Day 1

A fairly conservative day, with big Hollywood flicks to kick off the fun. They’ve rejigged the way that press and industry screenings work, making it far more challenging to attend films with a paying audience. Other than a few first day bumps and some very long lineups, everything went reasonably smoothly.

Alas, Midnight Madness was again marred with a technical malfunction, this time a fire alarm amidst Dario’s latest opus. For a while the beeping of the alarm seemed at home with the post-Goblin score, but it did get annoying after more than a few seconds. Things got straightened out, but that’s two years in a row with tech issues at the Ryerson venue – at least this time we got to see the end of the film!

The crowd was sizeable and fairly enthused, but unfortunately it lacked the punch of other opening flicks. Asia’s arrival in shoes that seemed like stilts and a slinky but elegant dress did much to make up for any lack of buzz.

Day 2

A hot and humid September day in Toronto, the air sticky with a sky that was about to rain all day, but held back in favour of a thick wall of hot, muggy air. A good day, in other words, to stay inside and watch some good films.

The quality of today’s selection improved dramatically, with some very fine films that should stand the test of time. The two films set in the west were both shot by the inimitable Roger Deakins, and had performances by sublime Deadwood character actor Garret Dillahunt. More and more people are arriving, so the festival today truly geared up to its full speed.

At the Juno pressline they had a number of people dressed in the same costume that Michael Cera is wearing below, handing out orange Tic-Tacs (makes sense when you see the film, honest.) As my first real beneficial form of fest swag, I was pleased to much on several dozen of the the 1-calorie breath mints throughout the screening.

Day 3

Today marked the end of a fairly odd journey, tracking down the principles involved in making The Big Lebowski, and thanking them like a drooling fanboy for their wonderful work. With today’s No Country conference, I finally had a chance to speak to the creators themselves. As expected, and as per their usual public demeanor, Joel and Ethan Coen just looked at me, unblinking, like I was a freak.

Ah, well.

I did get a fairly good response from Brolin, Bardem and the (gorgeous in person) Kelly Macdonald with a question about working with the boys. Bardem in particular went into some detail about his fear of working with the Coens, the respect he had for their work, and the uncertainty he felt about working in a language other than his native tounge. His English seemed impeccable and nuanced, equal to the caliber of his performance in the film.

With only fifteen minutes, the chat with the filmmakers was all to brief. Then again, with questions like “when are you guys going to work apart?” did little to engender them to the audience at hand.

The rest of the day was spent bouncing from screening to screening – once again, with the divorce from the public screenings that has been so carefully managed results in much less interaction with the casual film fest attendee. The buzz from the Industry lines, however, has been pretty positive for films like the Coen’s, Jesse James, and especially Juno, which, if all goes well, could be the breakout film of the fest.

Day 4

The skies finally opened up and the air cooled on this last day of the first fest weekend. All the local papers plastered pics of Pitt and wife, showing that the stars continue to be a big draw at this haven for cinephiles. Walk up to the Four Seasons hotel and you’ll note crowds of people behind barriers looking for a small glimpse of a Clooney, Aniston, or Affleck. Then again, if it’s Casey instead of Ben that they find, I’m not entirely sure they’d know how to react. Speaking of Ben, he has been spotted being the good dad, wandering the halls of the hotel with child in tow while mommy Garner does her press conference duty. Consider this the local celebrity gossip portion of this year’s coverage.

Despite schlepping my camera today, I found little that was photographically interesting, as much of the day was simply shuttling between different levels of the Varsity. By tomorrow things for many will already be winding down, not even at the halfway mark.

Day 5

Another day with back-to-back-to-back films, with the quality of what’s being offered (or at least, what I’m choosing to see) decreasing dramatically. Some real stinkers today, along with a couple good flicks to make it far from a total bust. It’s so disheartening to see something that begins fairly well and then crashes and burns pretty rapidly, something that occurs all to often with so-called “festival” films, the generally arthouse fair that populates the majority of presentations here. The key, it’s not so hard to realize, is to have an ending that serves to elevate the premise and promise of the film, something that seems the most challenging thing in all screen development.

I ran into Roger Ebert this morning, and while he’s certainly looking worse for wear, it was really wonderful to see him walking the halls of TIFF again. I actually had ran into Roeper yesterday, and his caustic humour caught me off guard – for some reason, he looks like a pretty straight arrow on his show. I guess you can’t judge a host by his banter.

