How to know what to see at TIFF

Daniel Radcliffe gets horny at TIFF.


How to know what to see at TIFF

BY: Jason Anderson

If you’re a regular festival-goer, you likely have a mental list of the ones that got away, those movies that broke out of TIFF to garner mass adoration but escaped your attention while you were scarfing down street dogs in rush lines. Maybe Swingers or Memento passed you by as you were scrounging to get tickets for your favourite director’s worst movie. Or perhaps you opted for your first sit-down meal in days while your pal got hip to Boogie Nights. You fool!

Given the size of the program (288 features this year), it’s impossible to see even a decent fraction of TIFF’s contents, which makes judicious guesswork all the more crucial for having a satisfying fest. The guidebook remains an important tool even if the hyperbole-laden notes sometimes accord classic-masterpiece status to movies unfit for a Rob Schneider cameo. Tips by fellow fest-goers must also be considered, provided that you keep in mind one of TIFF’s cardinal rules: No one else’s taste can be trusted. No system is perfect, but we promise that following these rules will improve your ratio of success. (Warning: These rules may not apply to festival-goers who still insist on taking meal and pee breaks.)

See anything with a one-word title. Shame, Swingers, Goon, Priest, Crash (both of ’em), Juno—it pays to keep a title snappy if you’re looking for a TIFF breakout. Horns, Gravity, Enemy, Prisoners, and Felony are among those primed to follow suit this year. Nouns are better than names, but we won’t hold that against Joe, because it stars Nicolas Cage.

See anything with a ridiculously long title. Having at least six high-quality words confers any film with a degree of welcome extravagance. Just think of the generosity that viewers will soon receive from The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari, and When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism.

Stick with the hip countries. Great films can come from any corner of the world, but hardy cinephiles know that some hotbeds may be hotter than others. To wit: France and Japan are making recoveries after rough spells, but the long hot streaks Mexico, Malaysia, Argentina, and Iran were experiencing may have cooled. Belgium and Greece trump Spain and Italy, and you just can’t go wrong with Romania or the Philippines. Stay suspicious of the Antipodes, only because water swirls in the wrong direction down under. Canada deserves more love, but you knew that already.

Reward the award winners. Any movie that arrives in town with a few citations has an automatic advantage over an unproven quantity. And though Cannes’ mighty Palme d’Or—most recently bestowed on the French drama Blue Is the Warmest Colour, which will have its North American premiere at TIFF—carries the most prestige, it’s not the only award that matters. Venice traditionally announces its prizes in the middle of TIFF—most of the titles in competition there are here, too, so you’d best see them all just to be safe. Start with Stray Dogs and Under the Skin.

Stick with your programs. TIFF’s had mixed success with its efforts to create micro-fests within the macro marathon. Midnight Madness and Wavelengths often prove to be the most carefully curated sections because of the need to cater to very discerning demographics (genre fans and adventurous aesthetes, respectively). The Gala and Special Presentations sections are more hit-and-miss—super-fresh titles seeking sales to distributors may spark buzz among industry weasels but can crap out hard. And though Masters boasts a better track record, be wary of auteurs whose best days are long behind them—or, in the case of Masters regular Kim Ki-duk, never actually began.

See everything starring Daniel Radcliffe. He seemed like a nice bloke when he was in town last summer, and god knows we loved him as Harry Potter. His turn as Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings earned raves at Sundance, and the locally shot comedy The F Word and thriller Horns look like sure bets. While you’re at it, see everything starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Mia Wasikowska, both of whom match Radcliffe’s tally of three features apiece. These thespians put a lot of hard work into their films—the least you could do is skip food and water for 11 days and go see every one of them. After all, the last thing a TIFF-goer should seem is ungrateful.