July 13, 2007

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

From Noel Murray's "Pre-Pre-TIFF" post at the Onion AV Club blog:

But one aspect of TIFF-going that I haven’t seen written about much—though veterans often talk about it amongst themselves—is the emotional rollercoaster of “announcement season.” From the moment Cannes ends, TIFF-goers start contemplating which of the most hotly buzzed Cannes titles will make it to Toronto. (Answer: Pretty much all of them.) And then we start watching the preliminary announcements from Venice and New York—the former because they often schedule must-see films that we didn’t previously know existed, and the latter because whatever gets pegged as the opening night NYFF film won’t be playing TIFF. (So no Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited for us in Toronto this year.)

I started 1st Thursday, in part, because by early-June I was already exchanging emails with several friends, doing exactly what Noel describes. One person I know tracks films from Cannes, Berlin, and Rotterdam in a spreadsheet and has already compiled an ordered list of the 100 films he's most eager to see, whether at TIFF or elsewhere. Another friend keeps a close eye on Variety, cutting and pasting snippets from reviews that catch his attention. (More than once I've seen a film simply because Robert Koehler happened to use words like "poetic" or "impressionist" in a positive note -- Munyurangabo, here I come.)

Last year, in a post called "Impossibly, Even Scarily, Geeky," I revealed my own strategy for choosing films. It involves Excel, the assigning of points based on peculiar and ever-evolving criteria, and some simple computations. This year I created my new file, tiff2007.xls, on June 27, soon after TIFF announced its first large batch of confirmed titles. And now, like Noel, I make frequent detours to the Media Centre, eagerly anticipating each new release.

13 comments:

Michael said...

Ain't it the truth? Before my first trip to TIFF, Darren, you told me about the day the program book and schedule arrive in the mail -- "we call this day Christmas morning," you said. And, as with Christmas, the anticipation is an integral part of the excitement.

The other thing I've learned to anticipate, based on my initial TIFF experience, is all the great talk about films during the festival, whether over meals or in line waiting for a screening. And the conversations don't even have to be about the films we've seen that day or that week. Just being able to talk about cinema with enthusiasts in person, in a city thriving with pro-cinema buzz, makes the trip worthwhile. :)


James said...

Haha, I've downloaded your 2006 spreadsheet and am going to see if I have time to do something similar for 2007. I only get to see ten this year so I need to choose carefully. Maybe "big screen experience" vs. DVD should be a criterion?


Darren said...

James, if I were you and lived in Toronto, where nearly all of the TIFF films will eventually get some kind of theatrical run -- either at the Cinematheque, the Cumberland, or the Carlton -- and if I planned to see only ten films, I'd probably split my picks between really small films that I might never get to see otherwise and some of the Cannes favorites, where you'll likely get to see some of the directors and actors. You mentioned Control in another comment -- that would be a good one. Or the Coen brothers film.

Fwiw, this year I've tweaked the spreadsheet again by eliminating the "reviewability" column (since I so seldom write about film on Long Pauses these days) and rethinking the "Etc." column, which no longer has a top-end point threshold. Instead, I'm assigning points based on appearances at other festivals, awards, and recommendations from other friends and reviewers I trust. I'm always curious to see how each tweak affects the results.

If I were only seeing 20 films in the festival, I wouldn't need the spreadsheet. I know I'm going to see the five Wavelengths programs, and I could easily pick fifteen great films from the batch of movies coming out of Cannes, Venice, and New York. It's finding the treasures in the later picks where the spreadsheet really comes in handy. (I sound like I'm preparing to draft my team for an NFL Fantasy League.)


Darren said...

"Just being able to talk about cinema with enthusiasts in person, in a city thriving with pro-cinema buzz, makes the trip worthwhile."

In the next week or two I'm going to do a post on the joys of standing in line. :)


Stacey said...

I am so glad to know there's someone else out there with a geeky TIFF film point system! Mine is lower-tech and less complicated, but it gets awfully complicated picking 40 films for two people entirely on paper. Maybe this is the year I finally sit down with Excel before August 29th and work out some sort of spreadsheet for two.

Ever think about points for keywords, if there are certain styles/topics you really like? Our point system evolves from year to year but tends to involve extra points for hot-button keywords for us.

(Hi, since this is my first comment. I stumbled across this blog a few days ago - maybe through Greencine Daily but I can't quite recall - and as a diehard TIFF fan counting the days I've been really enjoying reading it.)


Dan Sallitt said...

Does anyone else use online trailers when trying to decide what to see? I've found over the years that the Variety reviews weren't working for me at predictors, whether I went by the critic's enthusiasm or by descriptions like "poetic." Whereas trailers and clips have been steering me to a decent number of films I liked, and steering me away from a lot of the ones I would have hated.


Darren said...

Dan, trailers are big for me, too. I'm really hoping that the overhaul of TIFF's website will eventually include trailers. San Francisco did it this year, and I found it really useful. When an official trailer wasn't available they instead posted a one- or two-minute clip from the film.


Darren said...

"Ever think about points for keywords, if there are certain styles/topics you really like?"

Stacy, one year I gave bonus points to documentaries, and I tend to reward avant-garde-inspired styles of filmmaking. For example, if I have to choose between two films, I'll often favor the one from the Visions program. Otherwise, I guess I cover your keyword idea in my "themes" column. It usually isn't too big a factor for me, though. I try to avoid violent films, and I have a weakness for some genres (marriage dramas, coming-of-age stories), but, generally, I'm ;ess interested in the story than in how it's told.

How long have you been coming to TIFF, Stacy?


Stacey said...

Yeah, it would be great if the site included trailers. If I'm really on the fence about a movie I'll sometimes track down a trailer to help decide, but it would be a lot easier if they were right there.

My first TIFF was 2000, but I only barely went that year - I think we were up for a long weekend and went to maybe five or six movies. Just enough to make me realize how much more I was missing!

We've been going back ever since, and these days we go for the full length of the festival and try to hit at least 4 movies a day. And there's still so much left to see!


Jules said...

I'm attending my first TIFF this year from England, I'm coming alone for a week from 08-15 September. I can't believe the number of films I already have which I want to see. Not quite sure how I am going to get the list down tho, I also need to spend a little bit of time sightseeing :)


greg said...

hello to all -- I've been enjoying 1st Thursday's blog, and I thought I'd share our site...
http://TOfilmfest.ca/
...after my spreadsheets turned into db's, I decided to export everything into HTML and share it... -- it's just a collection of reviews, info-links (and the search-links I use), but it lists all the films announced so far, sortable by TITLE, LANGUAGE, COUNTRY, PROGRAM, and AVG-STAR-RATING -- and each DIRECTOR and CAST member is linked to their filmography.
It's strictly a labour-of-love, but I'd be interested in any comments anyone has regarding our approach...
contactus@TOfilmfest.ca


Dan Sallitt said...

This is excellent, Greg. My only suggestion is that it would be nice if the official sites, clips and trailers weren't on the same line as the reviews, so that they were easier to spot. But this is a great resource. Oh, one other thing - was it possible to get a YouTube search link in there?


greg said...

thanks for the feedback Dan,
re: TOfilmfest.com ... 8-)
...now official sites and video-clips are on their own line, after the reviews, so they're easier to spot... and I added a YouTube search-link (based on the director's name)...
ContactUs@TOfilmfest.ca
PS. -- we'll be working today on adding the other 73 titles just announced! ;-)