Film Critics TIFF

How film critics get ready for TIFF

Toronto Star film critic Peter Howell wants his colleagues to stop Twitter-fighting and come argue about films in person. That's one of the reasons why he helped create the Toronto Film Critic's Association's TIFF party for critics and visiting journalists.

"There's this phenomenon with Twitter in particular where [you see] critics sniping at each other instead of talking about the film," says Howell, a TFCA founding member, and chairman of the party committee. "So what I hope is that getting together creates more camaraderie."

The TFCA hosted its second annual party last night as an unofficial kick-off for the Toronto International Film Festival, which begins today. It's a party Howell hopes the TFCA will host again in the future.

"At Cannes and Sundance, there are traditions where the press meet before the festivals start. Toronto's never had one. We would see each other informally but there was no real gathering," says Howell.

The TFCA, he says, is trying to create that tradition here in Toronto.

Party committee member, and host of the long-time (and now, sadly, cancelled) Saturday Night at the Movies Thom Ernst says the event is exciting because it gives critics a chance to discuss film with like-minded people.

"Seeing a film is a very solitary thing - the experience of watching it - but then getting together afterward and talking about it is sort of the continuation of the film. That's the whole reason behind writing about film and doing a film show like I used to do."

He adds, "This party brings critics from around the world, so it's a reunion of sorts, particularly for Peter and [TFCA president] Brian Johnson, who have been doing this for a number of years. They've developed relationships with critics around the world and collecting them here is a great thing."

Critics from across Canada and the world descend on Toronto for the 10-day festival, each of whom has his or her own top festival pick.

Howell says he is most excited for Errol Morris' The Unknown Known, while Ernst says Rush is his top TIFF pick.

"I was on Metro Morning and I got a distinct feeling from telling Metro Morning that Rush was my big choice that perhaps I was underselling myself, because it's a Ron Howard [film]," says Ernst. "I'm not a Ron Howard fan. But I have actually heard one critic, who I won't name, say it's a near perfect film."

Aside from the festival's most exciting films, what else will cause the most disagreement amongst the critics (in real life or in the Twitterverse)? Ernst says the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color is sure to cause debate ("Anything that has strong sexual content can divide people"), while Howell says Canadian directors will be divisive ("People tend to debate the Canadian directors a lot, because we sort of feel we own them in a way. I think you'll find some pretty energetic debate over directors").

Though the critics certainly don't agree on much, the Toronto Film Critics Association hopes to create an atmosphere for healthy discussion.

"We've been around since 1997," said Howell. "We thought we should try to encourage critics to communicate more."


Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail:

Film you're most excited to see at TIFF: Frederick Wiseman's AT BERKELEY. He's a great chronicler of institutions, and his latest, at 83, sounds like a really interesting look at the famous university during various crises.

The one thing you need to survive a day at the festival: Gum. I know I'm sometimes annoying people near me by chewing but it keeps my breath tolerable from drinking too much coffee. It also helps keep me awake if I'm under-slept.

The one thing you want to do during the festival if you have any spare time between working/eating/sleeping: Take a 45 minute or hour-long walk along Queen Street West and then up through Kensington Market, back along college and back down Spadina to Dundas and wander through Chinatown back to the festival. It's like visiting three or four neighbourhoods in one and clears your head after a lot of movies set in other places.

Best part of TIFF: The best part of TIFF is catching a movie that's unexpectedly great. Also, I enjoy the camaraderie of other journalists. There's a kind of exhausted esprit de corps during the festival we don't have the rest of the year.

Worst part of TIFF: Waiting, in all its myriad forms: Waiting in line-ups, waiting for movies to start, waiting for talent to be ready for interviews, waiting for the congratulatory speeches to be over, waiting for the end of the same preview spot you've seen 20 times, so you can get on with the film.

Mark Adams, Screen International, The Sunday Mirror:

Film you're most excited to see at TIFF: Filmwise? 12 YEARS A SLAVE, though also keen on THE FIFTH ESTATE and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. I saw the brilliant GRAVITY in Venice.

The one thing you need to survive a day at the festival: Stamina and a love for the movies. Festivals are exhausting places, so also having a few friends around makes them bearable.

The one thing you want to do during the festival if you have any spare time between working/eating/sleeping: No idea. I do nothing else but work/eat/ nice to see beyond the mile radius of the cinema

Best part of TIFF: Discovering somethings special/seeing friends for dinner.

Worst part of TIFF: Trying to rush through crowds when you realize you have gone to the wrong cinema.

Peter Howell, Toronto Star

Film you're most excited to see at TIFF: Errol Morris' THE UNKNOWN KNOWN

The one thing you need to survive a day at the festival: Water, and plenty of it.

The one thing you want to do during the festival if you have any spare time between working/eating/sleeping: See a great old movie. Hoping to see restoration of ROME, OPEN CITY this time.

Best part of TIFF: The closing day awards brunch.

Worst part of TIFF: Having to deal with studio-imposed review embargoes that apply to Canadians, but not Americans.

Thanks to Grolsch for sponsoring our coverage of TIFF13Grolsch TIFF

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