I said this on Thursday November 3rd, 2005: "It's hard to believe that this will be the last day of my struggle to find polite ways to tell LFF staffers 'fuck off with your free copies of The Times.'" Well, it turns out that it wasn't the last day after all. The Times has extended its sponsorship of the London Film Festival beyond the original three year deal, so it looks like I'm doomed to having more unwelcome newspapers thrust into my arms over the next fortnight. Not to mention that since last year we've seen the launch of London Lite and The London Paper, meaning that roughly one third of the people you meet on the streets of the city are trying to give you free papers nowadays. I may have to stop being polite.
But who needs dead tree media anyway? The British Film Institute don't think they do, judging from the way that the festival has become more and more dependent on www.lff.org.uk these days. This year they made a switch in the booking procedures that caught quite a few people out - sending out the traditional hard copy version of the programme on a Thursday, and expecting punters to get their postal bookings in by the following Monday. Without recourse to the information on the website, you wouldn't have a hope in hell of meeting that deadline: but the site is organised in totally the wrong way for casual browsing of film details, so that only the deranged or compulsively obsessed could possibly make that work. Happily, that's where the Pals and I have the advantage: so we got our bookings in on time, received everything we asked for, and have a pretty interesting selection of films to look forward to.
In the meantime, the rest of you can check out that official LFF site, which is all shiny and full of Photoshopped lens flares to commemorate the 50th festival. All the usual features are there: details of all the films and special events (including some spectacular multi-screen silliness for the Surprise Film), online booking, latest news (like how the first film I was planning to see has already been cancelled), and much more. New features for high bandwidth users include daily video podcasts of festival news, and a 40 minute promo video featuring incredibly well-conducted interviews with the LFF programmers.
One other feature worth noting is the introduction of a discussion forum on the LFF site - readers with long memories will remember this was last tried in 1998, and that forum subsequently evolved into the Guardian Film Talkboard. (Which is still going strong, although its LFF 2006 discussion thread has a somewhat misleading title.) At the time of writing the LFF forum is still a little unsteady on its feet, and it's fun trying to distinguish the BFI sockpuppet users from the real people. But the discussion arising from my concerns over the new ticket pricing policy seems to be progressing in an interesting fashion.
As far as this site's involvement with the LFF goes this year, I'll warn you now that it may not be quite as comprehensive as it has been in previous years. Part of that may well be down to matinee tickets now costing me double what they used to, but there's also my New Moderately Responsible Job In The Computer Industry to consider. As I've only been there half a year so far, I'm not entitled to my full allocation of annual leave as yet, so I can only take one week off work for the festival rather than the usual two. But both myself and Spank's Pals will do our best to see everything we can in the time we have available. No, not the Opening Gala - again, we're not made of money - but a few of us should be there for the Closing Gala, and for several dozen other films in between. And we'll be telling you about them here every day for the next two weeks.
You've read the eight years worth of backstory: now here comes year nine. Watch this space.
Thursday October 19th - Blindsight, The Boss Of It All, Forest Whitaker Screen Talk, The Lives Of Others
Friday October 20th - Black Gold, The Boss Of It All, Fimfarum 2
Saturday October 21st - Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, The Big Country, Invisible Waves, Mischief Night
Sunday October 22nd - Drama/Mex, International Animation Panorama, Primo Levi's Journey
Monday October 23rd - Born And Bred, The Bridge, Distant Voices Still Lives, The Journals Of Knud Rasmussen, Offscreen, The U.S. Versus John Lennon
Tuesday October 24th - Angosto, Container, The Missing Star, Nuggets, Primo Levi's Journey
Wednesday October 25th - Black Book, The Caiman, Hana, The Missing Star, Paul Verhoeven Masterclass, The Year After
Thursday October 26th - Black Gold, The Ground Truth, Son Of Man
Friday October 27th - The Holy Mountain, In The Pit, Lights In The Dusk, Love Story
Saturday October 28th - Fast Food Nation, Ghosts, Heart, Beating In The Dark (1982), Heart, Beating In The Dark (2005)
Sunday October 29th - Buenos Aires 1977, Falling, Gafla, The Prestige, Richard Linklater Screen Talk, Sketches Of Frank Gehry
Monday October 30th - The Family Friend, Lola, Lunacy, Requiem, The Yacoubian Building
Tuesday October 31st - Dans Paris, Gafla, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Slumming, This Is England
Wednesday November 1st - Bandits Of Orgosolo, The King And The Clown, Opera Jawa, Our Daily Bread
Thursday November 2nd - Babel, Bandits Of Orgosolo, Dark Blue, Almost Black, Our Daily Bread
The Wrap Party - LFF 2006 summed up for your convenience