Why the Toronto International Film Festival sucks

12 Sep

We’re in the midst of the Toronto International Film Festival, which means a good number of our city’s inhabitants and media are agog in what can only be described as starfucking. Excuse the vulgarity, but it really is the only way to describe it. Our alt weekly The Grid seems to agree, yet it obviously isn’t as willing to go as far in describing it as such. Nevertheless, TIFF’s continued growth means the starfucking is only getting more institutionalized every year.

Speaking of which, if you’re a movie fan, TIFF isn’t for you. Yes, the fest is important for film makers looking to score distributors for their creations and it also presumably brings Toronto some tourist dollars and possibly some cred in its effort be considered a “world-class” city. But for the plain old movie aficionado, it really sucks.

I’ve lived in Toronto almost all my life and, despite being a film nut, I’d always avoided TIFF for some unknown reason. There was something about the event that just didn’t appeal to me.

Over the past few years, however, I’ve given in and checked out a few screenings. Given the experience, I now know my intuitive aversion was correct.

For one thing, getting tickets is a ridiculous ordeal. Last year, I bought tickets online to Fubar 2, the sequel to perhaps the best Canadian comedy ever made (next to Porky’s, of course). I was shocked to discover that I then had to go down to the TIFF ticket office and stand in line for an hour to pick them up. Exactly what was the point of buying them online?

The setup makes as little sense as Cineplex’s useless mobile app, which also lets you buy tickets on your phone that you then have to print out at a kiosk at the theatre. Canadian film exhibitors of all stripes obviously aren’t getting the point of the internet. How about an electronic ticket complete with barcode that is scanned at the theatre entrance?

Indeed, the film fest is all about standing in lines. Once you’ve picked up your tickets, it’s off to the screening where, if you don’t show up at least an hour ahead of time, you’ll end up blocks away from the theatre entrance, with a crappy seat in the last row awaiting you. I remember standing in such a line when I was 10 years old to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Movie-going has come a long way since then, but not at TIFF. Lineups are part of the event’s elitist marketing philosophy, the same one practiced by nightclubs, where passersby see the hundreds of schmucks waiting and think, “Ooh, whatever they’re in line for for must be good.” Lineups, apparently, build buzz.

I’ve seen half a dozen TIFF films over the past three years and none have started on time. On Saturday, I had passes to see Fernando Meirelles’ latest pic 360. My fiancee and I dutifully arrived an hour before - the line was already long, but we could actually see the theatre, so we were in good position. The start time came and went, however, but the line did not move. When I asked what the problem was, an usher told me the theatre was having sound issues and that they would start letting us in soon.

We figured that by the time everyone got in and to their seats, and by the time the director and/or stars wrapped up their inevitable introductory speeches, the film would likely start an hour and a half after it was supposed to. Add in two hours or so for the movie and we were looking at nearly five hours of time spent. That’s way too much for a movie, especially when a beautiful, sunny afternoon was beckoning outside. So, we did the sensible thing: we split and went for a stroll instead.

So why do people go to film fest movies? The tickets cost more, there’s lots of waiting and inconvenience and the films usually aren’t shown in venues built to actually screen movies. What do attendees get in return? A chance to see the film a few weeks before its wide release and the ability to boast about being in the same room as their favourite celebrity.

Yeesh. No thanks. I’ll wait to see the movies at decent prices in real theatres where they start on time. The starfuckers can keep their festival.

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in movies


19 responses to “Why the Toronto International Film Festival sucks

  1. Goon

    September 12, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Whiny bullshit.

    Look, I see about 5 things at TIFF. I don’t like waiting in a long digital queue either, but it took me two seconds to pick up my tickets after ordering them online. Did you get in the wrong line? yeesh.

    I don’t get why people go to galas, I agree that it’s silly to pay that much extra for something in theaters soon. But some people genuinely dig the Q and A’s. Apparently today there was quite a debate with Francis Ford Coppola. When I saw Bobcat Goldthwait he was absolutely hilarious at his screening.

