25 June, 2009

Return of Suspense, Laughter, Violence, Hope, Heart, Nudity, Sex, Happy Endings... Mainly Happy Endings

So here's the thing.

If you had driven past the Michael Fowler Centre carpark at 6 in the morning on Tuesday, 23 June 2009, you would have seen a car, driven off the road and up onto the forecourt, in front of the ticket office. Now, this is not an area where cars will normally park. In fact, I have a strong suspicion this car was probably parked illegally. But there this car was, parked straight on to the doors of the ticket office, with maybe three metres of space between the doors and the front of the car. The only reason the car wasn't any closer to the doors was because of the concrete column in front of it. And sitting in this car was one person, seemingly sleeping.

And standing in front of the doors to the ticket office, in the cold, wrapped up in a jacket and gloves, was myself, waiting patiently for the doors to open at 9am so that I could buy tickets to the 2009 Film Festival. I was second in the queue. The guy in the car was first.

Now, I admire the determination of the guy in that car, who apparently arrived at 5.30am. Hell, I share his determination, since I also arrived in Wellington at that time. The difference is that I parked my car elsewhere, and then walked to the ticket office. Because that's what you do. Because just because you arrive first doesn't mean that you get to do whatever you like. I would like to have driven up and parked on the forecourt - it would have been more comfortable and warmer sitting in a car than standing in the cold for three hours - but I didn't, because it's not what you do. Besides, if I had arrived first and driven my car up onto the forecourt, then they park there as well, and pretty soon the entire forecourt would have been filled with cars, and the whole thing would just be messy.

But there's another thing about this. He was clearly of the view that he was the first person in the queue. Now I believe, under most generally accepted rules of queuing, the queue starts at the doors of the place that you're wanting to get into, not a few metres away. It's not like the rules of shotgun, you can't claim the start of the queue if you're the first person to see the place you're wanting to enter, you actually need to go up to the doors, and this guy had not. Therefore, in my view, he was clearly not in the queue.

Now, it's at this point where I should point out that this was not the first year this guy has done this. I've queued for tickets for the last three years, and each year the car has been parked there. The only difference was that, in the past, I've arrived later to an already formed queue that had clearly accepted the car's presence and the validity of this guy's claim to his spot. This year, however, I was that person, I was in the position to having to consider whether or not to accept his place in the queue.

Anyway, 15 or 20 minutes pass. About the same time as a third person joined the queue, a friend of the guy in the car turns up, and sits in the car. Which again annoyed me, because I knew the guy was going to claim he was saving the spot for his friend. So now we have someone who's not actually in the queue letting someone else come in to steal my rightful spot.

So, time passes. It was getting close to 8am when they decided they finally needed to move their car. The car that they wouldn't have needed to move to begin with if they were behaving in the way they were supposed to according to the rules of common decency. So they both leave, completely gone, for a few minutes. They didn't even consider asking anyone "can you save my place" or anything like that, they just leave and assume they will still be entitled to their place when they get back. And when they do arrive back at the ticket office, they stand by me as though that, rather than the back of the queue, were their rightful place.

Now, here's where I hate myself. I said nothing to them. I thought about it, I really thought seriously about it, and I should have told them to go to the back of the line. I should have told these guys how obnoxious and just plain wrong their behaviour had been this morning. But I was too afraid to, so I just stood meekly and let them into the queue. After a couple of minutes, the one guy said to me, "You do know that you're third in the queue, right. We're one and two." And here, for an instant, I developed a partial backbone. I didn't challenge the first guy's right to first spot (which I should have), but I did point out that I was there when his friend arrived, so I was definitely before him. But the guy said that they arrived together, and that the friend had gone off to check out the St James. Now, if you're in a queue, there are acceptable excuses for leaving the queue and getting someone to save your spot. If you need to use the toilet, that's okay. But leaving the queue for half an hour or more so you can wander around half the city is not an acceptable reason to have someone save your spot. By all reasonable points of view, he lost his spot. And I should have said that. But instead, I meekly acquiesced, and let the friend take my spot. Because I'm pathetic.

In the end, it didn't really matter too much. Once tickets went on sale at 9am, the two of them went to the same terminal to be served (which raises the question of just why they were so careful to point out to me that the friend was second in the queue), and since Ticketek finally learned this year that they needed to have more than one or two terminals open when festival tickets go on sale, all of us that were there by 6:30am were able to be served immediately. But the fact that it didn't ultimately matter doesn't affect the fact that what these guys were doing was pretty bloody awful, obnoxious, and selfish. And I just wish we'd actually summoned up the courage to tell them so.


Anyway, I have my tickets, for 20 films this year. And the films are:

* Louise-Michel
* The Baader Meinhof Complex
* An Education
* Red Cliff (a John Woo historical epic - unfortunately it's apparently an edited 140-minute version of the 5-hour 2-part original, but it should still be good on the big screen)
* Ponyo (the new Miyazaki! Yay!)
* Largo
* In The Loop (I once watched one episode of The Thick Of It, didn't like it, but have heard a lot of good things about it, so I'm giving it another shot with the film version)
* Moon
* The Chaser (I'm seeing this solely because of one single three-word phrase in the description: "slacker serial killer")
* Che (the complete 4-hour 2-part Steven Soderburgh-directed biopic of Che Guevara)
* Departures (won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film)
* Wendy and Lucy
* Mother
* Samson & Delilah (probably would have ignored this one, but I caught the last five minutes of an interview with the director on Kim Hill, and it sounded interesting.)
* Tyson
* Adventureland
* The Limits of Control
* The Black Pirate (a silent film, with live piano accompaniment, plus the film itself is a early colour film using two-strip Technicolor. And it's supposed to be a fun film.)
* Broken Embraces
* The Cat and the Canary (this year's Live Cinema film, an interesting-sounding silent horror film with a live orchestral accompaniment)

[5 July 2009 - I've since added another film, OSS 117 - Lost In Rio, to take the number of films up to 21.]

Obviously last year I failed in my efforts to write about all the festival films I saw - it just takes so long to write each post, and once I hit November with 7 films still to be written about, and memory of the details of each film fading, I gave up. So this year I'm not even going to try. If I find myself particularly inspired by a particular film, I'll probably write about that film, but don't expect even an attempt at absolute festival coverage this year.

(Incidentally, I was originally going to call this post something like Suspense, Laughter, Violence, Hope, Heart, Nudity, Sex, Happy Endings... Mainly Happy Endings 2: Electric Boogaloo. But in the end I couldn't find a way to make it clear that I was actually referring to the "Electric Boogaloo" joke itself in a sarcastic way (rather than being sarcastic about the sequel to Breakin'). Some Film 2: Electric Boogaloo has become the default joke title for any unnecessary and unwanted sequel, and I kind of hate it. It was only a mildly amusing joke to begin with, now it's more overused than a Little Britain catchphrase, and it ceased being funny a long time ago. So I wanted to make fun of that joke, but unfortunately there was no way I could think of to do so without seeming like I was embracing the joke.)

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