TIFF 08: Day 10

This one’s a couple days late, but I didn’t feel like lugging around the laptop one more day and didn’t feel like writing when we got home from our last screening. I’m home now, and ready to put the whole whirlwind trip behind me. It was a great time, but I’m glad to be home with my couch and my dog. So here’s one more day of TIFFing before I get back into the routine of the real world.

Read on for musings on Chocolate, The Real Shaolin, and Miracle at St. Anna, plus a couple of wrap-up thoughts…
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TIFF 08: Day 9

Allow me, if you will, to say a few words about my festival companion: my wife Kim. Like all our vacations, this couldn’t have happened without her, as she did the heavy lifting in terms of planning (when we actually get on vacation, the roles tend to reverse, with me doing the day-to-day planning. I guess she’s the long-term thinker of the relationship). We both enjoy movies, they’re one of our primary activities, but I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that I’m more into them than she is, and thus this vacation is more geared toward my interests than hers. When I first proposed it, I had to sell her a bit on TIFF with the promise of celebrities (of which we’ve seen a few, but not the ones I suggested we’d see) and the idea that we’d do a few more things in the area besides just going to movies all day (which, other than the Blue Jays game to start the trip, was a bald-faced lie. And again, a baseball game is more my idea of fun than hers).

Despite that, she’s embraced this vacation and its manic scheduling in full. There’s been the odd hiccup, and a few bad movies, but as a whole, it’s been great. I’ve had a great time sharing this with her (as we always have a great time sharing experiences with one another), and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. She’s also been a big trooper in tolerating/helping me stay on top of this blog (which has been another fun element of the vacation for me), letting me type away while we wait for movies (while she watches movies on her iPod), allowing me to stay up and write instead of insisting that I go to bed with her, and even at times getting the laptop ready for me while I went to use the restroom. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

But tonight, we decided to take a break from the hectic scheduling and take a night for ourselves, skipping our screening for American Swing when we didn’t feel like getting up from our nap in time to make it. Instead, we enjoyed a nice dinner at a place called The Corner, which was probably more memorable than the 26th movie of 29 (we’ll now be down to 28).

Read on for musings on What Doesn’t Kill You and $9.99
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TIFF 08: Day 8

A change to the schedule today, which came with associated headaches. We realized that the 20 minutes we were giving ourselves after The Ghost to get to a different theatre (albeit one nearby) to see Chocolate simply wasn’t going to be enough, given that they start giving tickets to the rush line at about 15 minutes prior to the start of the film, and that we prefer sitting next to each other.

So we traded our tickets to see The Ghost for vouchers, getting up early to do so. Then we hopped on the subway to rush over to our next screening, realizing that the guy who did the exchange screwed up: giving us one regular voucher (which was correct), and one day voucher (which was not). Day vouchers can only be used for screenings prior to 5:00 pm, but we were planning on using it in a rush line for a 6:30 pm screening (as is our right, being Festival Lite package holders). So now we had to go back to the line from this morning, at a time when time was precious (we had to get in the rush line and grab dinner). After making the switch and grabbing some subs, we were pretty far back in the rush line for Uncertainty. But we made it into the screening (just barely), proving that the rush line process can work sometimes (largely because at this part of the week, no muckity-mucks are attending screenings anymore, so the reserved seats are turned over to rush liners).

Read on for musings on Synecdoche, New York, Gigantic, Uncertainty, and Me and Orson Welles
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TIFF 08: Day 7

Today is the day that TIFF kicked my ass. Coming off possibly our best day of the fest, this might be our worst. It started with a 12:45 screening, before which we only had a couple pocket pitas that I made to eat. We then had to boot it over to another screening a ways away, without anytime to get anything more than gummi bears to eat. So I’ve been undernourished today, leading to a general lethargy. The movies haven’t helped either.

After that screening, we did have dinner, but it wasn’t that hot. We had time after that to go back to the hotel for a nap, but that might have done more harm than good. I seriously considered skipping the final screening of the night, but pushed through it and now here we are, waiting outside the Ryerson for the 9:00 pm screening of Good. Here’s hoping it is. And to top it all off, we left our last free Red Bull in the fridge.

