Thursday, September 11, 2014

TIFF Review: Benedict Cumberbatch, his fans, and The Imitation Game

A most charming man, Benedict Cumberbatch with his screaming fans (all pictures ©Simone at ToZ)
Not until I started watching Benedict Cumberbatch's version of Sherlock Holmes, I didn't know he existed. But so far, he's my favorite Sherlock, just beating out Jeremy Brett after all these years. As an old fan of the X-Files back in the 90s and early 00s, I knew how rabid and straight-up hard core TV show fans are. But I did not expect to see what I saw on Tuesday from the self-proclaimed, Cumberbitches.

However, I will start off with a review of Benedict's film, The Imitation Game -

The Imitation Game is a bio-pic about the world's first computer genius, but back in the WWII era, it wasn't known as a computer, but simply, a large calculator to help decipher encrypted codes written by the Nazis. Alan Turing was hired by MI6 to break the codes produced by the Nazis, and he had a very tight timeline to do it in the midst of World War II. Turing's demeanor immediately gave people the impression that he was not only eccentric, but anti-social, and quite frigid and autonomous with his work routine. But what really lay beneath Turing's aloof mannerisms was a gay man fearful of persecution in England had it been revealed that he was a homosexual. The director, Morten Tyldum, incorporated three key moments of Turing's life in this movie, with well executed flashbacks to Turing's childhood in school where he was tortured and bullied for being different and smarter than the other boys. However he found friendship with one special boy whom he would think about for the rest of his life. As it would come to be, Alan named his computer after his first love and believed that 'Christopher' would break the Nazi code which will eventually bring down that awful German regime.

Turing needed the assistance of a small group of brilliant mathematicians, including one woman, Joan, played by Keira Knightely. For a short time, Joan would be Alan's fiancee to help her stay with the mission of working with the computer to break the codes. Espionage comes into play and make everyone paranoid in the group, as a secret message to the Russians alerts MI6 that there's a Communist mole in Turing's group, with him as the lead suspect. As the heat is turned up and the pressure is on, eventually Alan breaks the code and helps end WWII. The third moment of Turing's life featured takes place after WWII where an investigator digs too deeply into Turing's life after a robbery in his home is coolly and unfortunately, suspiciously dismissed by Turing. This all leads to a revelation of his homosexuality and the pathetic law of England at the time that fully prosecuted men for being gay. With Turing's secret MI6 work being classified, the police had no idea that Turing was the man in England who helped ended WWII by decrypting Nazi messages. To them, he was just another poof that needed to be chemically castrated and "cured". His homosexuality wasn't cured, he as humiliated and victimized by the country he saved, and died at age of 41. Alan Turing's story needed to be told, and he deserves to be recognized as a frontier in the dawn of the computer age and honored for helping to save the world with his love of mathematics. As usual, the gay aspect is seriously downplayed, it's just a given, a known fact, but not shown in the film.

Grade - 4/5

A PRish person warming up the Cumberbatch fans.

The Cumberbitches

I knew from seeing on the internet that Benedict Cumberbatch fans were in a universe all by themselves. Fans of TV shows have a zealousness that put music fans, fans of Broadway, and sports fans to complete shame. I really don't know why that is, but maybe it's because you don't have to pay to watch TV,  or rather for a nominal fee, and you can watch the TV show and its repeats over and over again. Add a dash of a posh British accent and that voice,  some charisma, genuine talent, a world renowned famous character, two cheekbones, and beautiful eyes, and you have a TV/movie heartthrob.  I watched with calm interest how the fans (many of them well over the age of 30) were queued up since 10 am to pick a spot along the red carpet to have a prime view to see Benedict. Lucky for all the fans, Benedict was very gracious and spent a good amount of time signing autographs and taking pictures with the fans. I saw and heard lots of crazy screaming, but I heard that before at red carpet events. What was going on outside was what I have seen before, but I was not prepared for the behavior inside the theater.

