My TIFF: 24 years and counting

My first screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was a Japanese-cyberpunk film called Tetsuo: The Iron Man. It was 1990, and the movie was part of the Midnight Madness program.
Midnight Madness films, as the name suggest, are screened at midnight. These are the chillers, thrillers, sci-fi and hyperbolic martial art films. I’ve often said that the audience at these screenings is just as interesting as the films. The gatherings boast people of all constructs, multi-coloured hair, human pincushions, and tattoos that denote fan appreciation in a permanent way.

Excitement for these films is intense. The conversations in the lineups are always so focused and passionate. It was clear to me back then that this was not the average film-going crowd. The following year I purchased a 30-ticket voucher and booked a week’s vacation.

It didn’t take long for my passion for this festival to transfer to my wife. Sadly, this now meant I had to be more democratic about the movie selections. It could no longer be all horror and sci-fi; it was now to include films about coming of age, romantic period pieces and avant-garde French relationship films. To me these are also horror movies.

Over the years, we developed rules for selecting films. No American or Canadian films allowed. We would see these films throughout the year anyway. We aren’t allowed to select films based on celebrity – although my wife did sneak a Brad Pitt movie in on me one year!

We also try hard to see films from as many different countries as possible. With these rules in mind, we make our selections separately. Our film section process is “democratic.” That is, until we get to the negotiation stage.

Once we’ve each selected our films, we check for matches. These are automatically added to our final selection list. Now the bargaining starts. Keep in mind we are picking these films before the release of the schedule. So we double up on our selections, accounting for this variable.

Steve Smith with one of his favourite directors, Alfred Hitchcock

We add to the final list going turnabout, each time pleading our case for our film choice. Of course, I have prepared a wonderful dinner and a good bottle of wine is breathing. My wife doesn’t drink very much, so a sip of red wine is very helpful during negotiations. 

For the first 15 years of TIFF, we would both book off work and our movie selection was upwards of 30 or more movies. But now we are down to about 10. It’s more manageable and we have time to absorb the films we experience.

As I write this, we are in our 24th year of this festival. My wife has knocked the popcorn out of Sean Penn’s hands; I had no fire for Johnny Depp’s cigarette when he asked me; I shared a joke with Michael Caine about his role as Austin Powers’ dad. And the intense film conversations that occurred in the lineups have now shifted more over to Twitter and Facebook.

Yet at every festival, I see films that inspire me creatively, make me want to visit places I’ve never been to, and do things I’ve never done. I get to see the world through the eyes of a child, with wonderment. Will I be back for year 25? HELL YA!

TIFF 2016 – Midnight Madness Film Marathon

If I make through tonight’s TIFF Midnight Madness screening it will be the first time I’ve completed the full 10 film run in the 26 years of attending this festival. Either I couldn’t see all 10 due to work obligations or I’d fall asleep with exhaustion during the screening or I just walk out on shitty ones. Taking the week off of work was key but it’s the quality of the Midnight Madness programming this year that kept me in the game. Best I can ever remember. All films ranging from good to great. Now, I know you might say “There’s still one left” Well, I finally caught up on my sleep today, I don’t have to work tomorrow and more importantly… tonight’s screening is Sadako vs Kayako! Holy Shitballs Batman! #jinx14352444_10157347464495618_2048081033717999232_o

Memories of My Tragically Hip

“It’s a sad thing, bourbon’s all around to stop that feeling when you’re living in a small town”

Starting with the first encounter. A smoky Toronto bar in the late eighties –The Horseshoe Tavern. I’ve been told I was at that one and that I really enjoyed it. Apparently, I danced to Small-town Bringdown. It’s still one of my favorite Hip songs. I really hated living in a small town.

 

“My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in? New Orleans is sinking man, and I don’t wanna swim”

Jump forward a few years and it’s the second date with my wife at their show at the Molson Amphitheatre. This one I remember. She was annoyed that we had to sit on the grass, just missing the awning covering when it started to rain. Not wanting to leave the show and of course wanting to be chivalrous, I removed my M65 army jacket (so wonderfully waterproof) and covered her with it. This may have been our first kiss.

 

“Everything is bleak… It’s the middle of the night…You’re all alone and the dummies might be right”

Now it’s 2001 and I was faced with my first mid-life crisis (there were more). I wanted to purchase a Harley Davidson motorcycle (so cliché I know). When I talked to my wife about this, she said “Can you pick something less dangerous”. And it just so happens, I had in my back pocket, an idea of backpacking through Australia for three months. Too rough a trip for her and all my friends either couldn’t get the time off or didn’t have the money. So I decided to go it alone. While my wife was supportive and understood this was something I needed to do, most thought me insane.

Now for the The Tragically Hip part.
I was a month into this adventure and suddenly I had an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, isolation and homesickness. I headed down to the beach in Noosa and sat at a picnic table debating if I should grab the next plane home. There must have been only one picnic table as a bunch of Aussie teens asked if they could join me. Aussie’s are super friendly this way. Much like Canadians I like to think. I was concerned though. Now, with all the other horrible feelings I had going, now I was going to feel OLD too. ARGH! One of them pulled out a portable musical device with external speakers and played…. wait for it…Music at Work and asked me if I had ever heard of The Tragically Hip. I’ve never been able to fully articulate the feelings I had that night but it gave me the jumpstart I needed to continue my adventure. Sure, I was still a little homesick but I certainly felt less isolated and lonely. I often wonder, what if this encounter and musical connection never happened? I would have missed two months of some of my best travel experiences.

 

Thank you Aussie teens wherever you are now and thank you Tragically Hip!

Paris Must Do’s

Accommodations

http://www.bienvenueaparis.fr/
We have rented from the same people three times now. Cheap, well maintained and they all centrally located. Having a kitchenette will cut your overall trip cost by 1/3. Eating out in Paris is expensive. The flats on Rue St Honoré are the best.

Food

Art

  • Paris Pass (Save 100 Euros. Great value)
  • Musee Orsay (You can do this and the Rodin in one day)
  • Rodin Museum (Pick a nice sunny day for this. Most of the art is outside in the gardens)
  • Louvre (You need two full days to finish this, go early, it’s immense)
  • Musee Orangerie (You could stare at the Monet water lily murals for hours)
  • Centre Pompidou (Modern art. In some ways better than the MOMA)

Tours

Other

Photo Galleries

Videos

Books

  • Lonely Planet Discover Paris epub | mobi
  • Lonely Planet Pocket Paris epub | mobi