly overlapping times in the middle of the day. They all get prior showings, naturally, but since those tend to overlap...well, you can see why it sucks.

Regardless, the schedule will come together and a grand time will be had by all. Incidentally, since these posts couldn't cover everything, I direct you here, to glenlake8's excellent complementary post, which covers the very important factors of theatre size and locations.

Now I'll head off to wrestle this damn schedule down to a manageable size. As soon as it's done, I'll post it on the site.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How to Schedule Movies and Not Go Crazy (Part 3)

So now you've got a handful of films that will anchor your schedule. The next step is to create a fluid list of about 14 or 15 films that will comprise your second tier. It's pretty simple, which is why I, a crazy person, recommend complicating it as much as possible. The following are my general rules for this process (yours will no doubt be much saner):
  • Avoid major releases - I've probably said this a billion times on this blog, but I mean it--major releases are fine for limited festival incursions, but those seeing 20+ films should avoid them completely. Here's an analogy to illustrate: Let's say you're visiting Paris. Would you go to a McDonald's? A Burger King? Hell no. You'd find some cafe along the Seine and wait 45 minutes for an overpriced meal while chatting about some movie made just around the corner. There are exceptions, but they're fairly limited. Avoid the blockbusters and seek out the strange Mongolian film that you'll never see back home.
  • Try something new - It's fun to see something familiar at a festival, but don't neglect films that don't, on the surface, appear appealing. I suggest stepping outside your boundaries and trying something very different. Granted, this can backfire. At last year's TIFF, about half of my big chances were fairly...underwhelming. Regardless, try something new with at least one of your free slots. It's well worth the risk.
  • Include something light - The vast majority of films at TIFF are serious, thought-provoking, and somber, which is wonderful until about Tuesday or Wednesday. By that point, you're likely to be so overwhelmed by pain and misery that your spirit could very well be crushed. This is why I suggest finding at least one film on the list that has no potential for suicides, dying animals, or dying animals committing suicide. Of course, it's often difficult to tell from the vague program descriptions, but it's worth it. Last year, I saw a work print of Dave Chappelle's Block Party and it was one of the highlights of the festival.
  • Try Some Midnight Madness - Midnight Madness is, without a doubt, some of the most fun you can have at TIFF. The films are usually entertaining and the crowds are a blast. I still feel this year's crop is slightly thin, but I'll try to take in two or three before the festival's over. The other perk: the theater's big and the lottery process rarely sells these out, so you're practically guaranteed entry.
With those criteria in mind, you can probably craft a diverse secondary list. Not all of these will make the final cut, but at the very least they'll make excellent alternates further down the line.

For the record, my (very tenuous) choices for the second tier this year are: Big Bang Love: Juvenile A, Invisible Waves, Election/Election 2 (if it's a one-ticket/two movies deal), Woman on the Beach, The Fall, Syndromes and a Century, This Filthy World, When the Levees Broke, Khadak, The Last Winter, Waiter, Hana, Offside, Red Road, Manufactured Landscapes and Black Sheep. This will, of course, change radically between now and Tuesday, but that's how it is temporarily.

My final bit of (unnecessary) advice coming soon...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

How to Schedule Movies and Not Go Crazy (Part 2)

So you've tried the randomizing, the Andalusian puffy snake technique, and...maybe something with numbers and gorillas. Now, I'll show you my own method, which is guaranteed to work, except when it doesn't. It's useful mostly for the selection of 30 to 50 films, but some of it is useful in any circumstance.

The first step to a successful (and less insanity-inducing) TIFF schedule is to isolate a handful of core films--must-see, bedrock films that will anchor the rest of your schedule. These are the films you absolutely can't bear to miss. I recommend choosing only seven or eight of these core films, which should minimize the chance of conflicting times. It helps, of course, that each film will play at least twice, which helps a lot.

The great thing about this first list is that it's utterly personal. These are the films that matter the most to you, whether it's for a director you admire or a can't miss storyline. As a potentially embarrasing example, here is my current list of core films, alphabetically and with commentary:
As you can see, the films I'm interested in are almost uniformly director-driven. In addition, I've avoided the galas and almost any film guaranteed a major release, which knocks off The Fountain, among others. Borat would easily be on the list, but it's rumored to be the opening Midnight show, and I won't arrive until Friday. Also left off, for completely arbitrary reasons: Invisible Waves and Big Bang Love: Juvenile A (which, incidentally, is tied for best title in the festival with Brand Upon the Brain!.

