Monkey See
10:24 am
Thu September 5, 2013

The Devil's In The Details: Welcome To The Toronto International Film Festival

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 8:57 pm

"You're looking again."

These are the words I say to NPR's Bob Mondello as he sits across from me and we try to figure out how to plan the next six-and-a-half days at the Toronto International Film Festival. Bob is looking at the Press & Industry schedule, a colorful grid that lists, for tomorrow, 61 possible screenings we could attend. We're also allowed to go to a certain number of public screenings — the public schedule has 21 options, because it's the first day and they're keeping it light.

In the morning, we're thinking about Closed Curtain, from Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who last made This Is Not A Film. Later in the day, maybe Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston — as vampires. Or maybe Blood Ties, starring Clive Owen and Mila Kunis, from the director of the creepy French thriller Tell No One. They've moved the screening of The Fifth Estate, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange, to the evening, so there's that to keep in mind.

Cumberbatch is having a big year at this festival — he's also in Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave and the much-anticipated August: Osage County with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. He's not the only one, either. Daniel Radcliffe is starring in Horns, based on Joe Hill's book about a guy with ... horns; The F Word, opposite Zoe Kazan; and Kill Your Darlings, in which he plays Allen Ginsberg.

We could spend pages like this. Pages and pages, in which I just name directors and actors and cool-sounding ideas that are about to spill out across a few blocks in Canada. Some of them have already been seen at Cannes or Telluride or Venice, but many of them have not. There will be big ones (like Gravity, with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) and small ones (like ... most of the rest, percentage-wise). Mostly, there will be a lot of everything — including a good number of films directed by women and ones both made by and starring people from lots of parts of the world.

When you're trying to cram in four or five or even six screenings into a day, you get brutal quickly. "Oh, there's a documentary about Berkeley. That might be interesting. Wait, does that say ... four hours? It's four hours long? Maybe they have a brochure." You try to figure out how much time you need to get from one place to another, and how long the line might be, and you check the capacity of the theater against your expectations of the screening's popularity. (I learned last year that nobody here likes to get up early, so even something that seems popular might be easy to get into if it's early enough.)

You balance the desire to see the most buzzed-about films with the desire to see the ones you won't ever see otherwise. After all, I saw Argo here last year, but it's not like I needed to, in the long run.

The tail of a festival like this is long. I saw Thanks For Sharing at TIFF almost exactly a year ago, and it's just now making its way into theaters. Even Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing took most of a year to get from here to you.

Eventually, I have to stop looking at the schedule; I'll make myself nuts. I'll see maybe 30 films while I'm here; they have more than 300. It will be just a taste. If you take the broader view, I'll miss almost everything. A few days from now, I'll be straining to remember movies I haven't even seen yet.

Buckle in. We're here through next Wednesday.

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