President Cumberbatch
As I explained in my previous blog post about the running of the bulls atmosphere when ticket holders run into the theater to get the best seat. I saw grown women and men, and when I say "grown", I mean people who could be Benedict's parents, or older aunt and uncle. These people looked like seasoned Sherlock Holmes fans who excitedly accepted Benedict as the current Sherlock Holmes. Then there were the 20 and 30 somethings who were giggly as fuck and hyper and very, very excited to be in the theater. I overheard a Canadian or American girl in the row behind me mentioned that she is going to see Benedict "a few times" when he does Hamlet in London (all 100,000 tickets for his theatrical run has been sold out). The rest of the people were like me, TIFFers who wanted to see a movie that they had high hopes for, the bonus was Benedict yes, but for other people, they were there for the movie.

Keira, Benedict, and director Morten Tyldum

When the cast came out one by one, and with Benedict last, there was a crazy scream from the audience by Cumberbatch fans. They were really, really excited. I think back on like last year at 12 Years a Slave and I recall my excitement to see Michael Fassbender. Sure, I adore him, and I applauded for him, but I didn't scream. That's ok, right? I was smiling and I was happy to see him and be there, but I didn't SCREAM for him. As the lights went down to start the film, the Cumberbitches even screamed and clapped when his name was on the screen during the opening credits.

Nearby, I heard some whispering and giggling during the film during certain scenes, and a few times I think I heard some light clapping after Cumberbatch as Turing said something in the movie that provoked some hysteria in a few fans. I remember thinking to myself that these people really needed to chill out and drink some chamomile tea or something. They were just too fidgety for an otherwise serious film about a serious subject.

Only Keira, Benedict,  and Morten spoke.

After the film there was a standing ovation, and when the cast came up on stage, they received another standing ovation. At this moment I felt it was overkill, but I went with the flow, it's rude not to. For the first time in my 11 years of attending TIFF, they had two microphones at separate ends on the lower level ( you were screwed out of asking a question if you were in the balcony). This allowed anyone who had a question to prance up to the microphone and ask a question. What happened next, I never expected in my wildest dreams at TIFF. You see, if an inappropriate or silly question was asked from the audience without a microphone, the moderator would be able to hear the question and recite it in a succinct way to help everyone understand the question being asked. With a microphone, whatever you say in that microphone, is heard by everyone in that audience, immediately, instantly, with no audio malfunction. What I heard in the front row loud and clear, the person in the highest balcony tier in the furthest corner, also heard. Understand?

The moment when the delusional fan annoyed everyone
The first question was asked and even though she was a fan girl, and gushed on Benedict, she did ask a question and Benedict answered it. Thankfully, Benedict gave long and thorough answers, and thinking in hindsight, this was good because that saved us all from hearing more questions from other stupid Cumberbitches. The second question was the dumb idiot Cumberbitch who wanted to taste his yummy deliciousness. Benedict was clearly uncomfortable and the rest of the stage just laughed and probably thanked whatever deity they praise that they don't have fans like that. The woman was WELL into her 50s... she's one of those senior Cumberbitches, too old to realize that she's lost the plot and crazy in her lust for Benedict Cumberbatch. Why else would she get up to that microphone and say what she did in an audience of over 2000 strangers? And her voice, the way she spoke to him as if he was a child and she desired his complete attention to what she needed to say to him. I wonder if she blacked out and thought she was on a private phone call with him, that's how inappropriate and disrepectful she was to Benedict. But I think he's used to this silliness and after he thought out how to handle this, he did it quite well, but it was still very, very embarrassing. And it didn't help matters that Cameron Bailey told her to sit her crazy ass down while the audience was telling her to shut the fuck up and sit the hell down, some even booed her. The next two questions also mumbled words of infatuation with Benedict and I just could not believe that TIFF allowed this open mic type set up at this very premiere, with an actor who has such a strange following.

Near the end of the Q&A

When they left the stage, I could tell that Benedict couldn't leave fast enough, and I was glad it was over too.

