IN DEFENCE OF TIFF: Cantankerous critic Rex Reed spews vitriol over TIFF ’08, makes us miss Statler and Waldorf

IN DEFENCE OF TIFF: Cantankerous critic Rex Reed spews vitriol over TIFF ’08, makes us miss Statler and Waldorf

Brooding over the “news” that TIFF has grown into a city-wide marketing ploy packed with overpriced hotel rooms and celebrities adept at hide-and-seek, film crank-critic Rex Reed writes in the New York Observer that this year’s Toronto International Film Festival sucks because things just ain’t how they used to be. You know, in the good old days—when Reed didn’t have problems controlling his bladder or stomaching fried foods, when he could chat with Clint Eastwood at Bistro 990 (the place to hang in town because, back then, it was the only place to hang in town).

Reed is also bitter that TIFF is showing movies for free to “unwashed masses with empty wallets,” and declares himself annoyed with stars like Matt Damon for taking advantage of TIFF to shake down his famous friends to raise money for needy children.

Reed appears resentful of the dispersing of the “in” crowd—one that he, perhaps, once had a grip on—but here at Scene & Herd, we rather liked the fact that the festival can be covered for a variety of media without the increasingly-impossible-to-get official media accreditation. We would rather stress over two conflicting films that we really want to see than stare at a half-empty schedule, and, contrary to what Reed may think, it’s terrible fun to hop from one boozefest to another: it has allowed even the most informed Toronto urbanites to discover new bars and restaurants in the city.

Apparently, Reed has a problem with cross-promotion and cross-media celebrities like Paris Hilton and Queen Latifah (by the way, Reed, she was here for a movie, not a concert, which is why she “didn’t sing a note”), but has no problem gushing about his man crush, Viggo Mortensen. The difference between us and him is that we love all celebrities—in all shapes, sizes, tempers and promotional tours. We love them and can’t get enough.

Reed even found enough bile to be disappointed with the lunch at the Four Seasons, which he called “TIFF’s most prized invite” (someone couldn’t get into the Holts or InStyle parties) because it featured the unexciting ex-prime minister Brian Mulroney. We don’t know about you, but we’d be all over that; think of the hilarity that would ensue if you brought up the Mulroney-Schreiber affair over chicken pot pie. We would ask Paris about her tapes scandal if we could get close enough!

That said, we must concede that the smut report, the celebrity sightings, and the overhyped after parties can get a bit out of hand, but this is the second biggest film festival in the world. Cannes has this problem, too, which is why it needs its own guide, to help attendees avoid getting ripped off. Maybe you should get one. Perhaps soon, TIFF will have one, too.

Taking a swipe at a few movies, Reed predictably bashes Che for being too long and Passchendaele for being too Canadian or not being Paths of Glory. On this, we must rebut: we once sat through two seasons of The Sopranos on DVD in a 48-hour marathon, so watching Benicio for four hours was a breeze. And, while we don’t mind digging up Stanley Kubrick classics, we really shouldn’t have to in order to get a thoughtful perspective on the existential ramifications of warfare.

Sure, we have our TIFF concerns, too—the paltry free pour at Ultra, for instance, or that a growing festival will get people to overdose on films in September, then ignore them the rest of the year—but judging by the thriving entertainment scene and the number of movies at this year’s TIFF filmed by Canadians and in Canada, we are confident this will not happen soon.

So loosen up, we say: Rex, baby, go have a drink at the Drake or something. Who knows, you just might run into Viggo. Then you can truly “have what he’s having” (fun).—Melita Kuburas

“Blame Canada? What Has Happened to the Toronto Film Festival? Is Viggo Our Only Hope?” by Rex Reed [New York Observer]