    But I paid 22 bucks to see for example, God Bless America, because I have a hard time believing that movie is going to get released in its current form, if at all. I went to see Brazil’s The Silver Cliff tonight becuase it aint ever gonna get here in any other form, maybe not even DVD. And I barely had to wait in line for that one.

    And for the record, those gala prices, the expensive tickets, yeah its a lot and I wouldnt pay it but these ticket prices help make all this other stuff the festival is doing heppen.

    If there’s anything to make fun of at TIFF, point where it belongs, at the awful Mr. Brainswash crap in front of Roy Thomson Hall.

    • Rudy

      September 12, 2011 at 12:50 am


      • Goon

        September 12, 2011 at 12:58 am

        This starfucker is going to see a Goro Miyazaki film and not the inevitably English dubbed version we probably won’t get either.

      • Goon

        September 12, 2011 at 1:05 am

        i go and look at the #TIFF11 hashtag and all i see is people talking about FILMS. Is someone going to gush about Ryan Gosling in there somewhere? Of course, and why not. He’s gushworthy, and he’s right there.

        The most annoying shitty thing in this article is this assertion that “for the plain old movie aficionado, it really sucks.” That “if you’re a movie fan, TIFF isn’t for you. ” - Speak for yourself, Peter. I know dozens upon dozens of critics, bloggers, podcasters, who would be at these films regardless of who was attending, who book their weeks off, to chat in line and socialize with each other, completely and utterly devoted to film. Peter wants to rant against some phantom elitism when he’s the one declaring that he’s too good for TIFF, and passing off his own personal experiences as what must be happening to everyone else.

        If this is the attitude he’s going to have, I’m glad he’s staying home, and leaving a ticket available for someone who actually appreciates the great thing we have here.

        And I’m saying this as a person who isn’t even as remotely into TIFF as much as other people I know. This article has melted away whatever Grinchiness I had about TIFF by sheer virtue of it’s arrogance.

  2. A-Train

    September 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

    You mean it discourages families and casual fans who like to talk during movies and just want to stuff their face at concessions? That. Is. A SHAME.

    • Rudy

      September 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

      Actually, I think hes more saying it has become an elitist frenzy of “I was here” and “Guess who I saw?”… perfect example “This starfucker is going to see a Goro Miyazaki film and not the inevitably English dubbed version we probably won’t get either.”…

      Well LA-DEE-DAH! Don’t you feel special?
      Paying way too much, waiting in pointless lines, and just wasting time one could be using to do something more productive with their lives. You can almost cut the pretentiousness with a knife.

      • Goon

        September 12, 2011 at 10:46 am

        You’re ridiculous. I’m going to see the Miyazaki film because I can’t see it anywhere else, especially not with a large crowd which can increase the experience. Your’e the one who is adding these elitist overtones to everything. I am going to the film for the film.

        Apparently you feel excluded from some special club, as if you’re not invited to some big party, and are attaching malicious intentions on top of what is very simple: movie fans going go to see movies!

  3. Rudy

    September 12, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Goon :
    You’re ridiculous. I’m going to see the Miyazaki film because I can’t see it anywhere else, especially not with a large crowd which can increase the experience. Your’e the one who is adding these elitist overtones to everything. I am going to the film for the film.
    Apparently you feel excluded from some special club, as if you’re not invited to some big party, and are attaching malicious intentions on top of what is very simple: movie fans going go to see movies!

    All I need to do to go to one of these screenings is go online and purchase a ticket - this is hardly a ‘special club’.

  4. Andrew James Olson (@Andrew_James)

    September 12, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Wow. Yeah, if you’re going to TIFF just to get a glimpse of Alan Arkin or Paul Giamatti or Demi Moore or whatever, then you’re doing it wrong. The statement that TIFF is not for movie fans is so utterly preposterous, I wonder if the author has actual been to the festival or just had one experience with one film and writes off the other 649 films screenings.