Read on for musings on Adoration, One Week, and Good
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TIFF 08: Day 6

Time to review the theatres themselves. Thus far, we’ve only been to three of the different theatres showing festival screenings, with two others to experience later this week. A majority of our screenings have been at the Ryerson Theatre, which is a large amphitheatre for the college, seating 1200 people. This is the third big venue for the festival, following Roy Thompson Hall (home to the big gala premieres) and The Elgin Theatre (home to the Visa Screening Room, which features other big gala premieres and second screenings of stuff from the Thompson). Screenings at those two theatres aren’t eligible for use with our Festival Lite packages (which is, of course, complete bullshit – especially when it comes to repeat screenings at the Elgin. I can understand reserving gala premieres for those willing to pay $40, but repeat screenings? This is what has shut us out of films like Burn After Reading, The Duchess, Rachel Getting Married, and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird). So the Ryerson is the only place we can go for third-tier gala premieres (such as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Slumdog Millionaire, and tonight’s The Brothers Bloom), and the odd big name repeat screening (Passchendaele, RocknRolla). Luckily, because it’s such a big venue, we were able to get into all the screenings we chose for it, and have always been able to get seats where we want (which is generally close to the front to get a good view of the celebs, and off the side as close to the aisle as possible).

The bad side of the Ryerson is that it’s a pretty shitty place to watch a movie. The sound is fine and the picture quality is great (using Dolby Digital when they can), but the seats are terrible, meaning that you spend most of the film squirming from one uncomfortable position to another. The washrooms are also a mess, down the stairs and across a hall, with the ladies room usually a solid 15 minute wait (of course, the dude’s line is never that long, so I’m good. But I can still sympathize for my wife, right?).

The Scotiabank Centre is your typical modern cineplex, with comfy seats, cup holders, and stadium seating, plus fast food in the concourse. It’s also the only one that lets us line up inside, so that’s a nice touch on the rainy days (oh, and Kim wants me to add that it takes our Scene card for concessions). No complaints there, although you’re not gonna get any premieres here (that said, Ed Harris still showed up to introduce Appaloosa). The AMC is a new venue, similar to Scotiabank in that it has the modern amenities of a multiplex, but better. Every theatre is digital, the seats are more plush, the armrests pull up so we can sit closer to each other without the barrier, there’s a nice individual snack plan. So far, AMC is our favourite venue, with the only flaw being that they make you wait outside (although today we able to get out of one screening in time to walk into the next, foregoing the line). Too bad there’s no AMC theatres where I live.

Read on for musings on The Wrestler, More Than a Game, The Dungeon Masters, and The Brothers Bloom
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TIFF 08: Day 5

Now that we’ve been at this for four days, we’re settling into the routine pretty well. We wake up and have a little something to eat at the hotel (since we have a kitchen in our room), then head out to the first screening. When we have back-to-back screenings (which are generally separated by an hour), we’ll grab something portable for lunch/dinner and eat it in line for the next screening. At some point, we’ll have time to come back to our hotel for a nap (or simply relaxing while still being awake), then head out to the final screening (taking the subway to each location, as we’re right on the line and most of the theatres are as well).

But there’s also a routine to the screenings themselves, which is of more interest to you, the reader. We’re generally seated 20 minutes or so before the film is due to begin (today I’ve been using that time to write this stuff on my laptop… like I’m doing right now, whereas previously the laptop stayed at home while Kim and I played Scrabble on our iPods). The films never start on time, as they want to give enough time to sell tickets to people in the rush line. Then the festival programmer comes out to introduce the film, thank the sponsors, tell us to turn off electronic devices, and introduce the director/producer who is in attendance (every screening thus far besides Passchendaele has had a representative, generally the director, except in the case of the multi-director effort covered below). The director gives a short intro to the film, and if it’s a premiere, will also introduce the cast in attendance. They then sit down (or leave if they’re not sticking around), the lights dim, and the anti-piracy message comes on screen (to which those in the audience in the know reply “Arrrr”). We get a Bell Lightbox ad (that’s the new festival location that they’re building), then a Universal NBC message thanking the festival volunteers (for whom we in the audience applaud), an annoying Motorolla ad I’m more than tired of, and a Cadillac people’s choice award ad I’m also tired of (but less so than the Moto one), and the film begins.

If it’s a premiere, the toadies in the reserved seats will applaud for the studio/distributor banners of whomever they work for. Generally, the audience will applaud for anyone mentioned in the credits who was announced to be in attendance (whereas toadies will also applaud for people like the DP or others mentioned in the credits that we don’t know). When the film is over, there’s more applause (maybe even a standing O, generally induced by the toadies), and a short Q&A. If Kim and I have another screening to get to, or didn’t particularly like the film, we don’t stick around for that (which is why at TIFF, aisle seats are king. We’re sitting at the aisle right now, in two seats separated from the rest of the row. These may be my favourite seats yet). As we leave the screening, we hand off our ballots for the People’s Choice Award, rinse, repeat.

Read on for musings on New York, I Love You, Ashes of Time Redux, and Plastic City
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TIFF 08: Day 4

Three days and nine movies in, and the free stuff well ran dry today.

