Or so the international news media have it.
Like lifelong New Yorkers who inexplicably have yet to visit the Statue of Liberty, I'm proud as punch of the Toronto International Film Festival (nee the Festival of Festivals, for us geezers) but for years haven't taken in the films. More fool me, since flicks like American Beauty and Chicago premiering here have months later won Best Picture Oscars.
Michael Moore got his start here, when his breakout film Roger & Me was captured TIFF's People's Choice award - the prize for most popular film by TIFF patrons' ballots - and thus finally found a distributor. And you can't shut him up about the wonders of Canada since. (Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed, which may well have launched the consumer safety movement, didn't gain traction with U.S. interviewers until after the CBC went ga-ga over it. So a grateful Nader's also been a champion of Canada, since Unsafe's publication in 1965.)
Note to self: Identify nascent U.S. influencers of public opinion who can't find an audience with America's MSM, and offer to launch their careers in the Great White North. Best means I can imagine for Ottawa to create a Canadian fifth column in the Lower 48.)
Here's Salon's film critic, Anthony O'Hehir, tying to catch the allure of TIFF in words:
One journalist friend of mine describes the Toronto International Film Festival as an exercise in chaos theory or, to put it another way, a gigantic real-world game of Tetris. No other festival in the world has so many simultaneous identities or fills so many niches: Toronto hosts a number of major Hollywood premieres and kick-starts the Oscar season, serves as the North American entry point for adventurous cinema from all over the world, rivals Sundance as a marketplace for American indies and is the principal showcase for Canadian film, all at the same time.
So no matter how many movies you see at Toronto -- and I've seen plenty over the past week -- you come home wishing you could have stayed longer, slept even less or sternly said no to party invitations.
Nice try, Mr. O'Hehir, as close as anyone's come that I've seen. All that's missing is the star-gazing. A couple 30-something women friends were rewarded big time in their annual celeb patrol this month, enjoying brushes with greatness with Brad and Angelina, Bono and the Edge. Clooney actually grabbed Rebecca's arm in greeting, and of course she won't use that arm until the commencement of next year's softball season.
Thing is, the reserve we inherited from our British side keeps us from pestered Mr. Clooney, et al, for autographs and photos. Actually, most of us Canucks daren't even call out their names. They figured that out a while ago - circa 1985 - and so they reliably show up in droves knowing they'd need fear harassment. My favourite story is Tom Cruise, long before he became weired out, blocking out scenes for Top Gun with director Tom Scott at a McDonald's on Bloor Street for about an hour without interruption from the great unwashed popping in for a Happy Meal.
I won't go into what we inherited from our French side, as that would take a book. One thing we didn't get, alas, is Quebec's remarkable Quebecois celebrity culture - an impossibility in these precincts given that most of our favorite mass-media entertainment originates with Paramount Pictures, Conde Nast and NBC.
TIFF a balanced, healthy cinematic ecosystem. (Ann Hornaday, WaPo)