    I’ve only been to TIFF one time (in 2009) and it was fantastic from top to bottom (and I’m an out of towner - out of country-er actually). I got my tickets in the lottery, picked them up in about 5 minutes and went to my screenings. Roughly 85% of the films I saw WERE NOT released in theaters just “month later” and these were some of the best films I saw all year (Mr Nobody, Rec 2, Castaway on the Moon, The Loved Ones, Disappearance of Alice Creed, etc etc etc).

    On to the lines - first of all, most of them aren’t nearly as long and time consuming as this author likes to declare. If you’re going to $40 gala screenings, then yes - you have to wait for Colin Farrell to show up and get his spot before you. But the true film fans (the ones that this author claims TIFF is not designed for) go to movies they won’t be able to see anywhere else and generally just walk right in and get a pretty decent seat. Secondly, waiting in line is truly and honestly some of the most fun I had at the entire festival (particularly the midnight madness screeenings). I met SO MANY new, interesting and cool people. I had a blast just chatting about movies with other like-minded people for two weeks. It was great.

    Are there hiccups and small things that go wrong at the festival? Sure. Things happen - with 650 films and screenings something is going to glitch at some point. But otherwise this whole article is 90% horseshit and based on one experience. Like the “Goon” commenter above, I too know dozens of bloggers, podcasters and film fans in the Toronto area and almost all of them love love LOVE TIFF. They start looking forward to next year’s festival the moment the credits roll on their final screening.

  5. Simon Cohen

    September 12, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Peter, I’m with you on two fronts: The whole celeb-obsessed aspect of the festival and the inconvenience of trying to get to see a film.
    But here’s another POV that some of the other comments have alluded to.
    While TIFF might not be for all movie fans, it really does appeal to a specific type of film buff. My friend is a devout film fan. I’m the one with a degree in Film, but his knowledge, gained purely from passionate interest far exceeds mine. I don’t do TIFF, but for him, it’s like an annual pilgrimage. He loves everything about it. Even the stuff you and I dislike.
    Perhaps the main problem with TIFF is that it markets itself as a kind of Oscars festival - that’s a very populist angle. But the reality is that it is much more geared to the die-hard cinephile. So while you and I might consider ourselves big movie fans, we aren’t actually the target market.

    • petenowak2000

      September 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Simon. There is a big difference between movie fans and movie fetishists, who will apparently put up with any amount of inconvenience.

      • Goon

        September 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm

        According to your twitter, apparently a “movie fan” will go look for a torrent of these films, and these foolish “movie fetishists” dare lay down money to see these films in a theater with other people who actually care to see the films in the cinema. You should turn in your “movie fan” card if you sincerely believe the viable alternative to TIFF is torrenting.

        And besides, your claim isn’t even true. Show me a torrent of Bruce McDonald’s “Trigger”. Show me a torrent of “The Silver Cliff”.

      • Simon Cohen

        September 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

        Exactly. I think a parallel could probably be drawn between tech enthusiasts and those who need to be first in line for the next iPhone :) They’re a breed apart.

  6. Serge

    September 12, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Yup. TIFF isn’t for everyone. Neither is any other film festival. Neither is getting your films from torrents. Neither is anything else. Duh.

    • Goon

      September 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      If you go to HotDocs you are still going to have a line. In fact I think I waited longer for my HotDocs screenings than any of the TIFF screenings I’ve been to so far. I also had to buy a ticket and get it from a box office as well. So does HotDocs suck too then? Are these real and/or perceived problems really unique to TIFF, really? Or is HotDocs immune since there are no stars out there people are paying attention to and thus be cynical about?

      Next time I go to see the Room at the Royal Cinema, where you have to pay by cash and be there an hour early to get a good seat, I’ll make sure to let everyone know the line outside is making other people uncomfortable. :P

  7. Marc Venot

    September 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    It seems it’s an erzatz to Cannes due to poor organisation?

  8. Agent Orange

    September 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Movie “aficionados” don’t brag about stealing them on torrents. You are not only lazy, but insanely arrogant.


    • petenowak2000

      September 13, 2011 at 11:00 pm

      I don’t know where you’re getting the bragging about torrents from. I’d offer your advice back to you: please comment better.


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