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22 September 2011

"Oh, I've Got Reservations"

This year's London Film Festival programme went live a couple of weeks ago and as I find it hard to browse online, I wanted to wait until I received my print copy before I pored through and made my selections. As I only got the programme when I arrived back from New York on Sunday and as online booking for BFI members opened on Monday morning, I had to get my skates on. I decided that although there was no "killer film" that I was desperate to see this year, my top choices from among the gala screenings were The Ides of March and Anonymous, with The Descendants and We Need To Talk About Kevin in third and fourth place. I was also interested in seeing Like Crazy (which did well at Sundance) from the "Film on the Square" category and, despite crap films for the past two years, the Surprise Film.

I avoided the postal ballot this year after last year's fail where I didn't get any of the good tickets through the postal ballot and had to wait until long after online booking opened before I found out which tickets I had been allocated. And as always, the BFI website completely failed to cope with the traffic on Monday morning and even by the afternoon, it was still very crashy. All of the films I wanted to see appeared to be sold out, apart from Live Crazy, where I got to the stage of entering my payment details before the site crashed. Later, I got an email from BFI apologising for their annual inability to deal with LoFiFest traffic and telling me that a ticket had been held for me for the time when I tried to put the payment through; I just needed to pay for it.

I was glad to have booked at least one ticket but disappointed not to have secured one of my top four. When I spoke to BFI, they told me there wasn't much point checking back on the website for the fully-booked films until 7 October, when more tickets would be released. However, past experience told me to ignore that and to keep checking. Sure enough, this morning, there were tickets available for the opening nights of all four films I wanted to see and so I pounced. For finance reasons, I decided to stick to The Ides of March and Anonymous for now, as although I'd like to see all four at some point, these are the two for which I would most like to attend a gala screening and (hopefully) see the cast and crew.

If a ticket pops up for the Surprise Film (or the free, members' version the following night), I might go for that too--it would be a case of third-time lucky for me, after the disappointments of Brighton Rock and Capitalism: A Love Story. It is the last year for Sandra Hebron, the Artistic Director of Festivals, to choose the surprise film and she has said that the pressure is on. I hope she gets it right this time and picks a) something that isn't a documentary and b) something really awesome, not just a dull and unnecessary remake.

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