dobbernationLOVES 2014 Toronto International Film Festival Highlights

I love Toronto the most in September when the days are still warm, the sun still sets late into the evening and patio fans loiter in luxury on the side of every curb here and there with a pint and penchant to hold on to the summer before winter woes keep us locked in tight. Toronto really shines in September as folks get back to regular work hours and students throw their noses back into their books. Most importantly, Canada’s little city on the lake takes the world by storm as film fans, A-list celebrities and top media & industry descend upon the city for the worlds favourite public party, the Toronto International Film Festival.

Last year I had the opportunity to cover #TIFF13 as the reporter for METRO Newspaper. I was hired as their “man about town,” to showcase the social aspects of the festival: glitzy gifting lounges, newsy events, artist interviews, red carpets and exclusive parties. This year I’ll be at it again (from dusk till dawn) zig zagging across T.O. while nibbling through picture perfect canapés and quenching my thirst on ice cold Grolsch and well crafted cocktails courtesy of Grey Goose. 


I spent the first week of TIFF running around town from early morning to late night adventuring through gifting lounges, pop up events and nightly soiree’s. I slept a max of 4 hours each eve during those seven days and not surprisingly, once Wednesday morning came along I was nothing but a battered shell of a human being.

With only a few days left of the festival, I was determined to catch a few flicks and treat myself to a little rest and relaxation:

After filing my last story on Wednesday morning, I slipped into a hot bubble bath and slowly rose up through the suds like sweet dairy cream. I passed out and actually snored for an hour in my aqua-cocoon. Many of you know that I enjoy regular rest and relaxation rituals in the tub. This particular spa-at-home-moment was made special via tricks and treats courtesy of Lush Cosmetics and Kobo.

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After waking back up to the world I plopped lavender and chamomile scented LUSH Dreamtime Bath Melt into the tub and happily fell into an aromatherapy-induced coma (knocked out Part 2). Fairly Traded Honey Shampoo and American Cream Hair Conditioner offered the perfect thirst quench to my dried out and frizzed long locks. While loitering in luxury I grabbed my new Kobo Aura H20 and flipped myself through a few hilarious pages of Tina Fay’s Bossypants. Kobo’s Aura H20 is 100% waterproof, a marvel for bookworms who also have a penchant for pretty pools, roaring beaches and indulgent bubble baths (all fingers point to moi).

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In the afternoon I hustled to the historic Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre on Yonge Street and met up with Erica for director David Cronenberg’s newest offering, Maps to the Stars. The all star cast features actors Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson and Julianne Moore, who was recently awarded best actress at Cannes for her role in the film.

The room roared when TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey surprised the audience by inviting Cronenberg onto the stage. Canada’s quirkiest director humorously chatted about the years it took for him to bring the script to the screen before strolling off stage. Maps to the Stars strips Tinesletown bare in a fiendish and fiercely intelligent satire of the movie business. Not surprisingly, Cronenberg presents a dark story that explores the themes of incest, family pain, celebrity stress and the stupidity of the superficial.

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Clinging to my umbrella I pranced over puddles while skipping up Bay Street bound for Roots Canada’s recently launched Yorkville flagship. That evening the Canadian retailer celebrated the National Film Board’s 75th anniversary by launching a limited edition collection. Roots teamed up with the NFB, Canada’s Oscar-winning public film producer and distributor, to create a limited edition collection featuring Canada’s most beloved animation classics as well as their iconic retro logo. The collection features four T-shirts, two retro long sleeve graphic T’s and two retro hoodies. My favourite from the collection is a graphic T-shirt featuring a cute image from the Log Driver’s Waltz, a wildly popular Canadian classic originally released in 1979.

Guests enjoyed a parade of floating canapés while the ultimate thirst quencher was found via the Niagara Sour featuring Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky muddled with house sour mix and Wayne Gretzky Estates Cabernet Merlot. “The Great One” was not just represented via his vineyards vino, Wayne could be seen chatting with 90210 star Jason Priestley, booth looked slick in black leather jackets.

