TIFF's Day 3: Ebert’s Tweet-off, and Subtitles Gone Bad

The top specialty divisions both throw parties, but TIFF malfunctions wreak havoc

When you’re putting on a film festival, it’s imperative that things run like clockwork. Otherwise, one film starts late and that impacts the next screening in that theater, and then you’ve got a crowd building up in the lobby at the wrong time, and before you know it the whole thing’s a mess.

Toronto certainly learned that lesson Saturday afternoon, when what seems to be a recurring problem with digital subtitles wreaked havoc on a couple of films.

Already, Movie City News’ David Poland had tweeted that two of Friday’s foreign films, both looking for distribution, had subtitles that didn’t work during their TIFF screenings. (Needless to say, deals were not forthcoming.)

Marion CotillardThen Saturday afternoon’s gala premiere of the French film “Little White Lies,” one of the festival’s marquee presentations, ran into the same problem with equipment at TIFF’s premiere venue, Roy Thomson Hall. The screening, which was attended by cast and crew, including Marion Cotillard (left), was hastily moved to the Scotiabank Theatre complex a mile or so away – but since the hall seats more than 2,000 and the biggest screen at Scotiabank is less than 600, they had to take over two screens that had been allocated to other films, including a press and industry screening of Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours.”

So Boyle’s film was moved from theater 1 (557 seats) to theater 13 (320 seats), which pretty much killed the chances of the dozens of hopeful viewers standing in the rush line downstairs.

But that’s not all it did. “Because they wanted our theater, they moved the digital projector that we’d set up for our film,” Boyle told theWrap later in the afternoon.  “And of course the digital projector didn’t like being moved.”

After hours of technical delays, the 2:45 screening finally began at 5:45, which of course completely threw off the schedules of most of the people in line.

In the process, it also turned an enthusiastic crowd into a demanding one.

“It’d better be good,” said one person in line as the wait stretched to two hours.

“It’d better be gripping,” said a second.

“I want to see every  emotion on that screen,” added a third. “I’d better laugh, and cry … ”

*

While the “Little White Lies” gala audience was taking its new seats and the “127 Hours” fans were wondering if they’d ever get to see their movie, the festival’s Filmmakers Lounge played host to a offbeat competition: “Roger Ebert’s Great TIFF Tweet-off,” in which the veteran film critic and inveterate Twitter user assembled a batch of pundits and had them tweet on topics of his choosing.

Ebert would make a statement, whereupon the contestants had two minutes to tweet a response (which the official rules said could “take any form, however tangential”). The audience voted on the best response, and in the end a champion was crowned.

Contestants were David Poland of Movie City News, Scott Tobias of the Onion’s A/V Club, Eric Kohn from IndieWIRE, Ebert correspondent and TIFF “social media coordinator” Grace Wang and actor Rainn Wilson.  Wilson and Poland were the two top vote-getters, and the two could not have been more different. Responding to a prompt about whether this was the golden age of film criticism, Poland tweeted “This is the golden age of personal passion expressed But it will b the golden age of film criticism when the authoratative [sic] voice reemerges.” Wilson, on the other hand, went a different route: “If, by ‘golden age of film criticism’ you mean sheer numbers of pimply, tongue-chewing idiots with blogs, then yes, this is the golden age.”

Naturally, the smartaleck won.

Roger Ebert’s Journal has some pictures, while a special Twitter feed will give you the contestants’ responses – though not, unfortunately, Ebert’s prompts.

*

Ebert, by the way, says he’s now spent almost 10 months in Toronto, one film festival at a time. The first of his 2010 TIFF reports, which he calls “A Lightbox & the Case of the Manacled Mormon,” gives the lay of the land of a fest he calls “one of the Big Three, or is it Four,” adding, “the true value of TIFF comes in its support for expert, passionate programmers and passionate volunteer screeners, who seem to consider almost every available film from everywhere for the final cut of merely 400 entries.” He also reviews “Buried,” “Never Let Me Go” and “Tabloid.” (Roger Ebert’s Journal)

*

It was a night for parties from the two top companies in the specialty film business: Sony Pictures Classics threw a dinner for its nine films in a Yorkville restaurant, while Fox Searchlight went downtown for its own shindig honoring the stars and filmmakers of “Never Let Me Go,” “Black Swan,” “Conviction” and “127 Hours.”

You had Anthony Hopkins and Dominic Cooper and Sally Hawkins and Minnie Driver partying with Sony Classics’ Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, James Franco and Hilary Swank and Darren Aronofsky and Amber Tamblyn and Carey Mulligan with Fox.

Sally HawkinsSome people – among them Josh Brolin, Minnie Driver and Lucy Punch – hit both soirees, starting with Sony and then heading down to Fox. But the format of the Sony affair – a sit-down dinner, with the cast and filmmakers of “Tamara Drewe,” “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” “Made in Dagenham” and others each sitting at a different table – made it hard to unobtrusively make an early exit.

And some people made that task even harder on themselves. One was the delightful “Made in Dagenham” star Sally Hawkins, who was clad in a bright red dress (albeit of a more modern cut than the one she wears in her film, above) and on a two-day pass from her Broadway role in a revival of George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs Warren’s Profession,” which is currently in previews.

Hawkins grinned as she disclosed her plan to head for the Fox party, where she was welcome by virtue of her small (but pivotal) role in “Never Let Me Go.”

“In this dress,” she said with a laugh, “I can’t really sneak anywhere.”

*

Overheard on the Toronto subway, between downtown (where TIFF headquarters is) and Yorkville (where most of the stars are staying), late afternoon – a conversation that bean exactly like lots of conversations begin this week in this town, and then went in a different direction:

 “Busy, busy day tomorrow.”

 “Yeah, that’s right.”

 “I’ve got two soccer games!”

The speaker was about seven years old, wearing a Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap.

Ah, perspective.