When you wait for a screening to start, you generally have to wait outside (except at the Scotiabank Centre), and if you want to get a good seat you have to wait outside for awhile. Companies looking to push samples of their product on people thus have a captive audience, which has led to us receiving a lot of free shit, some good, some bad. So far, we’ve gotten two free cans of Red Bull, a couple Dole Fruit Sparklers, a mini-bag of Starbucks coffee beans, a couple other coffee-related samples (I didn’t pay attention since I don’t drink coffee), two t-shirts, a bag of rice chips (sucked), some stupid hand puzzle, and a pair of mini binoculars (which we haven’t needn’t since we wait in lines to get good seats and all, but could come in handy for the upcoming Neil Young concert I suppose). But nothing today. Hopefully this doesn’t mean the end and is merely a result that we tended to stay indoors today because of the rain (both subway stops had indoor entrances to where we were leaving and arriving). I’m still hoping that the Sun Chips people are trying to expand their influence… I love those things.

Read on for musings on Food, Inc., Slumdog Millionaire, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno
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TIFF 08: Day 3

Another day, another three movies. This one was tougher, as the early festival adrenaline was gone and I stayed up too late writing the last post. That, or possibly because the films weren’t as good to keep me from feeling drowsy. To get the celebrity stuff out of the way early: Ed Harris showed up for the early morning screening of Appaloosa to introduce it, which was a nice touch. My wife saw Sarah Polley in the restroom line after a screening (then made sure I stuck around to see her… after the restroom). Then at the big premiere for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the stars came out, including Michael Cera and Jay Baruchel. Kim was very excited for them, getting to see them enter the theatre (they sat pretty close to us). They stuck around for a short Q&A, so that was kinda fun. On the way home, we passed the Blindness premiere at the Elgin, catching glimpses of Danny Glover, Geoffrey Rush, and Eric Balfour (wait… does Eric Balfour count as a celebrity sighting?).

Read on for musings on Apaloosa, Edison & Leo, and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist
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TIFF 08: Day 2

If you’re wondering, no you did not miss my day one post. The Toronto International Film Festival started yesterday evening, but instead of going to movies, we saw the Blue Jays crush the Twins 8-0. So day 2 is my first day of TIFF. Follow along after the cut for musings on Passchendaele, RocknRolla, and JCVD. One note: these won’t be full-on reviews with my typical 5 star scale, as I’ll be seeing too many in too varied a frame of mind (i.e., outside factors like fatigue could come into play more significantly than they normally would). Instead, I’ll share my impressions with a pass/fail/adequate type verdict at the end.
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Preparing for TIFF 08

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:
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I’d like to thank London…

For making it so inhospitable our last day. This way, we won’t regret leaving at all.

The weather has been absolutely miserable today, and both my meals sucked. We managed to walk down to Westminister Abbey in the windy rain, only to turn around when we learned that the long line was outside. Fuck that. So back to where we started (Leicester Square), to go to the Portrait Museum (with a special Vanity Fair exhibition). No Shakespeare’s Globe for me.

Here’s hoping tonight’s play will be better.

It’s rainy and miserable… this must be London

It’s our final day in London, as we leave early tomorrow morning. Since I last posted, we went to the British Museum, the Tate Modern gallery, shopped at a market in Knotting Hill, went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, watched The Other Boleyn Girl, and had really good Indian food (and some not so great British food). So, another calm and relaxed Andy and Kim vacation then.

At the market, I bought three Smiths records, a Stone Roses record, a Joy Division 7-inch and a couple t-shirts (The Stooges and Neil Young). That’s pretty sweet, I must say. Madame Tussaud’s was fun, but way too crowded to really enjoy. The same was true of the British Museum (well, maybe replace “fun” with “interesting” for that). I enjoyed the Tate Modern, especially since it was later in the evening and thus less crowded. It’s hard to look at stuff when you’re dodging crowds.

We’ve got tickets to go see We Will Rock You tonight, so that should be a big extravaganza of fun… or something like that. Til then, we’ll head off the Westminister Abbey, then maybe St. Paul’s Cathedral and Shakespeare’s Globe. But maybe not… it is pretty miserable out. We may be less ambitious in our travellings. We’ll see.

I feel fine, not too exhausted. But I am looking forward to going home. I miss Gromit.

Saturday in the old country

Another busy day in a teeming metropolis yesterday. Kim gets a little squirrelly with all these people around. I don’t think we’ll be booking any trips to Tokyo or Hong Kong anytime soon then. Yesterday we started the day with a bus tour of the city, one of those hop on hop off double-decker deals. We took it from Victoria Station near our hotel to the stop by the London Eye, where we had lunch then went on the Eye. That was cool. It was even sunny enough to enjoy it (but still windy enough to make the day chilly, which is probably why March isn’t everyone’s favourite vacation month).

