Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nuit Blanche 2012

We're having a tougher time enjoying Nuit Blanche these days since it has become a victim of its own success.  The more popular and presumably better projects are swarmed with people which result in wait times of sometimes over an hour.  Since this is longer than we have the patience to wait for a single event, we bypassed them and headed for the more accessible exhibits.  Possibly it was our own fault for not having more perseverance,  but the bottom line was that we were disappointed with what we saw.  There was not the wow factor of previous years.  The other issue could have been that we picked the financial/entertainment district which was easy to get to from our home, as opposed to the Queen West area where the projects seemed edgier and more interesting.  This stemmed from memories of previous years where we were trapped out in that area in the wee hours, unable to get onto any of the packed streetcars in order to return home.  So we can only blame ourselves and will try harder next year.

The presentation we enjoyed the most was the silent movies at TIFF accompanied by the live piano accompaniment.  We stayed for 3 very old films.  The first was a 1902 version of Jack and the Beanstock by Thomas Edison which looked like a filming of a stage play. The negative was so worn that we could see scratches on the film at one point.  There were no special effects to speak of, so the giant was just a very tall guy.  The second was a 1918 movie called "The Cook" starring Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle as a waiter and a cook in a restaurant.  Their physical comedy transcends the need for dialogue.  A very funny recurring joke shows the cook producing all sorts of meals and drinks from the same huge vat, then tossing the dishes at the waiter who deftly catches them just as he walks into the kitchen. At the end, Fatty takes his hat and coat out of the vat to go home.  Fatty also stars in the next film called the "Reckless Romeo" who gets in trouble when he flirts with other women and is caught by his wife.  All 3 clips can be found on YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, another showing at TIFF focused on videos from YouTube.  The show was really lame, from the two young hosts trying to be hip, to the quiz show and sing-along components.  The only mildly amusing part was when they showed a trailer of Mrs Doubtfire re-cut as a horror movie.  The third theatre was showing 101 zombie killings from various bad zombie movies.  The last feature at TIFF was a video of a lighthouse floating in the middle of the English Channel that made me seasick to watch.

A few other minor highlights included the Green Invaders that looked like primitive, early video game characters that either raised their hands in a smile, or lowered them in a frown.  It did not seem like any interaction from the crowd was controlling them as they randomly appeared in different numbers and positions.  Skylum was a giant floating blimp that had lights which responded to movements underneath it.  There was a huge lineup to get into the Commerce Court for Water Will Be There.  We didn't want to wait for this so we couldn't see what was happening inside.  But walking by the outside was entertaining as we saw the shadows of the participants walk by giant screens showing water and nature scenes.  They were hamming it up by making gestures and shadow puppets so possibly they knew they were being watched.

Most of the other exhibits that we saw consisted of videos and sculptures that we didn't find very interesting.  There was a tower made of old computer parts, a lighthouse with a very faint beacon in Brookfield place that was drastically outclassed by its beautiful surroundings and a video that showed plant growth sped up with stop motion photography.  In a glass case in front of First Canadian Place, some kid was solving a Rubic's Cube but after watching for a few minutes, we didn't think he was very particularly fast at it so we didn't see the point.

Actually three of the most memorable attractions for us were not even officially part of Nuit Blanche.  First was the polenta coated fish taco with sweet slaw, avocado cream, peach salsa and cilantro I got from the Gourmet Bitches food truck.  We were amused by the lady in front of us who didn't want to order the "Bitchin' Fries" by name because she didn't want to swear.  The joint that was the most hopping was the Virgin Records DJ booth which was blasting music while the crowd danced in the streets.  And finally an impromptu video game that seemed like Tetris on a pirate ship, complete with cool sound effects was being broadcast above the SEARS logo at the Eaton Centre.  It was powered by some random guy and his laptop but it was so much fun to watch.

We've pledged to do better research next year and maybe even wait in line once or twice in search of a more satisfying Nuit Blanche experience.

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