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Rushing through the rain I marched south to meet Dale outside of the Ryerson Theatre on Gerrard Street. Film fans lined up two hours before the screening huddled under umbrella’s in an attempt to stay dry. The theatre was packed with anticipation for executive producer Martin Scorsese’s presentation of Revenge of the Green Dragons. Apparently a huge contingent of the NYC based film cast and crew spent 10 hours driving to Toronto that day to celebrate the films World Premiere. As the opening credits rolled the room roared!

In 2007, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was an adaptation of Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs. Now, Scorsese returns the favour, acting as executive producer for Lau’s latest project. Co-directed by Lau and Andrew Loo, and inspired by the true-crime tale of the titular gang that terrorized New York City’s Chinese communities throughout the 1980s, Revenge of the Green Dragons represents the spectacular collision of Eastern and Western gangster film traditions.

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In August I had the great pleasure of interviewing Midnight Madness Programmer Colin Geddes for my DobberDates column in Metro Newspaper. He chatted with me about the festival’s most campy collection of films which he selects each year to be revealed at midnight: a potpourri of the world’s best black comedies, thrillers and horrors. I sheepishly admitted I had never made it to a Midnight Madness flick during TIFF and promised I’d do my best to check one out this season.

Nico and I arrived an hour early to grab a spot in line outside of Ryerson Theatre for The Editor. The crowd was largely made up of nerdy straight men, the kind of guys who play a lot of video games, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and have Pizza Pockets loitering in their freezers. These men mostly enjoy Midnight Madness without their girlfriends. One particular gent humorously tells me his wife loves this time of year as she gets the house to herself each night! Once the doors of the theatre sprang open a gaggle of film geeks hustled inside to grab a good seat. The ambiance was certainly electric as the crowd tossed around beach balls and confetti. The gent sitting beside me was joined by his noir inspired goth-d out girlfriend who both tried to inconspicuously crack open two cans of beer under their seats. Smuggling cheap beer into a movie theatre? I dig it.

The Editor was brought to us that evening by Winnipeg-based film collective Astron-6. The film pays loving tribute to the gory giallo thrillers of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. As the story goes: A one-time (and now one-handed) master film editor toiling in the cinematic sweatshops of 1970s Italy becomes the prime suspect in a series of brutal murders…

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Friday morning I sipped a hot pot of oolong tea before strolling up Yonge Street. I was feeling like a zombie that morning and felt a cold coming on. A spa day was what I imagined my doctor would have ordered (if I had bothered to have seen one).

I arrived at Civello Spa in Rosedale shortly before 9am and spent the next four hours ridding myself of TIFF-related stress. Aveda’s leading lifestyle salon and spa originally opened its doors in the neighbourhood in 1989 with a mission to inspire guests to feel and look their best. The three-story space is much larger than you would expect after simply staring up at its pretty façade from Yonge Street.

I start the morning with a polish to my fingers and toes via back-to-back mani-pedi. The room was quietly buzzing as I sipped a hot cup of herbal tea and watched as well coifed women caught up on neighbourhood gossip with their beauticians. Streams of light blasted through a bamboo framed window while calming Buddha bust, bronze lanterns filled with yellow posies and a trilogy of potted jade plants added a nice streak of colour to the space. I was then guided through a stone mosaic adorned hallway in petite disposable flip flops which offered a subtle foot massage on my way to the treatment room where I would spend an hour indulging in an aqua polish salt exfoliation treatment. I seriously snored during the spa’s signature Elemental Nature Massage. My friendly RMT offered customized Aveda aromas and deep tissue work that had me wandering home in a smug mug and sultry daze.

Tuesday September 9th

I was looking forward to meeting Lauren Collins for a quick sip and nibble at Weslodge Saloon. The Degrassi star who spent ten years of her youth working on the popular Canadian show launched her first offering this year to TIFF audiences, a short film she coyly calls, Zero Recognition.