If anyone from TIFF bothers to read this, I implore you to reconsider allowing microphones in the audience at screenings where there will be a huge fanbase of a very popular actor/actress. It's just best to have a moderator ask pre-written questions to help the audience have a better understanding of the film and performances we just viewed. Immediately after the screening of The Imitation Game, twitter was on fire about this stupid Cumberbitch's question. Her vomit inducing 'yumminess' term was used in the headline of an article written about the screening on Variety no less! The media ran with this and pretty much endorsed the behavior of this woman. Maybe some of the articles mocked her, but what I'm concerned about is the mileage she got from saying what she said. This incident will be used by her to align her with Benedict when people talk/write about the TIFF screening. The next morning on Cameron Bailey's tweet feed, he gushed about TIFF having Martin Scorsese at a Q&A, and he took a moment to also write 'behave yourselves'. Even Cameron knows the danger now posed by an immature and overzealous fan who lacked the intelligence and common sense to be mindful of what she's saying to a famous person in a public venue. I certainly hope that TIFF learns from this and don't allow microphones at least at screenings where there is talent with crazy fans in the audience.
Benedict gave thoughtful and thorough responses to some questions

Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor in The Imitation Game. I strongly believe he will be nominated for an Oscar in this role, but his friend Eddie Redmayne will be a strong competitor too with his excellent work in The Theory of Everything.

I grabbed his seat sign for the heck of it.


  1. That woman sounds disgusting. Who does that? It's so rude--and it's ESPECIALLY rude when you just watched a film on a really important, and hugely tragic, subject. Very good blog post. I hope someone from TIFF does read it.

    Very excited to see TIG (and Theory of everything). How was Keira Knightley? I love her and think she's often underrated, though it seems like she's getting excellent reviews for this. The whole cast is, though of course the focus is deservedly on Cumberbatch.

  2. Thank you for reading. I too hope that TIFF learned a valuable lesson from Tuesday night. That should not happen again. The next time, it could be worse.

    Keira did a fine job, I don't believe it's anything that will warrant an Oscar nod, but I've always enjoyed her work and if she is nominated along with Benedict, then good for her. The whole cast was great, I love Mark Strong and Matthew Goode as well.

  3. I was shocked even at the official press conference by how inane the questions were. Someone seriously asked BC and KK about twitter. Twitter. After watching a film like that, about that subject matter? Pathetic.

    I hope she does get an oscar nod. I know some people have said the role isn't big/showy enough, but it seems like most critics/prognosticators are saying she was excellent and could/should get a nom. There's been a lot of talk about her last scene with BC and how great they both were. Heard good things about Matthew Goode as well.

    1. The press at TIFF has a history of asking stupid questions. A low level blogger such as myself is not granted press access to TIFF where I believe I would ask more relevant questions. But no, the same old press guard is given carte blanche to attend press conferences and act as if they are indifferent to the talent they are posing questions to. It's pathetic.

  4. I'm wondering why you harped on ages so much. Fans over 30? This one crazy woman over 50? Are you ageist? Unfortunately, there are insane Benedict fans of all ages. And you make your antipathy against ALL Benedict fans quite clear. So sad.

    1. Inappropriate behavior/obsession in teenagers is understandable, if not excusable. They grow out of it. A 50-year-old woman should know better. That's not ageist, that's a fact.

    2. I'm not ageist, I'm in my mid-40s myself. The teenagers acted as expected, I singled out the "adults" because they should have known better. Yes, it is so sad in the way these fans behaved. It's inexcusable, and I'm sorry you don't understand.

    3. I'm sorry you don't understand what I was saying... There are lunatic Ben fans of all ages, even adults. Fans who "throw parties" for him in public places that he avoids, fans who literally stalk him and lick his seat when he leaves, fans who are so wretched they're banned from public events that he attends. And they're ALL adults. It's not just this one stupid woman. Stupid is stupid at any age, and they're just as pathetic in their 20's as in their 50's.

