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:
- The Bothersome Man (terrific premise; good buzz)
- Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin film; one-of-a-kind screening)
- The Bugmaster (intersting premise; interesting director)
- The Host (South Korean monster movie; excellent buzz; excellent director)
- I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-Liang directed The Wayward Cloud, my favorite film from TIFF 2005)
- Pan's Labyrinth (fantastic creatures; Del Toro film; great buzz)
- Rescue Dawn (Herzog, Herzog, Herzog)
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...