The story is loosely based around her own experiences: a young actress attempts to lead a normal life after starring in a Canadian TV series, but her past fame makes for some awkward and self conscious first dates. Collins 10 minute short showcases a lively comedic talent, self-deprecating with a little tongue meets cheek. Her character on screen comes to life at our dinner table.

Collins arrives decked out in a noir inspired H&M outfit featuring leather bomber jacket and pencil skirt. Her blond curls bob against her smug mug as we run our fingers down the menu.

We settle on sipping from the saloon’s special festival cocktail list, enjoying a necessary thirst quench via grapefruit spiked Tequila Don Julio “Dale and Leo’s” Paloma and elderflower infused Cooper Ketel One. Over the next hour we feast on plump ricotta dumplings perched in savoury tomato nage and crispy hen and buttermilk biscuits slathered in maple bourbon.

So how did Toronto based Collins feel after screening her first work at TIFF? “It literally made me cry! I didn’t know it if it was possible to launch my work at TIFF. I was touched to showcase the film in my own city and am excited to see what comes next. This week my dreams have come true!”

The Canadian Alliance of Film & Television Costume Arts & Design (CAFTCAD) celebrated costumes in film and television with a sweet soiree at The Spoke Club on King Street West. Over 200 esteemed members of the film and TV industries, including directors, producers, actors, agents and managers, as well as fashion and entertainment media gathered to honour the work of CAFTCAD’s members over Tag Vodka sloshed cocktails and hoppy Peroni lager.

A DJ spun moody beats to a packed crowd who spent the evening chit chatting and strolling along the rooms periphery to oogle and ahh over glorious garments. Highlights from the display included 16th century period inspired panache from the CW’s hit show Reign, costumes from the vampire horror-drama The Strain as well as wardrobe from the historically based adventure flick Pompeii.

My final film fest party would unfold on the sprawling grounds of Toronto’s much adored, Casa Loma. The stoic castle was dressed to the nines last night as pretty ladies and handsome gents sauntered across red carpet and into one of the festivals most raved about annual soiree’s. Hosted by the Italian Trade Commission each year at TIFF, The Italian Cinema Party offers a lavish slice of Dolce Vita in celebration of the nations top films.

I was thrilled (and not surprised) that a lavish party hosted by Italians would feature a fine feast. Guests strolled through chandelier adorned rooms, digging into mountainous cheese and charcuterie boards, umami forward funghi risotto served out of Reggiano wheel, spicy sausage orecchiette and roasted rack of lamb served atop creamy gorgonzola polenta.

Bartenders tipped their hats to the Italian Riviera summer patio thirst quencher, Aperol Spritz while a choir of Prosecco flutes sparkled under the full moon which splashed along the castles breezy terrace. Most popular was the pop up gelato stand where sweet tooth’s rejoiced over creamy scoops of limonata. Handsome men chit chatting in Italian perfumed the space with the sweet smell of cigar smoke while a potpourri of women who had perhaps indulged in to many Campari sloshed cocktails chased me around the room at midnight desperate to fondle my long blond locks.

Monday September 8th

The sun was shining in Yorkville as I arrived at the 5th Annual Variety Studio popup located at designer retailer Holt Renfrew. A thick crowd of paparazzi mingled with film fans eager to snap photos of celebrities who visited throughout the day.

Whisking my way through the front doors I quickly spotted Jennifer Aniston who was in town to promote her newest film, Cake. She wore a stunning short charcoal dress, which paired perfectly with sexy burgundy red stilettos. Aniston enjoyed an intimate conversation with Tim Gray, Variety’s Senior Vice President and Awards Editor while mingling media and publicists remained hush hush.

