This year, after 16 years of living in Toronto, I finally decided it was time to partake more fully in an event that my adopted city, “Hollywood North,” has become famous for – TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). Why did I wait so long?
MY TIFF DIARY:
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 – The clock is ticking and I’m starting to get really nervous that I’ll miss the first TIFF premier I’ve bought tickets for. With some luck, I land a parking spot not too far away from the ticket office, get in line, try to illicit some sympathy from the volunteers to somehow push me to the head of the line (no luck), finally get a hold of my tickets, and then literally run all the way from King and John to the Elgin/Winter Garden Theatre at Yonge & Queen during this unseasonal heatwave. So much for looking elegant and ravishing for the premier! I arrive panting, and yes, dripping with sweat (sorry), to meet my son – my meticulously blow-dried, hot-ironed straight hair completely stuck to my forehead and curlier than a sheep’s on an ultra-humid day. Oh well, the lights go down during the movie anyways so no one will see me!
And then the magic begins. There he is – up on stage – my favourite actor – in the flesh. He’s a tiny dot (my son and I could only find seats one row from the very back of the theatre since I was so late) but he’s there – in person! Al Pacino: A dream come true! And then, what a movie! “The Humbling” – directed by award winning director Barry Levinson – mesmerizing, with an incredible performance by Mr. Scarface/Michael Corleone himself.
Of course along with TIFF there must be enjoyable dinners so off my son, Jory, and I head to the pedestrian mall on King. This is the first time the festival has closed off the street, attracting hordes of very excited people of every kind – locals, tourists, fans, gawkers and curiosity seekers – all wanting a piece of the action. We choose Paese Ristorante for some good Italian grub and refreshing drinks with tables set up on the street reminding us of Lincoln Road, South Beach/Miami. The slogan “This is Your Film Festival” blinks everywhere you look and really signifies what the festival is all about.
Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 – Bradley (my hubby) and I head to Gusto on ultra hip Portland St. hoping to get in for dinner as it’s festival time and they don’t take reservations. Lady Luck is on our side and we score a great table. This is a happening place! Vibrant, packed inside and out, laughter filling the air, fun menu, and delightful servers. I have seen a simple, understated menu like theirs before (a stack of papers on a clipboard) and remember that Trattoria Nervosa in Yorkville has the same one. With good reason – Trattoria Nervosa opened Gusto as their sister restaurant. What a great spot for before or after TIFF!
After dinner we head to comedian Chris Rock’s premier: “Top Five.” While waiting in line outside, the very fashionably dressed (NOT!) Michael Moore passes by. As we enter the theatre, the excitement is palpable; Adam Sandler is spotted in the audience – very cool! Loved the movie and had many laughs although it also has quite a few dramatic elements laced throughout. Other stars appearing in the film were the gorgeous Rosario Dawson, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, and others, with cameos by none other than Adam Sandler himself, Jerry Seinfeld and Whoopie Goldberg. A movie featuring a star-studded cast of comedians, I couldn’t help thinking about Robin Williams and Joan Rivers throughout the evening and the loss that I know is being felt by everyone around the world.
Sunday, September 7, 2014 – A double-feature and no time for dinner so popcorn will suffice for Bradley & I. The North American premier of “Time Out of Mind” with Richard Gere and co-star Jena Malone blew me away. Gere plays a homeless man; Jena his estranged daughter; and his performance is riveting. Not only that, but I was within a couple of inches of him as he entered the theatre!
After the show we head back outside and Jory takes Bradley’s place for premier #2: “Love & Mercy,” an incredibly moving and true story about The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. A stellar cast graces the screen with John Cusack playing an older Brian ; Paul Dano playing the younger; and the absolutely stunning Elizabeth Banks portraying Melinda, who was responsible for saving Brian’s life and who later became his wife. Paul Giamatti, an excellent actor and another one of my favourites, plays Brian’s very manipulative therapist who you can’t help but despise. What a great surprise it was that Brian & Melinda
Wilsonwere at the premier – it added such an element of electricity to the film. We felt very fortunate. I was aware of some distinct similarities between “Time Out of Mind” and “Love and Mercy” in that the protagonists in both, although not for the same reasons, hear torturous voices in their heads. It wasn’t surprising, then, to find out that the scripts for both were written by the same screenwriter, Oren Moverman.
