Monday, June 9, 2008

Sydney Film Festival 2008

One of the highlights of my year (when living in Sydney at least) is the Sydney Film Festival; which kicks off on the June long weekend, promising 2 weeks of travelling the world via the cinema. Ticketing for the festival gets more complicated every year, but basically there are two main ways to see the festival - via a subscription which reserves you a given seat for one or two weeks (further split into day and evening streams) at Sydney's stunning State Theater, or by buying a wad of festival vouchers and then exchanging them for tickets for individual films. I've managed subscriptions a couple of times in the past, but lately with the unpredictability of work and work related travel, I've gone for the wad approach. Typically this means seeing between 15 and 25 tickets in a fortnight - and selfishly praying for rain on the long weekend so that sitting in a dark cinema for 6-8 hours doesn't seem quite so criminal !

The downside of seeing so many films in such a short time is the risk of the films blurring into each other, or even forgetting altogether a given film (or at least not recognising the title in the video shop or SBS guide !) I use two techniques to avoid those problems. The first is the Internet Movie Database; one of my all-time favourite internet resources (along with CricInfo - yes, I'm a cricket tragic).

IMDB is simply a database of pretty much every movie ever made, with cast, director, year, actor profiles awards etc, all nicely cross-referenced. User maintained, individuals can contribute reviews, add websites and make corrections to almost any entry in a manner that's far more prevalent now with the fashion all things Web2.0, but was quite innovative for its time. One of the site's features is the ability for users to give a film a rating on a scale of 1-10. The accumulated votes are used to to generate charts, including the all-time top 250, which is calculated using a top-secret weighted average formula (to avoid rigging). As you can see, several of the films have been rated by more than a quarter of a million users.

I'm not a huge believer in summarising a film with a simple score out of 10 - yet by voting on films I see (especially the more obscure ones), I have a self-maintaining list of my film going history which I can even share with the general public. If you take a look, don't get too hung up by my ratings; although I try and maintain some sort of consistency in my ratings, I don't spend too much time on it - as my goal is recording before rating.

Of course, a simple mark out of ten does not help me remember what a film is about (although the Vote History feature comes with convenient links to full film descriptions). Last year, in order to address that problem, I started writing mini-reviews of Festival Films I saw; posting them on my journal page on the social music site One day I'll transfer the reviews over here; but for now it's festival time again, so my Cuba trip will be put on hold while I try and keep up with my film viewing over the next two weeks. I hope you enjoy travelling with me.

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