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I sussed out the Variety Studio’s sips and nibbles which included Sullivan & Bleeker red velvet cookies, Belmont Raw juice, Fiji Water and La Hora Azul tequila cocktails. Celebs were also offered a relaxing hand massage via Moroccanoil Spa Educator Jemy Dayri. While tending to my tense arm muscles Dayri mentioned that Kate Bosworth and Mark Ruffalo raved about the beauty brands premium products during their visit earlier in the week. Each visiting A-Lister was gifted a cute Missoni teddy bear in support of Orphan Aid Africa.

Pretty blond duo Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern arrived shortly after noon to promote Wild. Jurassic Park’s drama diva was dressed entirely in black, looking slick in leather bomber jacket, lace rapped heels and skin-tight skirt. She ordered a quick coffee with a whisper of almond milk before joining Ms. Witherspoon for a photo op. Reese was adorable as ever flashing the floors with fresh rouge pedicure before sauntering behind the black curtain.

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Consistently hailed as one of the Festival’s best parties, Festival Music House at Adelaide Hall is a two-day concert for filmmakers, producers, music supervisors and TIFF delegates, showcasing the strength and diversity of Canadian music talent. The goal is to introduce attendees to new music they might use in an upcoming project. Highlights from this years series include performances by BadBadNotGood, A Tribe Called Red and Sloan.

I popped by FMH as the series launched on its second evening. Live music fans gathered around petite stage, slugging back ice cold Grolsch lager while Vancouver based trio We Are the City offered an anxious anthem. The best view of the night was found after climbing up to the 2nd floor, leaning over the balcony and staring down at the enthusiastic band below.

Director Damien Chazelle presented his newest film Whiplash at this year’s festival and celebrated with a soiree at The Thompson Hotel’s jaw dropping Rooftop. The film has been getting plenty of buzz, winning both the US Grand Jury and Audience Awards at this years Sundance Film Festival. The film follows an ambitious young drummer (Miles Teller) at a prestigious music academy who clashes with a hard-driving instructor (J.K. Simmons).

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It was a picture perfect evening as full moon and CN Tower offered a warm glow across the Toronto skyline. The crowd was an interesting mix of dressed up (glass stilettos, furry purses, floppy caps) and dress down (sneakers, ripped jeans and graphic T’s). Toronto’s fashion and underground music communities mixed and mingled over Disaronno Sours and Sparklers while a fierce drummer duo performed an invigorating set on the al fresco terrace. Actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons were spotted chatting with Executive Director Jason Rietman while wicked flames shot out of portable heaters across the rooftop, offering much needed warmth and foreboding Autumn omen.

Sunday September 7th

Hosted by Director Norman Jewison each year during TIFF, the Canadian Film Centre’s Annual BBQ is held in celebration of Canadian cinema. The exclusive invitation-only event takes place at Windfields a stoic manor house surrounded by lush gardens and pristine manicured lawns.

The weather was perfectly sunny for an al fresco BBQ and guests eagerly quenched their thirst throughout the afternoon on local Mill Street brews and cocktails muddled with Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka. The hungry crowd chowed down on hotdogs, burgers, corn on the cob and stringy cheese pizza.

While strolling through the properties lush green lawn it’s obvious upon observation that the CFC BBQ at TIFF acts as a special networking event for Canadian filmmakers. Old friends share ecstatic salutations and chit-chat about current work while gushing over their hopes and dreams for future collaborations.

I enjoyed a quick conversation with Jade Hassoune, an alumni of the 2012-2013 Actors Conservatory who beautifully articulated his personal experience with the CFC, “my studies at the Canadian Film Centre were filled with momentum and inspiration. It was a personal boost of confidence in my ability to create my own path in the way I dream it. I was mentored by the best, received great creative and professional support and got to learn from their experience in the industry. My biggest take away: there is no formula for success other than to follow your path, you create your own reality, you create your own career!”