Day 6

An enervating early start, with the fabulous Dylan(s) movie kickstarting the day. The middle films were a bit more mediocre. In fact, I did my first walkout this year (something I try very hard to avoid). Unfortunately, it was a film from someone I had enjoyed in the past, but unfortunately this film about a small town, shot sans script and much forced humour, simply couldn’t sustaining me at this point in the festival for more than the half hour that I gave it.

The Midnight Madness screening was a hot ticket, and well worth the buildup. Colin, the programmer, told an amusing story about how one of Miike’s email accounts has “Gummo” as the prefix because he saw the word in the program guide for TIFF, and simply likes the word (he also refuses to see the film, which, of course, is a wise decision.) As Miike once again couldn’t make the trip to Toronto, but there were two of his principals there, both of whom were extremely charming and generous. The filmmaker also created a very special video for the Fest crowd, as he held up cards in English while he spoke his native tongue, indicating how much he likes the Toronto crowd and the festival in general.

The boisterous audience really does make a huge difference for films of this ilk, and it was a pleasure to sit in this screening with a bunch of hooting, hollering Midnight Maniacs.

Day 7

A harried day with barely enough time to grab a bite between two movies. The last day of the fest for many was yesterday, so there remain a few of the more obscure (read: Canadian) flicks to work one’s way through. You end up with interesting synergies, with my back-to-back nature films a happy coincidence, followed by the Devil-Devil films. Seeing two back-to-back well received Canadian films, shocking to some perhaps, but a good sign indeed as the Canadian waters are usually dangerous places to tread indeed, unfortunately. Did get six films under my belt, nice to be back up to the normal pace.

Day 8

As privileged as I am to attend the fest with accreditation, there’s still a tremendous buzz felt when seeing public screenings, with a wild, friendly and exuberant audience that’s rarely matched with the press and industry crowd. After the somber screening of the Wang film, I left the second in the series and managed to get into the final screening of Lars and the Real Girl. Despite having to sit mere feet away from the giant screen at the newly christened “Scotiabank Theatre”, it was a wonderful showing, with the packed crowd really rooting for this little film that’s generating much deserved applause.

Similarly, the Midnight Madness crowd was in truly great form, as the onslaught of punches, kicks and neck breaks elicited appropriate shouts in all the right places. Wilson Yip made the trip, and Donnie Yen provided a very eloquent email that was read off the screen of a notebook computer. Colin and Wilson even traded a few jabs as they acted out Donnie’s description of traditional action film moves, making for a particularly notable series of photos included to the right.

Day 9

The rains finally fell, with sky opening up on many in line for the penultimate day of TIFF07. With most of the stars and media off to cover other things (even the local papers have switched over to Sundin instead of Clooney or Pitt), and it’s left for the most part to the locals, to smaller films with less glamour draw, and to the locals who populate the vast majority of attendees.

While were a few films still to play of note, the director and producer of Son of Rambow were in fine form, and you could certainly tell that sharing a pint with the two lads wouldn’t be such a displeasure. With an introspective and somber monster movie to round out the evening, shattering my already fragile brain into several fragments, the day ended with a psychotic cab ride home, sleeping for a few hours before getting back to the fun tomorrow.

Day 10

A low key wind down to the fest, with more miserable weather tagging along for good measure. The festival ended with no obvious slam dunks save for a Coen flick, but there was an overall quality that bodes well for the year to come.

The Q&A during the Who doc at the Elign proved to be a highlight of this year’s fest, with a great interaction with the filmmakers that went far beyond the normal back-and-forth that takes place at most public screenings. There were genuinely interesting insights provided about the process, including the amnesty discussed in the review below, along with indications about the complexity of the process. Digitally projected with wonderful sound, it was a memorable screening of a fine film to be sure.

Running from screening to screening, I was lucky to have a highly positive final slate of films. With the wind down in full force, the pickings are often slim at this point. The new procedure of doubling the press screenings and opening up many more public ones has been a huge benefit I believe for many.

We skipped the dash to the overcrowded Bistro 990 in favour of some late night, post-MM pancakes at Fran’s, and then off for some well earned sleep.