Impossibly, Even Scarily, Geeky *

Five weeks from today I’ll be in Toronto, enjoying day two of the film festival. A little more than a week before then, I will have dropped my ticket requests in the nearest FedEx box. Which means there’re only 27 days left to choose which films to see. Time’s a wastin’, people! Let’s get a move on. The folks who have festival’d with me in the past probably know what’s coming next: It’s time for the spreadsheet.

The idea of creating an Excel file to collect information about each of the 300+ films occurred to me two years ago, when a friend (and TIFF veteran) told me he chose his films based on very particular and personalized criteria. The idea appealed instantly to my more obsessive tendencies. I’m a total dork for research and analysis, not to mention cataloging and organization. After methodically determining and weighting (by points) my own criteria, I dropped them and every film title into a spreadsheet, set up a simple formula, and began digging for information.

My criteria:

  • Availability (0 to 5) — I go to TIFF to see all of the films that will never make it to Knoxville or, in many cases, that will never make it even to home video.
  • Reviewability (0 to 5) — Are Long Pauses readers interested in the film?
  • Director (0 to 10) — I typically give 5 or 6 points to every first-time filmmaker. Discovering new directors is half the fun of a festival this diverse.
  • Actor (0 to 5) — a.k.a. “The Cate Blanchett Criterion”
  • Theme (0 to 5) — Films about violence usually get a 0; I’m a sucker for coming-of-age films and marriage dramas.
  • Buzz (0 to 15) — Word of mouth and reviews. Bonus points to films that played at Cannes and Venice.
  • Nation (0 to 10) — I have a weakness for films from France, China, Eastern Europe, and South America, and am less likely to see films from England, America, and South Korea. Also, I give bonus points to films from national cinemas that are completely unfamiliar to me. Again, it’s the thrill of discovery.
  • Length (-5 to 5) — When you’re seeing three to five films a day, nothing is more painful that a 3-hour film.
  • Etc. (0 to 10) — Any number of miscellaneous factors. Last year I gave a few bonus points to documentaries, this time it’s going to be experimental films.

After doing this twice now, I’ve found that the top ten point-getters are films I would have seen anyway. (In 2005, the top four were L’Enfant, The Wayward Cloud, Cache, and Three Times, for example.) Where it becomes interesting is slots thirty through fifty. That’s where I found Angel, Marock, Something Like Happiness, and Little Fish, all really pleasant surprises.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s the spreadsheet. It includes all of the films that have been announced so far except for the Canadian series films. I usually skim over those when the catalog arrives. Feel free to use, modify, and mock it however you see fit.

* The title of this post was borrowed from an email exchange with Girish in which we were discussing my spreadsheet and the child-like, pre-TIFF anticipation we both begin to feel every August.