Hipness fugit. That a certain dusty counter-cultural festival had lost it forever was clear last week, when the Wal-Mart in Rocklin, Ca., put a Burning Man display just inside its front door, complete with a two-page checklist of supplies and a table full of cheap LED flashlights and bottled water.
One could argue that the Toronto International Film Festival is also little less hip than it used to be. Oddly, the festival lost some of its street cred with the move some years ago from the Yorkville district, where movie stars and Harvey Weinstein wafted in and out of those classy hotels, to new quarters in the Bell Lightbox and environs. The music tents and displays on the closed streets outside have a slightly pre-packaged quality, sort of like Universal City Walk (or, now, the Santa Monica Promenade).
Too, some of the season’s more urgent movie questions won’t be answered here. Denzel Washington is on hand for Thursday evening’s opening screenings of The Magnificent Seven. But Fences, of which he is star and director, will wait for a later debut; so there’s no way to know whether that film will ultimately steal energy from The Birth Of A Nation, which screens here Friday, and become a standard-bearer for those who would like to see African-American cinema better represented this Oscar season.
Likewise, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, from Ang Lee, won’t be here. So, until it appears at the New York Film Festival, it’s hard to tell whether the film, with its ultra-high frame rate, will bring the viewing revolution that failed to occur last year with Robert Zemeckis’s equally radical but little-seen The Walk, which had its premiere at the New York festival.
Understand, Toronto is still a monster, loaded with 296 feature films, 138 of them, like Terry George’s The Promise, awaiting a first public showing, others, like Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, hoping to break out after showings at smaller festivals in Venice and Telluride. The feature documentaries alone, 52 of them, would sink most festivals.
In truth, there is still too much here. No ticket to Disney’s Queen of Katwe on Saturday night? No matter, it would be hard anyway to squeeze between the Fox presentation of Hidden Figures, the annual Sony Pictures Classics dinner, and the international premiere of A24’s Moonlight.
Squeezed out of The Promise world premiere on Sunday? Catch it on the rebound at a press and industry screening, and figure out how to keep your dates at the Participant Media party and the Nocturnal Animals screening, all at the same time.
The Toronto festival might have lost a little of its cutting edge to the newly aggressive New York and AFI film festivals, and it has long had to push against Telluride and Venice, which come earlier.
But it is still overwhelming.