From there, we took a cruise tour of the Thames (free with our bus tour ticket), going all the way to Greenwich and back. We didn’t do much there, since it’s mostly a naval place, but… I’m counting it as a place I’ve been. We mostly hung around Piccadilly and environs after that, having dinner at a Modern Indian Tapas restaurant. It was all very interesting, but a bit too modern for our tastes. We’ll have to find some honest Indian food later.

We were going to go see The Other Boleyn Girl, using the same keeping-things-British model that lead us to go see The History Boys the other night (which we quite enjoyed), but we got to the cinema after it started. So we saw Be Kind Rewind instead, which Britishness aside, was probably the movie I wanted to see most. Since I may not be writing as many movie reviews when I get back, I’ll say that it was decent, but not as good as I’d hoped. I’d say to leave it as a rental, which would also be thematically appropriate.

In “other countries do things oddly” news: the movie theatre had assigned seats. They charge higher prices for premium seats (so, the middle basically), then issue you tickets for specific seats. We paid the general price, and were seated in row N, seats 17-18. Odd that.

Books are really cheap here. At HMV in Bath, we bought The Diving Bell and the Butterfly for 3 pounds ($6), and Touching from a Distance for 4 pounds ($8). Two newish paperbacks for $14? Not bad. I also bought a couple David Bowie CDs I’d been trying to track down for 2 for £10. The strangest thing? They weren’t wrapped! You could just crack open the cases and look at the CD (or, take it if you were a thief). My mind, it was blown.

Off to the British Museum today, to go look at stuff from other countries. Cheerio.

Greetings from London. Pip-pip and all that.

After a casual few days in Bath, we are now in London, wearing ourselves down in all the hubbub. Bath was a nice place, albeit on the quiet side. This was probably for the best at the beginning, as it took us some time to recover from the flight and get used to the time difference. We got there at 2:30, then slept until the next day.

We spend the rest of our time touring the small city, taking in some exhibits, riding some buses, seeing some Roman ruins. On Monday, we took a tour to Stonehenge and surrounding environments. It was cool and all, but really frickin cold and the cramped van that took us around made us feel a bit sick. In the future, I think I’ll just recommend a trip to Stonehenge and Avesbury, but skip the Cotwolds stuff. When we got back to Bath from that tour, it was time to indulge in the spa that makes the town famous. It was basically a really expensive warm pool, but it was still nice. Also nice was going out for Nepalese food afterwards. Because that’s cool.

We were in bed most nights around 9, sometimes partaking in the DVDs at the B&B (tried to watch Flushed Away, but it was too awful to keep us awake. Truly terrible). So the adjustment to London has been harder. We mostly strolled around looking for somewhere to eat last night, but today has been busy, busy, busy. After buying discount tickets for a show tonight, we went to the National Gallery, zipping around only paying attention to the featured works (otherwise, we’d be there all day). We walked down Westminster to the War Cabinet and Churchill Museum. This was quite possibly the most well done museum I’ve ever been to. If you’re even remotely interested in the man and are in London, I highly recommend it. After a quick change and dinner, we are now about to see our play, The History Boys. I felt seeing something British would be more appropriate than an imported American production. Here’s hoping it’s good.

London Calling

In two and a half hours, we’ll be on our way to the airport on a flight headed to London, England. It is quite exciting (the idea of a vacation, not the impending transcontinental flight). From there, we’ll head to Bath via train, spend a few days there, then back to London for a week there. This is my first time in the UK (not including Heathrow stopovers), so I’m looking forward to it. If any of you have any suggestions of things to do there, leave a comment. I’m sure I’ll be finding my way into an internet cafe or two while there.

I finished up my contract with Shell this morning, so I am no longer contracting with them (and am unemployed… hopefully not for long). It wasn’t always the most challenging or exciting work, but the people were all nice and it was nice to have my first grown up job. The pay was especially nice, affording me the opportunity not only to go on a trip such as this, but also to lease a new car, and buy a house, which in turn lead to us getting our Gromit.

If you’re wondering, Gromit will be staying with our friend Julie for the first part of our trip, playing with her pup Whiskey. Then, she’ll bring him over to our dogwalker friend, who will look after him in her house full of dogs that’s right across the street from his favouritist place in the whole world – the park. It’s possible that he’ll have more fun in the next week and a half than we will.

So that’s all for now, tally ho old chaps and all that.