In the evening I tackled four vodka sloshed film parties at two of the festivals most sought after venues, Soho House and the Storys Building. I spent the night whisking my way from one party to the next via creaky staircase, spilling into an entirely new soiree where Hollywood’s top brass let loose.

I sat on a bar stool across from the fire blasted pizza oven on Soho House’s second floor. Guests to The Pantry were greeted by flutes of bubbly Grey Goose Le Fizz, a refreshing sparkler infused with a touch of floral elderflower St Germain.

The soiree was a post screening party for Miss Julie and the star of the show, Jessica Chastain was a pretty pixie dressed in a stunning black meets white dress and petite ponytail. She nibbled away on a board of vegan treats while across the room a cutely coiffed crowd huddled around a table elegantly puffing from nicotine rich vaporizers.

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Downstairs on the Club Floor film fans commemorated the world premiere of Love & Mercy, the biographical film about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Cast members John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Dano sipped on Grey Goose VX cocktails while chit-chatting under a moose bust which stood stoically over intimate fireplace. Ms. Banks leaned back on plush pillows, wearing blue floral splashed on white pantsuit. Mr. Cusack wore a simple black suit and sexy stubble scruff while dapper Paul Danho skipped out onto the patio for a breath of fresh air in a form fitting brown ensemble accentuated by rich burgundy red skinny tie.

As the party came to a close I spotted Beach Boy Brian Wilson relaxing in a leather armchair by shiny black grand piano. I bobbed up and down to moody beats while fondling a bouquet of waxy Brazilian Berries, which stood perched in vintage mason jars. I quickly plopped thyme tossed macaroon and creamy chocolate tort into my mouth before hopping off the patio in search of Duncan Street.

Moments later I was crawling up the 2nd floor of the Storys Building for the Time of Mind Party. Guests were greeted by handsome bartenders who served up signature Scene Stealer cocktails muddled with pomegranate, blueberry, Ketel One vodka and bubbly Henkel Trocken. The intimate lounge featured low-rise grey leather booths and light fixtures that reminded me of a magical baby’s crib mobile inspired by the sparkling constellations we see in a summers night sky.

Actress Jena Malone arrived in a jaw dropping Emilio Pucci open back gown covered in sparkling beads, offering an attentive crowd a quick glimpse of her snake inspired tramp stamp. Silver Fox costar Richard Gere quickly slipped into a booth to relax eager to nibble his way through a few juicy beef sliders. That evening the crowd huddled around the films talent, a bustling corner which overlooks Duncan Street. I opted to sit at the back of the room in a space I describe as “culinary urgency,” that door to the kitchen. A parade of plates whisked their way under my nose over the next hour, fond memories of tuna tartar stuffed nori cones, crispy chicken croquettes and nutella stuffed donuts.

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I began to hit a wall around 11pm, so decided to climb one more flight of stairs to peak-a-boo into The Last 5 Years Party before hitting the hay. The space featured a Virgin Mobile vintage photo booth where enthusiastic guests snapped photos together while sipping on bubbly. A DJ sporting black fedor spun rowdy rhythms in the loft-like space, outfitted with oversized living room furniture and thick wicked candles which offered a moody flash and flicker on exposed brick walls.

Hollywood hotness Anna Kendrick arrived in needle sharp stilettos, cute black cocktail dress, triangle earring bangles and curly waved bob. Upon arrival she quickly hugged a few of her film crew before darting to the bar. I fiddled with my iPhone to order a Hailo taxi home and was taken aback as she stared up at me while sipping from a thin red straw. Like any old dork I awkwardly flash a smug mug, she winked back at me and with an exhausted yawn I bid the petite princess adieu.

Saturday September 6th

Top Talent from Germany spent the morning brunching at The Beverley Hotel on Queen West for a media mix and mingle which celebrated Deutschland’s top films represented at this years festival. A petite buffet featured addictive sugar covered donuts, cranberry scones slathered in creamy lemon curd and steaming savory classics scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and home fries.

