My wife and I will be attending the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time next week, and after jumping through all the registration hoops, paying for the Out of Town Package, and staying up late to select the 30 films we wanted to see over 10 days, we received confirmation that we got 29.5 out of 30 of our first choice selections. The 0.5 represents one instance where one of us got our first choice for a movie (a documentary called The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World), while the other got our backup choice for that timeslot (a Canadian claymation flick called Edison and Leo), so when we get there we’ll have to do some switching so that we’re both going to the same movie (I’m thinking that we’ll have to switch it so we’re both going to Edison and Leo, but we’ll try for the other).
We’re also trying to add one more film to our schedule, the gala premiere of the Coen Brothers’ latest Burn After Reading. Sadly, we couldn’t select it with our Festival Lite package, and I missed out on pre-ordering tickets. So we’ll try for rush line seating, although I’m sure it’s the hottest ticket of the festival, so it’ll be a tough order. Either way, we’ll show up for the premiere, as my wife hopes to see George Clooney and Brad Pitt, even if it’s from behind a rope line.
For the interest of those wondering what we’ll be seeing, I’ve broken down our schedule day by day:
Thursday, September 4
This is the official start day of the festival, but there isn’t much playing that night (the festival opens with the gala premiere of Passchendaele, which wasn’t open to us). That’s okay, because we have tickets to see the Blue Jays play the Twins at the Rogers Centre. We did get tickets to one movie in case the game goes short, a 9:00 screening of Waltz with Bashir, an animated documentary on Israel’s 1982 war with Lebanon. It was the thirtieth movie we booked, so we were very tired when I foolishly figured there was a chance that we’d get to a movie that early after the ballgame. I can’t see that happening at all, so I think we’ll try and exchange these tickets for something later in the week.
Friday, September 5
This will kick off the festival for us, meaning that it will actually be 30-31 films in nine days, instead of ten. Yeesh. It kicks off bright and early for us, with an 8:45 screening of Passchendaele. That’s mighty early for a Canadian production of World War I, but it’s the only time it’s open to the public, and our patriotism demands we check it out. Also a plus is co-star Caroline Dhavernas, who we loved from Wonderfalls. An hour after that finishes, we see the new Guy Ritchie film RocknRolla (thankfully in the same theatre, the Ryerson, so we don’t have to travel far). The hope is that Ritchie’s made a good movie after detours following Snatch, with this one starring Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Ludacris, and Jeremy Piven.
I’m guessing we’ll be napping after that (our hotel is about one kilometre away), until it’s time for the 3:15 showing of JCVD. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as… washed-up action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme. Watch the trailer above and tell me it doesn’t look awesome. You can’t. Because it is awesome.
The rest of the evening will be spent trying to get into/see celebrities from Burn After Reading, and maybe stretching or something.
Saturday, September 6
Another early morning, with Ed Harris’ Appaloosa starring himself, Viggo Mortensen, Renée Zellweger, and Jeremy Irons kicking things off at 9 am. We’ll have to see if the western keeps coming on strong with that one. After that is the aforementioned Biggest Chinese Restaurant/Edison and Leo mix-up, so who knows what we’ll be seeing in the afternoon (although I do know that both will keep us from attending the free Slam Dunk competition featuring an appearance from LeBron James, in town to promote More Than a Game). We kept our schedules pretty clear after that, giving us time to get there early for the first screening of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which is probably the movie my wife is most excited to see (besides Burn After Reading, since we’re unsure if we’ll get to see it). She’s very much looking forward to seeing Michael Cera. I’m interested in seeing Jay Baruschel play a tough guy.
After that, we might finish the night with a free Youssou Ndour concert (to promote his documentary Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love), or we might crash at our hotel. Or who knows? Maybe we hang out with Michael Cera… okay, probably the hotel thing (curling up to The Office season four, which comes out Tuesday).
Sunday, September 7
We sleep in! Our first scheduled movie is Food, Inc. at 1:00, a documentary sure to make us feel guilty about everything we eat. Although it’s possible that we exchange our Waltz with Bashir tickets to go see a 9:30 showing of Christopher Walken in $5 a Day, but I’m guessing three days in a row of early shows will be a bit much.
After that light 90 minute offering, and what I’m guessing will be a socially-conscious lunch, we get a break until back-to-back screenings at the Ryerson, starting with Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire at 6:00, then Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno at 9:15. We’re hoping for a Q&A following Zack and Miri, as Smith is always a good show behind a mic (even if he hasn’t been as successful behind a camera of late).
Monday, September 8
The day kicks off at noon with a compilation film New York, I Love You directed by 13 different people and starring… well, just about everybody. It’s the next in a planned series from the producers of Paris, Je t’Aime, which I still haven’t seen, even though I too love Paris.