  5. Great read!
    I am a "Cumberbitch" and I am 37 yrs old.
    Woman like this yummyness lady give the rest of us fans a bad name.
    When I read what had happened I felt embarrassed for not only her but for Benedict as well. She was so crazy to get his attention that she would rather be remembered by him negatively then not at all.
    I would never conduct myself in that fashion as its tenamount to sexual harassment. If that had beven a guy saying that to Keira, he would have been thrown out of there in a heartbeat.
    I have always liked TIFF q&a's so I hope they learn from this for the next time.

    1. A voice of reason. Thank you! It's fun being a fan, but you have to respect the person you're a fan of. They are not objects to possess and project inappropriate feelings upon, they are human beings.

    2. Yeah, you know you kind of pissed me off, Simone, although I agree with you 100% about the "yumminess" idiot.

      I am 50 years old and extremely proud to call myself a Cumberbitch. You generalized about Benedict's fans, but we come from all walks of life. And Benedict attracts mostly NICE people, because he's just so damn NICE. One thing you also don't seem to understand is that the majority of us "rabid" fans are serious fans of his acting. Sure, I think he's physically sexy, but what's sexy beyond compare, is his work. He's incredible. I became a Cumberbitch after I saw him in Hawking. You see, I am a science nerd, and a movie about Stephen Hawking was just fantastic to me. I love that guy. By the time I finished watching that movie, I was head over heels for Benedict Cumberbatch. I told my friends all those years ago that this kid was going to be a superstar. I've followed his career ever since.

      When it was announced he would play Sherlock in the series, I think my heart leaped out of my chest and onto the floor. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Sherlock Holmes fan. I've seen almost every portrayal on screen, and I knew INSTANTLY that Benedict was perfectly cast. My GOD, I was so excited! And it turned out ten times better than my already very high expectations.

      You know what else I am? I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Star Trek fan. KHHAAANNN!!! And I've been obsessed with HAMLET since I was a small child -- LITERALLY. Yes, I have tickets to go see Benedict play Hamlet at the Barbican. NO, I can't afford to do this. It will break the bank. So WHY would an otherwise reasonable and responsible person do something this crazy? Because the world's best living actor is about to perform my absolute favorite play. You see, the play's the thing! And I swear to God, that man was put on this Earth to please me. I would LOVE to meet him, (but only under polite circumstances,) and it isn't actually necessary, since he's a workaholic and gives me wonderful gifts just about every day of his life.

      Most of Benedict's fans bear some resemblance to ME. We are first and foremost, fans of his work. Then comes Benedict as a person. He's goofy, fidgety, and sweet. Hyper and a blabbermouth with a lot of fascinating insight -- it's absolutely wonderful! He's intoxicatingly talented and it shows in his natural manner -- the way he thinks -- the things he does -- the honorable reasons he has for doing them. All of these factors combined just make him pretty well the sexiest man alive, and that's without stopping to consider what he looks like. Now you can see quite clearly that I am IN FACT one of those crazed Cumberbitches you deplore, so I think I can freely represent my species.

      Most of us would NEVER consider doing what that stupid girl did at the screening of The Imitation Game. Since most of us are more interested in his work than anything else, we would have been just recovering from Benedict, telling a powerful story with all his heart. And he's nothing if not a fantastic storyteller. For most of us, such an experience would inspire reverence and good questions. I beg you not to generalize, since there are different types of crazy and I assure you, MOST Cumberbitches are the nicest kind of crazy you can imagine.

    3. @Tonya: Well said!

      @Simone: I enjoyed your insider's report, but you may want to put aside that broad brush for a second and realize that some may consider the act of snatching up Benedict's seat sign as the behavior of a crazy fan.

    4. Er, thanks for your comment, Tonya...

      @Anon 1:44am - Sure, I nabbed Benedict's seat sign for the shits and giggles and to use as a prop for this very article. However, it means nothing to me and it'll just remain in my TIFF bag of other stuff from Toronto. However, I am more than willing to mail it to the first Cumberbitch who email me to claim it. The person must live in the US and I'll mail it along with the NOW Toronto cover article on Benedict.

