Monday, March 17, 2008

CIFF Report: Day 4

There are some people who take the entire film festival week off and see 30-some movies. I overheard someone yesterday saying it was his 36th. In 11 days. For those of you who aren’t all that good at math, that means going to three or four movies every day for a week and a half. And that, my friends, is insane. Of course, my husband did point out yesterday that these people aren’t actually writing about these movies later. They’re not frantically taking copious notes between movies, trying to keep track of details and form intelligent opinions of each one. And, well, three movies a day isn’t all that bad. And even if you see four, you get to take a break in the middle. But, if you ask me, it’s still insane.

I, for instance, had pretty much had it by Sunday morning. I’d been through 13 movies in three days. I’d been running from 8:00 or so in the morning until midnight. And I’d been fighting off the record-breaking crowds. And I was beat. I was tired and cranky. But I had a few more movies to go—so I got up, ate a nice, big breakfast, packed my bags, checked out of the hotel, and hit the road again.

The whole valet thing made it a whole lot easier—and we arrived at the festival in no time flat. In fact, we even took a few minutes to sit around in the food court to rest up before we needed to get in line for Movie #1.

At 11:10 or so, we made our way over to the theater, picked up our dailies, and found some seats. Pass-holders were already settling into their seats throughout the theater, and as I geared up for another day, I did some eavesdropping.

Across the theater, two women were talking about all the records that the festival had broken. They had had the biggest Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and (we found out later) Saturday ever. Just during the 7:00 slot on Saturday alone, they’d had 2800 people. As one of the women pointed out, “That’s great for them…but it’s not so great for the rest of us.” And she’s right. The festival was absolutely wonderful. The movies were great. And it was actually pretty well-organized. But the crowds were insane. The theater—and the area around it—isn’t really big enough to accommodate 3,000 people at once. It’s exhausting to fight the crowds. And as more people started showing up over the weekends, it got tougher and tougher to make it into each movie I’d planned. Even though I was a pass-holder—which meant that I could get into whatever I wanted—I still had to show up extra-early just to get a seat. Most of the time, I couldn’t take breaks between movies. As soon as I got out of one, I’d have to rush through the crowded hallways to get in line for the next one. And while I still enjoyed the whole thing immensely, I did kinda wish that some of those other people would just go home. And while I’m thrilled that CIFF keeps growing every year, it’s definitely exhausting to try to battle those extra attendees.

I also overheard a couple of guys talking. One asked the other how he was doing, and he replied, “I’m sad it’s the last day.”

“Sad,” the other one agreed, “…and glad.”

I agreed with him. I was sad that it was ending—because it had been such a wonderful weekend of movies. But I was also looking forward to going home. To sleeping in my own bed. To rejoining normal society.

That, and I was getting cranky. When I heard people singing that horribly catchy festival trailer song as they walked down the hallway, I had to force myself not to get up, run out into the hallway, and punch them in the face. It’s a great song and all (Really, it is. You can listen to it at, but I just don’t want to hear it again for a while. I also don’t want to hear people singing it in the hallway. It could actually make my head explode.

At the last minute, Jing came running in and took the seat that we’d saved for him. We talked a bit about The Art of Negative Thinking, which he’d seen instead of going to Deficit with us. And then the movie began.

Movie #1 was Ben X, a Dutch/Belgian movie that was Belgium’s entry to this year’s Oscars. It’s about an autistic teenager and the teasing he endures in the real world—so he ends up retreating to an online video game, where he’s a conquering hero. It wasn’t an easy movie to watch—really, it was like a kick in the face—but it was a wonderful film.

When it was over, the three of us rushed out of the theater to the next theater over, where we got in line for Movie #2. As we waited patiently for the previous movie to finish letting out, a couple of women tried to cut through the line to get into the theater. They were stopped by festival staff, but then they pointed out that a couple of other pass-holders had just been let in. A little old lady volunteer (who clearly didn’t know the way things worked around here) said, “Oh, they’re just going in to put down their coats.”

The other women thew a fit, saying that that wasn’t allowed—that “these people [pointing at us] have been patiently waiting, and you can’t just let them [pointing to the theater] walk in and put down their coats.” She got one of the other volunteers and explained the whole situation again, obviously irate. The poor volunteer tried to calm her down for a while, admitting that it shouldn’t have been done that way. And then she opened up the theater for pass-holders—and instead of getting in line behind those of us who had been waiting patiently, the complaining women cut in front of us and went right in. So much for fairness.

The funny thing about it, though, was that I knew one of the women who had gone in to put down their coats. I mean, I don’t know them personally, but it was—no surprise—the obnoxious woman who acts like she owns the place. The one I ran into already during my second movie on the very first day—the one I’d remembered (with not the fondest of memories) from last year. She definitely knows exactly how things work. She knows that you have to get in line. And, obviously, she’d taken advantage of the poor little old lady, who didn’t know any better—and who obviously got an earful for it. Shame on you, Nancy.

Despite all that, though, we still managed to get in and get seats. Pretty good ones, actually. But we knew that we had to rush over—because it was one of those movies that was already on stand-by. And it was definitely crowded. And since there were so many people to get in, the movie started late—which made all kinds of people all kinds of angry. I heard one woman complaining about the delay to the very same volunteer who’d had to hear about the seat-reserving fiasco. I just heard her say, “I know. I’ll take care of it,” as she rolled her eyes and walked away. I really did feel bad for the staff—because there were some pretty irate people walking around those last few days, and the staff did a really good job of not killing any of them. Considering the thousands of people crowding the halls, things actually ran incredibly smoothly.

So Movie #2 was Mongol, the Oscar-nominated epic. It was one of the longer movies of the festival, and I knew that there were all kinds of movies starting quite shortly after Mongol let out. As the movie ran on, I could see people start to fidget. I saw them pulling out their dailies and checking their schedule. And I watched many of them walk out before the movie ended—all so they could catch the next movie. I, however, stuck around—and I was glad I did. Mongol is an incredible movie. Not flawless, mind you, but it was pretty darn stunning.

When we left Mongol, we still had one more movie on the schedule for the day. I was planning on a comedy, and Paul wanted to see the World’s Greatest Commercials. But it was already after 4:00, and we were both beat. I knew I could sit through another movie—but I wasn’t sure if I could sit through another movie and then drive all the way home. That, and after seeing two more great movies, I didn’t want to jinx it. Last year, the last movie I saw was one of the worst ones of the week—and I didn’t want that to happen again. I wanted to leave it on a good note—and I wanted to leave with a good record. So we decided to call it a day. Jing, too, was heading home, so we said our good-byes as he went to get his parking validated and we went to get some lunch. Then we geared up for the two-hour drive back home, eager to unpack and collapse on the couch.

But wow…what an experience! Despite all the crowds and the severe exhaustion (and despite the fact that I wore myself out to the point of illness), I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. After 10 weeks or so of heading to the theater every week to see mostly bad movies, I spent four days watching some really good movies. Of the 15 that I saw, there was only one that I’d contemplated walking out of. Everything else was good—or even excellent.

So thanks, CIFF, for a great weekend—and thanks for giving me hope for the future of movies. See you next March!



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