I’m not sure for how many years it has been going on, but one of the most enjoyable things that I’ve discovered at this year’s festival are the “midnight madness” screenings. Screening animation or “alternative” fare, the “midnight madness” programmers have amassed an eclectic, diverse program. It is quite easy to get tickets ahead of time, and the crowds are boisterous, young, and full of spirit. Many of the true cinephiles park their buttocks at the Uptown theatre at Yonge and Bloor, reminiscing about their day spent viewing six or seven other flicks.

The atmosphere is relaxed, and the lineup polite and reasonable. This is the true spirit of the festival, as the fellow common-folk watch excessively violent or surrealistically subtitled animated fare, laughing without embarrassment, applauding while truly appreciating the film, rather than the false or simply polite applause that seems to be standard at some of the other engagements.

The two madness films I’ve been to thus far have been very enjoyable, but I think that simply being around such a group of dedicated festival-goers improves my experience of seeing almost any film.

As an added bonus, the relaxed atmosphere allows for close connection to the filmmakers. Last night, as Bill Plympton himself was selling his wares and autographs outside the theatre, the crowd got to compliment this famous and original filmmaker in person, thanking him and commenting directly upon their enjoyment of his film. No paparazzi, no press agents – just fans, the director/animator, and a warm Toronto evening.