      The first person who emails me at will get Benedict's seat sign and the TIFF cover article.


    5. I won't be e-mailing you, I don't even get the idea of autographs, why the hell would I want a sign with Benedict's name on it? I could make one for myself, if I was so inclined. I'm not a fan because he's a star. HE'S a star because I'M a fan -- me and people like me.

  6. Hey Simone,

    I know that you and I have discussed our own definitions of fandom and appropriate behavior. But that's for ourselves. We are classy ladies. I'm sort of at a loss to understand why this crazy behavior surprises you. I know you have been involved in situations like this many times before. Have there never been any nuts? :)

    If I were up on stage like that, I would expect the crazies and be refreshingly glad of the sane and normal. Doesn't a situation like this Q&A just facilitate this type of rabid, fangirling? Limited numbers of ticket holders and multiple celebrities onstage for a very limited time. It's probably the organizers' fault as much as anyone's. If Benedict's time at TIFF hadn't been monopolized by press members as he complained about, maybe he could have spent more time with his fans which he has said before he enjoys.

    I know that I would never behave in such a way. But that's who I am. I would be willing to bet that the woman at the Q&A is just as embarrassing as that in the rest of her life. I know some people who are.

    I don't think that this type of event is really any different than any other type of social engagement. There are those who will behave themselves like adults. And there are those who will not. Throw in the heightened emotions of speaking to someone famous and the endorphins of excitement, and people come unhinged. Old film footage of women screaming at Elvis or crying and fainting for the Beatles comes to mind.

    What I regret in the situation is her behavior casting a pall over your enjoyment of the event.

    1. And what I, a "rabid" fan girl, hate is her behavior casting a pall over Alan Turing's life. The film and everyone on that stage were there to honor a hero -- something long overdue -- and that idiot trivialized it. Benedict must have been horrified by that aspect. He spent a great deal of time and emotional energy to tell such an important tale. It's all supposed to culminate in sharing that work and import with others, not in a display of mental derangement.

  7. Yes, you could tell that telling Turing's story meant a great deal to him and the director. His answers to the questions were so thorough and thoughtful, as always.

    I wonder what all of you thought about her first part of her 'yummy' question where she said the film celebrated difference. Was that just a feeble attempt to justify her slavering or was it genuine?

    He didn't seem all that embarassed. Maybe a little put out since, as you both mentioned, the subject of the film was so important and deserving of respect. But I think it was kind of water off a duck's back. Why else would he have kept repeating her words to titters from the crowd?

    Perhaps the divide here is between fans of film and fans of actors. What do you think, Simone?

    1. I got the impression she was only justifying her presence in front of the microphone, trying to seem reasonable so she wouldn't get booted out before she'd finished the crazy.

      Several people close to the stage said Benedict turned beet red with embarrassment. But the man is first and foremost a STAGE actor; he's skilled at turning a performance around when there's any kind of malfunction. He couldn't publicly berate a fan -- though he definitely made it plain (albeit in a humorous way) that he disapproved when he said, "Christ... that's a clear change. I didn't think I was going to get through this Q&A because I was getting so upset, talking about a man who died at age 41, and now I'm being called 'yummy' by someone who wants to taste my deliciousness." Then he straight away answered the serious part of her question -- whether she meant it seriously or not -- in a very thoughtful way. He was determined to turn it around a gentle corner and I think he managed it masterfully, even if he DID turn beet red from embarrassment.

      The only really funny part of all this was how much his co-stars enjoyed his embarrassment. They had all remarked earlier on how amusing they found his Beetle-like following. These are his FRIENDS, mind you, and I'm sure he'll never live this one down; poor schmuck.

    2. Oh, and how can you NOT be a fan of film, if you're a fan of actors? Maybe what you mean is: the real difference is between fans of film and acting vs. fans of celebrity. There do seem to be a lot of people far more interested in the celebrity status of a star than the actual work they perform.

  8. Benedict's seat sign and TIFF cover article has now been claimed.