Anyway, this is my current starter list. In the next installment, I'll explain the far more arcane "second tier," which, for some reason, takes up most of my time and effort. By the way, if you think I'm missing a real winner, let me know in the comments. I have the strange sensation that I'm overlooking something...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How to Schedule Movies and Not Go Crazy (Part 1)

There's 352 movies at TIFF this year. Let me repeat: 352 freakin' movies. Picking out 30 (or 50 or 10, etc.) from the total can be daunting. Suffice to say, scheduling can be monstrously complicated, especially when you factor in multiple screenings and the necessity to travel from one far-flung theater to the next in a short amount of time. Indeed, it nearly drove me crazy last year trying to hammer out the complexities.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are many, many ways to overcome these dilemmas. The simplest method is to randomize the process. Simply fill up the schedule with no concern for premise, genre, director, etc. There's a certain purity to this approach, and if I hadn't spent as much money as I have on this thing, I might actually try it. But I'm a control freak and giving the entire experience up to chance seems downright perverse to me.

The next is a method employed by an old friend. It involves locating the extremely rare Andalusian Puffy Snake, which has fur and skin in place of the usual scales. After shaving and milking the snake (to calm it), pre-moisten your fingers with guarana juice and goji berries and massage the snake's tender pale skin. Placing the snake in a terrarium with several others of its kind, turn off the lights in your room and stare intently at the snake tank. The friction of the bare, rubbing skin of the Andalusian snakes will form giant blue arcs of static in the air. When the static arcs become large enough to extend out of the tank, begin dropping gummi bears through a funnel system into their path (make sure you have pre-soaked the gummis in a beer/mayonnaise slurry, or else the snakes will devour them). Hours later, return to the tank and gently remove the now-sleeping snakes. The gummis will have melted in a fine-gelled layer on the bottom of the tank. Closely examine this gummi sheet and you should be able to identify images from thirty to fifty films. Repeat the process for alternates, preferably with new snakes.

Of course, you could always just try the method I'll begin explaining in my next post. I'll put that up later tonight.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Crunchy Welcome

Since I've recently been added to the TIFF website's blogroll, I thought I'd say hello to all my new visitors.


That's all for now. I'll be back later with an actual post. Feel free to leave comments, questions, insults, Swedish meatball recipes, or any other randomly assembled sentences in the comments section. It's all appreciated.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

More Titles Announced This Week

The titles keep coming, though at a much slower pace than I anticipated. I suspect TIFF is saving the big guns for Tuesday's full list, so in the meantime we have these. First up is a small set from the newly announced Sprockets programme. Sprockets is Toronto's children's film festival and the small selections announced thus far are their usual fare:
It's probably a good set for the kids, but there's not much here for the rest of us. Incidentally, the three films in the middle are CGI flicks with rodents in central roles. Coupled with the likely-at-Toronto Flushed Away and next summer's Pixar release Ratatouille, that's a baffling trend in animated rats in children's films. Just an observation I find curious, I guess...

Anyway, the next list is from the New Crowned Hope selection. This is a series of films commissioned for the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. All of them relate in some capacity to the themes which Mozart's music addressed. Here's the list:
  • Half Moon (Bahman Ghobadi)
  • Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-Liang)
  • Hamaca Paraguya (Paz Encina)
  • Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho)
  • Daratt (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
  • Mogeko and the Stickfighter (Teboho Mahlatsi)
My excitement detector seriously went off at the mention of Tsai Ming-Liang, who directed my favorite film of 2005's festival, The Wayward Cloud. Definitely want to catch this one.

Lastly, we have today's announcement of nine features from African and African-diaspora cinema. They are:
I have little to say about any of these, though all sound intriguing on one level or another. I'm curious about the presence of Spike Lee's Katrina documentary, not on an aesthetic level (it's Spike Lee), but because it's airing in America on HBO next week and thus seems oddly out of place on TIFF's roster. Oh well, that's the list. Do with it what you will...

