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Actress Catherine Keener promotes the movie Unless during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2016. (Michelle Siu/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Actress Catherine Keener promotes the movie Unless during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2016. (Michelle Siu/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The best, worst and most awkward moments of TIFF 2016 Add to ...

Although there are still plenty of TIFF screenings this weekend, most of the foreign press have left town and King Street is back to its usual tourist trap self. But before we bid adieu to the festival for another year, The Globe and Mail’s arts team presents the best, worst and most awkward moments of TIFF 2016.


Best: Talking 1930s Hollywood movies at the Mongrel Media party with Catherine Keener over tequila (she loves My Man Godfrey), both of us wistful for the pre-Code era when female characters weren’t censored for morality or punished – “and didn’t have to wear a bra!”

Best-worst: Michael Shannon in eye-watering Hawaiian shirt and frayed cutoffs at late-night TIFF parties bested only by Shannon the next day, wearing a faded David Bowie T-shirt and cutoffs to sit for press interviews about designer/director Tom Ford’s carefully, stylishly composed Nocturnal Animals.


Best: Offered an interview in French, the voluble Mia Hansen-Love, director of Things to Come, declared it would feel like a vacation and proceeded to provide journalistic gems. She revealed the trick to maintaining happy family relations when making a movie featuring a protagonist many might mistake for the director’s own mother: cast the ever-luminous Isabelle Huppert as mom.

Worst: Hurrying to my third film of a 12-hour day, I discover I’m at the wrong theatre. Pushing back along sidewalks choked with festival-goers and Blue Jays fans, I arrive at the correct theatre to find out that pass holders have been lining up for two hours to get into the press-and-industry screening of a film with a title I can never quite remember. Oh well – there are some days a body just can’t take another movie.


Best: The transcendent experience of being hugged by Catherine Keener at the end of our interview. It felt like being brought in from the rain or falling gently onto a bed of lilacs.

Worst: When that hug ended.


Best: At a press conference for Gimme Danger, Jim Jarmusch’s love-letter documentary to Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Iggy was genuine and emotional when speaking about the band’s comeback in the early 2000s. The reunion incited adulation and critical recognition, which the band had unjustly failed to receive in its first go-around. “It was huge,” the veteran rocker said, before pausing to gather himself. “It still dredges up certain emotions.”

Worst: The broken escalators at Scotiabank Theatre caused awful levels of exertion. Midway up the Everest-like stairs, I told my Sherpa to go on without me. Just as I passed out, the cinematic trope of a female wail played in the background. Eventually, I made to the press screening, and by the time the film was over, the escalator had been fixed after days of being out of commission. Tears of relief and joy commenced.


Best: Finding myself in a cocktail conversation with Michael Ondaatje and Catherine Keener was pretty neat. But the true highlight of my festival was discovering this little-known secret that, by revealing it, will surely cause me regret for future festivals: At the top right-hand corner of Cinemas 1 and 2 in the Scotiabank complex, there are power outlets hidden just next to the seats. Snagging those spots has proven to be a lifesaver more than once. So: You’re welcome, world.

Worst: The new A&W that opened just south of the TIFF Lightbox could very well have been my undoing. I miraculously only indulged in one single Teen Burger during the fest – eaten while walking briskly between the Lightbox and the InterContinental hotel … or maybe it was the Lightbox and the Ritz? Either way, I made sure the shameful scent of beef, bacon, tomatoes and pickles was vanquished before I entered either carefully aroma-controlled site. But the inner feeling of shame? Well, that stuck with me for the rest of the festival.

Most awkward: What happens when a writer named Barry goes to a press junket for a film named Barry? Absolutely nothing funny or original, I can guarantee you that.


Best: This may sound a little insider-y, but oh well. Seeing my pal Hugh Gibson’s terrific documentary The Stairs, a compassionate look at drug users in Toronto’s rapidly gentrifying Regent Park neighbourhood, felt amazing. It’s a great, deeply felt doc, and the response was a reminder that despite the glitz and glamour and flotillas of glassware filled with free white wine, TIFF is still a showcase for homegrown, hyper-local talent.

Worst: Easily the worst part of the festival was getting my front bike wheel wedged in a sewer grate en route to Joao Pedro Rodrigues’s new film, The Ornithologist, which was described as a movie about a “hunky ornithologist” who endures “a series of brutal, Stations-of-the-Cross-style tests.” Not only did I miss the film – one of my must sees – but I had to buy a new bike wheel. Like Rodrigues’s hunky ornithologist, and Christ before him, I, too, have endured passion and suffering, my wonky, bent bike wheel my own personal cross to bear. But where, I ask, is my redemption?

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