We’ll probably spend the next hour eating lunch and planning a trip to New York for the future, then go see Wong Kar Wai’s Ashes of Time Redux. It sounds phenomenal, and, hey, it’s about time we start remixing movies. We’ve got five and a half hours between that and our next film, Plastic City a Japanese-Brazilian gangster movie by Yu Lik-wai (whose previous films are titled Love Will Tear Us Apart and All Tomorrow’s Parties. Yup, I decided to go see his new movie because his old ones were named for songs by Joy Division and Velvet Underground. I’m that easy. Plus, tell me you’re not intrigued to find out what a Japanese-Brazilian gangster movie looks like). I’m thinking we’ll fill some of that time with another free concert, this time by Terrance Blanchard in support of Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna. We also might exchange those Bashir tickets for something this morning (which would work better), either The Other Man starring Antonio Banderas, Liam Neeson, and Laura Linney or Still Walking, a Japanese film featuring a mother character with the same name as my wife’s mother (Toshiko).
Tuesday, September 9
This will be the day that kills us. A guaranteed four movie day (whereas earlier days we may sneak in a fourth), and they’re all densely packed together. I love how I’m trying to make sitting in a movie theatre sound like hard work. It starts with a noon screening of Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, then continues with a 3:00 screening of the aforementioned More Than a Game a documentary look at LeBron James’ high school basketball team, then continues with a 5:30 screening of The Dungeon Masters a doc about Dungeons & Dragons gamers, then finishes up with a 9:00 pm screeing of The Brothers Bloom, Rian Johnson’s new film starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rinko Kikuchi.
Johnson’s Brick was one of my favourite movies of recent vintage, so The Brothers Bloom is probably the screening I’m most looking forward to. I think this is the debut screening at TIFF, so maybe some of the principles will be in attendance. As far as The Dungeon Masters goes, I’ve really been digging the recent subgenre of documentaries about silly little competitive diversions, be it Scrabble, crosswords, spelling bees, junior high ballroom dancing, old school arcade games, or air guitar, so I’m hoping it will be of the same vintage.
Wednesday, September 10
At this point, we’ll have been in Toronto a week (we get in a day before the fest begins), so everything should be old hat by now. We kick things off with Atom Egoyan’s Adoration at 12:30, letting Kim see what Scott Speedman’s been up to. She then catches up with Joshua Jackson in One Week at 3:15, thus fulfilling our teen melodrama idols quota for the day, along with our Canadian films quota. We’ll try to catch a free Shaolin monk demonstration to kill the time until the 9:15 showing of Good, a Viggo Mortensen-starring WWII Nazi movie — cause it wouldn’t be a film festival without a WWII Nazi movie.
Thursday, September 11
The day starts with a 12:15 showing of Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. It would’ve been cool to work in New York, I Love You into a double feature for this day, but it was not to be (the city of New York will have to do without this meaningless gesture).
An hour after that at 3:15, we have Gigantic, starring Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel in one of those indies which will either be fun and unique, or annoyingly clever. We’ll see. It seems that we didn’t book that many early evening movies (maybe there aren’t many, or maybe we were concerned with eating), so again we have time off to catch a free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square, this time it’s the Great Lakes Swimmers performing the One Week soundtrack (unless, I guess, we end up hating that movie).
The night ends with what is my first, and could very well be my last, Zac Efron starring movie with Me and Orson Welles (also starring Ben Chaplin and Claire Danes). I’m not seeing it for any of them, however, and instead am going to see it because it’s the new Richard Linklater movie.
Friday, September 12
The day starts at 12:45 (we basically decided that we’d have to see a movie really bad to schedule it before noon, which is why we haven’t since Saturday the 6th) with What Doesn’t Kill You, another South Boston crime flick along the lines of The Departed and Gone Baby Gone starring Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke, Amanda Peet, and Donnie Wahlberg. We then rest until a 5:15 showing of $9.99, a stop-motion claymation flick from Israel and Australia voiced by Geoffrey Rush and Anthony LaPaglia (which may very well be our second claymation movie of the fest). We end the night with American Swing, which we’re thinking of as Swingtown: The Documentary. We’ve been watching that throughout the summer, so it’ll be nice to see it without all the naughty bits cut out.
Saturday, September 13
On the final day of the festival, we’re back to a four movie day (after which, it could be weeks before we watch another film… unless of course we don’t get in to see Burn After Reading). To do so, we’re up early for a 10 am screening of The Ghost, a Russian hitman thriller that looks pretty badass. We then skip across the street for a 12:45 screening of Chocolate, a Thai martial arts action flick that looks even more badass. This one features an autistic girl who can master any fighting style played by Jija Yanin, the world’s next great martial arts star (she does all her own stunts).
An hour after the fictional version, we’ll catch The Real Shaolin, a documentary about real martial artists. Then it’s rest and dinner until our final screening: the 8:30 showing of Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna. I’m hoping this will also be a star-heavy screening, maybe with Spike, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Michael K. Williams, whom I will shout “Omar Coming” at because I’m sure he’s never heard that before.
And that’s our TIFF plans. We fly home the next day at 11:30 am, and I’m at work the next day after that… probably in need of a vacation. I’m bringing my new laptop with me, so I hope to blog about the fest as it happens, so check back for that.
EDIT: We picked up our tickets, and were shut out of The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World (well, we had that one ticket, but we like to watch movies together), so we’re going to Edison & Leo instead. And we traded Waltz with Bashir for a Monday morning screening of Still Walking for those of you scoring at home.