Monday, August 14, 2006

TIFF 2006: The (Semi) Auteurist Perspective pt. 1

While part of the joy of a film festival is discovering something new, the unveiling of a master director's newest work can be just as rewarding. Just last year, I had the double whammy of a new Terry Gilliam and the latest Quay Brothers film back-to-back. This may not seem like much to TIFF vets, but I hate you all, so who cares what you think. (NOTE: Please disregard this last comment. I love everyone equally, especially TIFF vets.)

Anyway, here's my amateur take on the filmmakers I'm paying special attention to this year:

WERNER HERZOG - I've been a mild Herzog fan for several years now, but just started properly appreciating him in the last year or so, after Grizzly Man came out. Since then, I've been returning to his older work and find them richer, deeper and stranger than I remember. His film this year, Rescue Dawn, is an adaptation of his earlier Little Dieter Needs to Fly, a film I own, but shamefully haven't watched yet. I've heard it may be more conventional than his usual fare, but I sincerely doubt Herzog is capable of anything too conventional, so we'll see.

TAKASHI MIIKE - Another film festival, another Takashi Miike. Since the man makes approximately 600 films per year, it's not a shock, I suppose, though the lack of a Midnight Madness Miike is somewhat surprising. Big Bang Love Juvenile A (yes, that is the title) looks like an episode of Oz, filmed on the sets of Dogville by the cast of Brokeback Mountain. And if that description doesn't make it sound totally awesome, you may need serious help. Seriously, this one looks absolutely beautiful. Seriously, if you don't believe me, head here, then dig up the trailer.

GUILLERMO DEL TORO (AKA, THE FANBOY'S AUTEUR) - I sort of like del Toro, though I can't say I particularly love any of his films. He moves fairly effortlessly between glossy, sometimes entertaining Hollywood fare (the best being Blade 2) and more serious, personal films. Of his serious work, The Devil's Backbone is the best, mixing real and fantasy horrors in a manner that is almost perfect. Plus, I love any ghost story where the most shocking scene is the snap of a child's bone, with no supernatural influence whatsoever. Pan's Labyrinth is supposed to be in this vein, so I'm officially excited. Also, it's got cool looking monsters. Did you see that guy with the eyeballs in his hands? Awesome.

More to come later. As usual, drop a comment in the bucket and let me know you're out there. If you are out there...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

TIFF Announces More

On Thursday, 12 more films were announced, many of them major fall releases that will see their world premieres at the festival. They are:
The last four films, by the way, are all Galas, which get the majority of the press attention at the festival. Unless you're a rabid fan of one of the Gala directors or actors, they're best avoided by those looking to seriously attend the festival. For one thing, the initial screenings are additional cost (though each will have at least one regular screening). For another, they take place in the Roy Thomson Hall, which is roundly criticized by TIFF film buffs as a really lousy place to see a movie. When you also consider that each film will almost certainly receive a wide release, attending becomes unnecessary.

As for the rest, they're a typically mixed bag. The Fountain looks beautiful, but I don't really like Aronofsky's previous films. Stranger Than Fiction has a nifty premise and a good cast. The remainder--meh. Maybe there's a gem or two there, but my leanings are more to the offbeat. I guess I'll just have to wait for the Visions programme to get more filled out.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

20 More Films Announced

Back on track, I present to you 20 more films announced today. They are:
Shameful confession time: though I've been intrigued for many years, I have yet to watch a Hal Hartley film. Or a Hirokazu Kore-eda. Just two of the many blind spots I'll be confessing through the festival season. They have their rabid supporters, but I'm totally out of the loop. The films themselves sound interesting, though it does mean I've gotta Netflix Henry Fool.

The rest is the usual hodgepodge, calculated to appeal to every conceivable audience, from horror fans (The Last Winter) to lovers of serious drama (I Am the Other Woman) and beyond. Of the listed, I'm most curious about Kore-eda's samurai film, Herzog's latest drama, and Waiter, which appears to be an odd surrealist comedy.

Anyway, I'm caught up and on track once again. Now let me get around to some of those posts I've been blabbing about since the beginning of this thing...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Discovery Programme Announcements

One more stop on this pointless endeavor (for now). And yes, it is quite pointless, since other places are doing a better, more efficient job of this. Regardless, I'm a stubborn guy and I'm gonna keep plugging away, for reasons too complicated and inane to recount.

Anyway, here's the Discovery Programme:
Discovery seemed mostly a waste of time last year, but this year's lot appears to be better. I'm most interested in The King and the Clown, but that may be my general interest in Korean cinema more than anything else.

