where have I been?

Not in here, that's for sure.

At times this year it's felt like I lived on another planet. Work issues simply never stopped. Added to which I played good fairy godmother to my staff & they took all their vacation in the summer. Well, that's about to change!

In less than 2 weeks, I'll be off to TIFF, for the 3rd year in a row. A friend and I go down & share a room at the Delta Chelsea, right in the centre of things. Ideal location, really, in spite of the fact that there was a murder last year while we were there. Thankfully, not on our floor. I guess that's Toronto for you. Our first American city.

Great program listings, including a new David Cronenberg, a new Denys Arcand, and a new Paul Haggis. Not to mention that one of my favourite actors, Viggo Mortensen, will be in town. Always nice to see him there -- he always has something intelligent to say. And the Cronenberg-Mortensen pairing is becoming legend.

I'm royally ticked with TIFF's management, though. They are as obtuse and disorganized as ever, and becoming ever more media-oriented. This was always touted as a "people's festival", but their scheduling and ticketing practices are becoming less public-friendly all the time. They revel in gamesmanship. Perhaps we should start calling them RIFF (Rip-off International Film Festival)...just a thought.

Take the final schedule announcement, a bare week and a half before the festival starts. There's little doubt in anyone's mind who's been to TIFF that they have their near-final draft when their web-site goes live in July. They then dole out the schedule in dribs & drabs. Not only that, they certainly have the final schedule when they put their galas on sale in mid-to-late August. There is no reason, other than mind games with the public, that they could not put up their whole schedule at least a week before they do, although even that is much too late for most non-industry attendees to schedule their travel & accommodations.

Then there's the ticket "lottery". They have a limited number of seats made available for this arcane & nonsensical process in the last week of August. For which you pay extra, as much as double if you're from out of town. Just another shell game, where they're supposedly enhancing your festival-going experience by creating suspense. pffffffffft

And finally, there's the gala and newly price-hiked VISA screening room tickets. These go on sale on the Internet, on a web-site that's notoriously unstable & hard to get onto when they upload it at a specific time. There are many, many people who find that although they have prepared to get in then, it is simply impossible. And the phone? Completely tied up for more than an hour (possibly more, but I stopped re-dialling at that point). If they aren't able or willing to staff phones better, why offer that as an "option"? I'm even more ticked since this nonsense resulted in me missing gala tickets for "Eastern Promises". So now they want me & everyone else to hang around their site waiting for them to dole out a few more. And they call this public-friendly?

Even with all this, I really enjoy being at TIFF. The events are great. It's sort of like travelling to New Zealand. Wonderful when you get there, but an incredible pain in the ass on the trip. Especially when you have to transfer through LA & negotiate US Customs (for TIFF, read "wait until the last possible second for program announcements & endure the cutesy lottery & lame web-sales site").

You'll notice I only briefly touched on cost. More on that subject later.