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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Getting to Toronto (and Hot Docs) in a hop, skip and jump

Toronto’s not a frustrating city, but getting there can be: from Chicago’s O’Hare to Pearson International to the city proper is a complication of aggravations. Pearson International has some lovely spaces, but it’s huge, takes a lot of time to traverse and customs lines are long. Then there’s the $C50 or so taxi ride into the city center if you’re in a hurry, or a cheaper shuttle service that’s also at the whims of traffic, almost Los Angeles-thick, taking an hour or more. After a weekend that almost canceled my trip to Hot Docs, it was gratifying to have one of the simplest trips of my life. Porter Air serves several cities in Canada and the U.S., flying 70-seat turboprop Bombardier aircraft, including Chicago. Their flights land at Toronto City Centre airport, on Toronto Island in the shadow of the CN Tower at the foot of Bathurst Street. I started with a 40-minute bus ride from my front door in Chicago and a 15-minute Orange Line train to get to Midway. Everyone had checked in early, so the flight took off something like 15 minutes early. Early! And arrived at YTZ half-an-hour early. (New planes, attentive service, lovely in-flight magazine from the same people who publish Monocle magazine. [current issue pdf]) Luggage? Five minutes. Customs? One attendant for one plane landing. Another five minutes. One of the world’s shortest ferry rides, 120 meters, and a shuttle into the business district. A sunny afternoon, and I’m ready for a 10 minute walk to my accommodations before getting my Hot Docs credentials. It’s been a long time since I’ve been cheerful after getting off an airplane. I’m ready for some nonfiction… [I mention this partly because Porter also flies between New York and Toronto… a hint for any New Yorkers heading to Toronto International in September.]

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“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948

“Film festivals, for those who don’t know, are not exactly the glitzy red carpet affairs you see on TV. Those do happen, but they’re a tiny part of the festival. The main part of any film festival are the thousands of people with festival passes hanging on lanyards beneath their anoraks, carrying brochures for movies you have never and will never hear of, desperately scrabbling to sell whatever movie it is to buyers from all over the world. Every hotel bar, every cafe, every restaurant is filled to the brim with these people, talking loudly about non-existent deals. The Brits are the worst because most of the British film industry, with a few honourable exceptions, are scam artists and chancers who move around from company to company failing to get anything good made and trying to cast Danny Dyer in anything that moves. I’m seeing guys here who I first met twenty years ago and who are still wearing the same clothes, doing the same job (albeit for a different company) and spinning the same line of bullshit about how THIS movie has Al Pacino or Meryl Streep or George Clooney attached and, whilst that last one didn’t work out, THIS ONE is going to be HUGE. As the day goes on, they start drinking and it all gets ugly and, well, that’s why I’m the guy walking through the Tiergarten with a camera taking pictures of frozen lakes and pretending this isn’t happening.

“Berlin is cool, though and I’ve been lucky to be doing meetings with some people who want to actually get things done. We’ll see what comes of it.”
~ Julian Simpson