Monday, September 8, 2014 – I get down to John & Richmond at 5:30 to engage in what felt like a shady drug deal. To backtrack, my sweet sister-in-law Rena was dying to see a show at TIFF. By today, I was starting to feel like a limp dishrag, tired and worn out. Nevertheless I
was feeling so bad that she had not yet seen a movie at TIFF, that I decided I had to step in and save the day. With tickets sold out to all premiers I went ahead and checked out kijiji and lo and behold someone was selling tickets for Tuesday night. Now here I was, standing on the corner, waiting for the girl in the shocking pink top to show up. Finally she did and we made our exchange: mission accomplished!
I went off to meet Jory at Weslodge, a really trendy gastro-pub featuring Executive Chef Stuart Cameron (formerly of Kultura and Nyood), once again on King West. You can’t miss the big yellow doors to this modern-day high-end saloon replete with animal heads adorning the walls and servers wearing stylish leather shoulder holsters. A really fun place, Weslodge serves up a carnivore’s delight.
We then moved on to see “99 Homes” with the ever-handsome other/better half of Emma Stone – Andrew Garfield – although we almost didn’t recognize him with his full-out, bushy beard. Also in the movie is Michael Shannon who most people know from Boardwalk Empire. Garfield plays, probably the most dramatic role of his career so far and gives a riveting performance.
Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014 – With the illicit “drug deal” tickets, Rena and I head off to one of our favourite restos, Buona Notte (the original is in Montreal – a place I loved & frequented for many years while living in my home city). After some delightful appetizers, white wine and pasta, we get in line at Roy Thomson Hall for Canadian film-maker, David Cronenberg’s, “Map to the Stars” featuring Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Mia Waskowska, and a cameo role by Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. May I just say that what we thought was going to be a mild satire was in fact quite the
horror/gruesome flick. Wow (more like Oy Vey)! Scary, creepy, disturbing and gory. Not to say that it wasn’t absolutely amazing, but not something I would ever normally see (at least not since I saw The Exorcist over 25 years ago and have had nightmares about it ever since)! It was cool, however, to have “P” tickets and be so close to the entire cast and crew when they shined the light on them in the loge next to us at the end of the movie.
Friday, Sept. 12, 2014 – Unfortunately we (Bradley & I) were unable to attend the last premier we had tickets for, “The Connection” (also
called ‘La French’
called ‘La French’), with another actor whom I adore, Academy Award-winning (and might I add strikingly gorgeous) Jean DuJardin (The Artist, The Wolf of Wall Street) nor the reservation we booked at the new, uber-trendy restaurant on Adelaide, “Montecito,” owned by Hollywood Director Ivan Reitman, and Master Chef Jonathan Waxman, around the corner from the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Gladly, however, we passed our tickets and coveted Montecito reservation over to our beloved brother- and sister-in-law, Elliott & Rena, who raved about both the movie and the restaurant. Not only that, but they both ended up meeting Jean DuJardin and the director, Cédric Jimenez (yes, of course I’m dying of jealousy!!!).
And so ends a magnificent couple of weeks hanging out at TIFF in the heart of Canada’s tinseltown – Toronto. Thankfully, it’s not the only hollywoodesque game in in town. Year-round, celebrities visit our city to partake in film, dance, theatre, movie-making, and many other creative industries. Just a few months ago I was on the corner of York & Adelaide and the entire area was set up as Manhattan for an Adam Sandler (there he is again!) movie.
What can I say? Guess I’m a little starstruck! Oh well, there are worse things in life???!!!!