Don’t get me wrong, single-ticket-sale day for TIFF is always a gigantic clusterfuck, to the point where I finally decided to pick up a ticket pack this year. But alas, twas the dreaded back-half pack, whose tickets aren’t made available for purchase until September 2nd, the day after non-pack-rats make their picks. While looking at the schedule, I realized there were a few films that I just couldn’t wait to see, lest they sell out. As it turns out, after four-and-a-half hours in the virtual waiting room, half of them were already off-sale. *insert multilingual string of swear words here*
Now, I remember back in the good ol’ days, when the TIFF website would crash as soon as the box-office opened. Somehow, by a stroke of beginner’s luck, I nabbed tix for Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey before their web infrastructure crumbled, going down for the next 24 hours. Of course, they’ve made things a bit more robust since ’05, but they still seem incapable of containing the massive one-day surge in web traffic every year. Case in point: despite joining the queue right at 9 am, I waited nearly four-and-a-half hours before getting in to make my ticket selections. That’s 16,200 seconds, in case you were wondering. ;)
Now I dunno guy, but I don’t think these constantly-refreshing, to-the-second countdowns make matters any better. Me, I’d much rather be told upfront I had a four-hour wait ahead than to be given the false impression that it was initially only 1800 seconds–speaking of which, what’s with keeping time in seconds, anyways? So you figure, OK, I’ll get through in half an hour or so, but in reality, it took me the entire freakin’ morning, and a pretty decent chunk of the afternoon, to boot!
Now to be fair, I think I have waited in line for that amount of time a couple times in my life–but that was only because I wanted to be front-and-centre for Iron Maiden. (Y’know, back in the day when gigs at the ACC had general-admission floors.) And hey, when you’re physically standing in line, at least you can talk to people, pass a joint, pick up a bootlegged t-shirt–I actually have one that says Tony Iomi on it cuz I didn’t notice it was missing an “m” after all that, erm, second-hand smoke. But when you’re in a virtual waiting room, you hafta find ways to keep yourself occupied… and that black screen with the white numbers isn’t much of a masturbatory aide.
At first, I was able to catch up on my emails, then my blog stats, and even my social media updates in a separate window, but after a couple hours, I was all caught up already. I’d even adopted the habit of tweeting whenever my time-count got reset, which happened at least half-a-dozen times. That’s when I stumbled across some success stories of people who got in after half an hour–because they had nine browser windows open. Now, I figured that if TIFF really respected the line system, it shouldn’t matter how many windows you have, as long as you get there early. But since these time-counts kept resetting to seemingly arbitrarily-assigned numbers, it appeared that it’s not about how long you’ve waited, but whether there’s an opening in the ticket booth when your clock ticks down to zero. Imagine if you’d waited all afternoon to see Iron Maiden, but then the bouncer started randomly picking people out of the line and letting them in. That’s kinda how I felt.
Thus, after three hours I opened a second window, and then a third. By my fourth hour, I was up to six. I even had them stacked on my screen so I could watch them all at once, rendering my computer otherwise useless. To pass the time, I read a book, ran down to pay my rent and even made it across the street to pick up a burrito. Of course, I timed said excursions to occur when each window had at least 600 seconds on the clock, so I wouldn’t miss any potential opportunity.
That said, once I scarfed down my burrito, I was starting to get a bit bummed out. It was already after 1 pm, and I felt the day starting to slip away. I even sent out a discouraged tweet, stating “Well, I don’t think it really matters anymore. After 4.5 hours in the
#VirtualWaitingRoom, I don’t think I’m getting tix.:(” But then, the moment I pressed “Tweet,” that’s when the magic happened. I got in! Honestly, I would have only given it another half-hour, tops, before I gave up. But like I said, three of the six films I wanted to see on the opening weekend were already off-sale by then. Here’s what I am seeing next week, though:
Border (Italy, directed by Alessio Cremonini)
With Obama preparing to go to war in Syria, and the British parliament narrowly voting against it (good thing our government is too busy raising fees on concert venues!), this topic couldn’t be more timely. Set against the backdrop of the Syrian Civil War, tis a tale of two sisters who must escape to Turkey after their family switches sides. And yes, this conflict’s been going on long enough already that movies about it are starting to hit the festival circuit…
Metalhead (Iceland, directed by Ragnar Bragason)
An Icelandic film called Metalhead!? You had me at Halló! Yes, I am part Icelandic, although the premise of a “darkly comic drama about a grief-stricken young woman who adopts the persona — and decibel-blasting predilections — of her deceased brother” sounds like it would be right up my alley, anyways. Did I mention that the first TIFF screening I ever attended was Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey? On that note, there’s no way in hell I’d shell out 25 bucks to see Metallica Through the Never, even if it is screening next Monday. ;)
Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story (Canada, directed by Barry Avrich)
A couple years back, I saw a fantastic two-hour documentary on Hugh Hefner at TIFF (I think it was 2010). And yes, I’ve also watched The People vs. Larry Flynt a couple of times. Thus, rounding out the trio of porno impresarios is Guccione, the former publisher of Penthouse. Truth be told, I was slightly more interested in the Ralph Steadman bio-pic For No Good Reason, but some some (good?) reason, it’s only screening once–and, you guessed it, sold-out. The two docs were both playing at the same time, anyways, so the virtual waiting room made up my mind on this one.
That being said, while I won’t be going for same-day seats For No Good Reason, there are a couple films that I might be queuing up at 7 am for. Last year, I very nearly scored a same-day ticket for Spring Breakers, only to have it snatched from my hands before I could check out. While the Harmony Korine flick did eventually make its way to theatres, I don’t think these two Canadian films will see such a widespread release… so if I can somehow see ‘em at the festival, that would be super:
The F Word (Canada/Ireland, directed by Michael Dowse)
What’s this, a romantic comedy directed by Michael Dowse of FUBAR, FUBAR II and Goon fame–starring Harry Fuckin’ Potter, of all people!? This, I almost gotta see to believe! (I presume there’s at least one scene where Daniel Radcliffe stabs a can of Old Style Pilsener with a knife and chugs it all down in one gulp, right?) That being said, I’m not sure I wanna get up at 7 am on Saturday or Sunday for same-day tickets. Hey, the guy directed the highest-grossing Canadian film of 2012–surely this one will eventually be showing at the Cineplex, eh?
All the Wrong Reasons (Canada, directed by Gia Milani)
This was the movie that killed Cory Monteith, so I can sorta see why it sold out. Well okay, perhaps the shooting didn’t directly lead to his death, but methinks the former teen idol might have needed a whole lotta heroin to get into his character of a jilted department-store manager. In any case, the Glee fan-girls know he won’t be showing up at the screening, right?