More updates coming soon. Any and all comments are much appreciated, as ever.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

'Edgy' New Vanguard Programme Announced

This year sees the debut of the Vanguard programme, and the selection, while not quite as 'edgy' as TIFF claims, is fairly diverse:
Placed side-by-side, these appear to be the missing link between Midnight Madness and the more artsy programmes (e.g., Contemporary World Cinema). Arthouse flicks with a healthy sex and violence quotient for the college crowd. It may sound like I'm dismissing this outright, but the idea isn't automatically a bad one. Just drop the breathless descriptions already: 'raw', 'pulsating', 'fearless' and (especially) 'edgy' are tired marketing terms that no self-respecting person hears without rolling their eyes and sighing. Or worse.

Anyway, the films are an interesting bunch, featuring everything from animation to frank sexuality. Renaissance looks gorgeous, but could devolve into typical sci-fi junk if the ideas fail to match the images. I've read good things about Sleeping Dogs Lie, Shortbus, and the Election films. And a martial arts film that pairs Finnish and Chinese mythology might be interesting, if it can transcend the deja vu raised by the trailers.

Speaking of Election, the rumor is that the two films will be paired together, under one ticket (similar to the presentation of the three Pusher films in 2005). If true, it's a pretty sweet deal considering the average price per ticket.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Real to Reel Programme Announcement

The documentaries at TIFF 2006 are:
The selections seem pretty decent, especially compared to last year's. Granted, I only caught one doc in 2005, the fascinating and depressing The Smell of Paradise, but nothing else caught my attention. This year's slate seems richer and more varied (at least to my philistine eyes).

Midnight Madness Titles

In a break from tradition (or so I'm told), the Midnight Madness titles were announced last month, instead of at the end. In another break, they were announced in the order they would be shown. They are as follows:
From what I've heard, the real winner here is The Host, a South Korean monster movie which has won raves from just about everyone who's seen it. Borat will probably be hilarious and the word is good on Princess, a Danish anti-pornography revenge cartoon. The choices aren't too bad, but there's a definite lack of diversity, with seven of the nine essentially horror films. Compare this to last year, which had a bizarre Thai comedy, a heavy metal documentary, a supremely filthy stand-up comedy film, a Takaski Miike kids' film...well, you get my point.

Still, I'll probably be there for at least a couple of these and there's no way I'm missing a full-audience, midnight showing of The Host.

Announcement of Indian Films

On July 20th, the TIFF group announced five more films, this time from Indian cinema. They are:


Canadian Titles Announced (Three Weeks Ago!)

The Canadian titles were announced a few weeks ago and in the interest of doggedly pursuing silly, pointless minutiae, I've listed them below. Note: I haven't linked to the Canadian retrospective titles or the short films. They may be wonderful, but my time is limited and I have a feeling yours is too.

Of these, the Guy Maddin is definitely the most interesting. A silent film, presented with live foley and music? It's bound to be sell out, but that won't keep me from trying. Of the rest, I've heard interesting stuff about Everything's Gone Green, Fido has zombies, and a handful of other films here have interesting premises. I didn't catch any Canadian films last year, but this year's crop might be intriguing.

As always, feel free to throw out a comment, especially if you've heard anything interesting about these or any other films. It's all appreciated.

I'm Back

Sorry. Didn't intend to take a couple weeks off there. A crisis of confidence can be a real bitch, I tell ya. I'll just skip the explanation and move on. Nothing to see here...

In the meantime, this site has apparently been added to the blogroll at tiffreviews.com. They're a good site for TIFF information and I'm happy to be connected, even if it's only tangentially. Most importantly, it tells me there's an audience out there I didn't know I had. It's nice to know someone's reading this junk, even if it's just one crazed lunatic who never leaves his basement. Especially if it's just one crazed lunatic who never leaves his basement.

Anyway, more stuff is coming soon, I promise. I'll update the film links, add the new stuff, review a few of last year's films, etc. Eventually, this place might resemble an actual film blog, though I wouldn't bank on it.

By the way, if anyone has any questions, insults, deranged rants, etc., feel free to drop a comment in the bucket. I'm no expert on TIFF (no matter how much I act like one), but I'll see what I can do. Many thanks to any and all.