Well, today I crossed the line. My own nervous breakdown! Having seen 24 films in 7 days (you try it) and not finding my bed before 3:00 am on any given night while rising by 8:00 to rush off to screenings (usually nursing a hangover*), I am simply spent. Cranky, tired, unable to forgive cinematic mistakes, I literally can’t take it anymore!
It has come to this. The Back Row Manifesto must proclaim:
The Top 6 Moments of Insanity at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival**
1. The Front Load.
Ok, I mentioned this before, but the last two days and tomorrow offer almost no real cinematic options, whereas last Thursday I was forced into an existential crisis because FIVE essential films were not only programmed on the same day, but SIMULATNEOUSLY! While today, tomorrow, and Saturday hold nothing of real interest, last Thursday I was forced to choose between Undertow, Tarnation, A Hole In My Heart, Dias De Santiago, and Rois et Reine, all of which overlapped. Are you kidding me? Or what about the overlap on Saturday with The Raspberry Reich, Notre Musique, Enduring Love, Shark Tale, and A Dirty Shame? I mean, really. Spread the wealth.
2. The Sea Inside
One of my great (ok, annoying) theories of the current cinema revolves around the disgraceful portrayal of the disabled by able-bodied actors. To me, this is the new minstral show, the new “black face.” I simply refuse to see I Am Sam or The Other Sister. Ever since Daniel Day Lewis cemented his status as the able-bodied Al Jolson in My Left Foot and launched the ‘disabled’ role into Oscar bait category, I am appalled when actors decide to go tug on the ol’ heart strings by playing on stereotypes of the disabled. Therefore, when I saw The Sea Inside I had to walk out after 15 minutes. Watching Javier Bardem hamming it up in this melodramatic ‘right to die’ piece of bullshit made me physically angry. Of course, exploiting the experiences of people who are actually disabled for the same melodramatic effect is equally pernicious. It makes my mind flash back to the African American man-servant bullshit of the 1920’s and 30’s, as well as the watermelon gobbling racist pap in Birth Of A Nation. Until I see an authentic story about the disabled experience, something like How’s Your News?, I refuse to abide able-bodied actors pretending to be disabled, playing it up for my compassion and the Academy’s consideration. Wake up.
3. Aisle Blockers
The only thing worse than watching a film on opening weekend in Brooklyn, with cell phone conversations raging and couples making out while murder and mayhem take place in the aisles and on the screen, the only thing more annoying, is trying to step past a film industry ‘so and so’ seated in an aisle seat at a film festival. Listen, I know you showed up 25 minutes early and need to leave to run to another screening. I do too. But do you have to be a prick and not move your legs one inch when a person tries to squeeze past you into one of the 75 empty seats on your row? And to the red-headed woman on the row during Wim Wenders’ Land Of Plenty , seated on the aisle 35 minutes early and sighing heavily and whispering the words ‘Move it, already!’ to herself as my friends and I squeezed past, I would like to say to you that you are a rude asshole. I hope that wherever you are tonight, it’s a tight squeeze and you can’t move for hours. Seriously. Don’t sit on the aisles and then bitch! You’re on the aisle, people have to move past you. Be courteous!
4. The TIFF Trailers
Like the worst instincts in any advertisement that utilizes world music to try and affect a global stance, this year’s festival trailer became literally unbearable after the third screening. It has played for the subsequent 22, and each time, I try to force the person next to me to keep talking. I can’t bear “Director” Barry Avrich’s horrifying vision anymore. It is a vision of a flaccid global cinematic experience filtered through the graceless dancing of a boring model. Ok, I know that to some people, the lame ass Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan knock-off chanting in Arabic in the backround implies some sort of anti-US, global vision of peace, but in actuality, the trailer makes no sense. I am so absolutely exhausted by the TIFF festival trailer at this point that I wish I were fucking MILES AWAY everytime that gap toothed, white-dressed stick figure of a woman spins aimlessly across the screen before having a tree projected on her face. Why is this woman having an image of herself limpidly dancing near a tree projected onto her face? $5 to the first person who tells me what this trailer has to do with any of the following words:
Also, while I don’t mind the other trailers about people using cinematic techniques during their jobs (like the one where the couple comes home to find their lighting contractor has gone and made the home lighting system ‘more cinematic’), I am exhausted by them. Watching them over and over, I start to root for a different trailer every time. And who are the people that are still laughing out loud at these trailers on THURSDAY? They have run non-stop for the past 300 screenings! Who are you people, the laughers?
5. Dill Pickle Salt For The Popcorn
6. The Security Guard Camera Ban
Ok, this happened at my festival too. A distributor, who shall remain nameless, told me that any screening of a certain film at my festival had to have security guards at the door with metal detectors to remove any still or video cameras from patrons in the 90 seat theater. And they showed up and did it. On Nantucket, these guys frisked 90 people who couldn’t care less about pirating movies in order to preserve their screening’s ‘security.’ Needless to say, I encourage them to do the same at the Union Sq 14 on opening night. Hmmmm… maybe it’s me, but I don’t see the ‘little old lady’ crowd as being the chief bootlegging community. Try pulling that shit at a public screening. The stupidity reminds me of coming back to work at the Empire State Building after 9/11 and seeing a sign that explicitly banned boxcutters from the building, as if someone were going to hijack the fucking Empire State Building with a boxcutter and fly it or something. sigh.
Flash forward to yesterday, outside the industry screening of Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, where once again, security guards were stationed next to a table filled with camera phones, digital cameras, and photography equipment. Clearly buyers, critics, and industry professionals are going to take stills off of the screen during this one and use them to undermine the film’s box office. Give me a BREAK. We live in a time where unnecessary searches already take up too much of our time and strip us of our freedoms. Do I need rent-a-cops digging through my bookbag and taking my camera, the same one I use to take pictures at events and press conferences in order to help publicize their movies? Ridiculous.
Instead, I took a photo of the camera table and guards only to have a festival venue manager come up to me and grab my badge and say “Tom Hall? Hmmmmm…” while walking away and making a note of my name on her clipboard. Unfortunately, I was never summoned to detention after my 9:15 screening to write “I Will Not Expose the Ridculous Security Overreaction At This Festival Ever Again!” 100 times on the festival white board. Needless to say, picture forthcoming.
Ok, so I AM being a bit silly. But after seeing all of this over the past week, alongside some truly enjoyable and great films, my mind has been overloaded and sometimes, well, you hafta vent. Last day tomorrow. Maybe I’ll just go shopping and boost the post-SARS economy…sigh…
* Don’t hold that against my reviews!
**Disclaimer: I love this festival. I am just exhausted and can’t take it anymore. This list is more a reflection of me than you, dear TIFF! I am beholden!