Media sipped sparkling mimosas and frothy latte’s while enjoying an early morning conversation with a gaggle of German heartthrobs which included the dashing Alexander Fehling (Inglorious Bastards, Labyrinth of Lies), Florian David Fitz (Tour De Force) Elyas M’Barek (Suck Me Shakespeer) and Tom Schilling (Oh Boy). After breakfast the clean-cut crew jolted up the hotel’s elevator to the rooftop patio for a pretty paparazzi photo op.

The 5th Annual RealTV Films Social Medial Lodge engaged the most dynamic social media influencers to create brand awareness and integrate filmmakers, actors, musicians, and celebrities into a creative networking environment. This years gifting lounge was set up in the heart of TIFF-town at SETonKing across from the Hyatt Regency.

Swag highlights include: beauty products by Inspired Soap Works, Bailey’s infused chocolate dipped strawberries via Shotberry, High Fashion Jewelry by Artemis and a serious caffeine buzz offered by the handsome gents from Toronto’s one and only Station Cold Brew.

That night Toronto’s glitterati enjoyed two back-to-back parties in celebration of two of the world’s most well respected fashion houses: Giorgio Armani and Hugo Boss. The city’s most familiar haute couture empires were represented by the always charming Brad Toth from Holt Renfrew and Tim Gallant from Harry Rosen while Toronto’s top style bloggers Casie Stewart, Sasha Exeter, Nelia Belkova and Julio Reyes were on the beat sussing out glamorous gowns.

The team who meticulously planned Giorgio Armani’s Films of City Frames party were all the buzz that eve as guests strutted down a black carpet flanked by a choir of handsome male models. Flashy paparazzi wall was a last stop before zooming up an elevator to the towers top floor. The doors popped with a chirping chime, noting our arrival and flutes of bubbly champagne were offered up as a whet-your-whistle-welcome. Most impressive was the CN Towers jaw dropping transformation: floor wrapped in plush black carpet and noir leathered designer furniture styled throughout the circular space and embellished with luxurious white orbs for illumination.

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Italy’s classic patio quencher the Aperol Sprtiz was the cocktail of the moment that eve, a clear nod to the designers roots (and sadly the end of our summer). Canapés whisked themselves throughout the space while Toronto’s most famous landmark filled to the brim with top talent. Addictive horseradish aioli adorned beef crostini and cherry jam and ricotta topped beet chips offered the perfect nibble while stargazing the parties VIP. And Hollywood was certainly out in full force, spotting Elisha Cuthbert, Jessica Chastain, Denzel Washington, Holly Hunter, Chloe Moretz, Spike Jonze and Anthony Mackie. Just as the party was wrapping the crowd got lively and while I was en route to the elevator Drunk In Love across the dance floor as Jurassic Park goddess Laura Dern dressed in flashy pink dress had my heart stopping. My childhood dinosaur nerdiness swooned as the larger than life blond bombshell squeezed through the crowd as we sailed like two ships in the night.

Waiting for a cab on the curb to zoom off to our next soiree I was humoured to see the dashing Richard Gere bring tardy to the Armani party arriving at 11:13pm. Next stop was the Hugo Boss + GQ soiree in celebration of The Riot Club at the Thompson Hotel’s new flashy Colette.

Guests were greeted by smiling well coiffed servers holding silver trays of bubbly and a multitude of top notch nibbles such as crab saigon roll, foie gras cherry crisps and oyster po’ boy. Colette’s elegant contemporary French provincial aesthetic offered a warm glow via overhead petite chandeliers and fresh blanche bouquets. Top talent scampered across black and white checkered floors while sipping on vino and classic G&T.

A-listers that evening were put on show, sitting on a glassed in patio which made it feel a bit like a celebrity zoo. However the drop dead gorgeous award at Colette last night goes to the mountainous charcuterie and fromage table featuring an all star cast: delice de Bourgogne, le chevrot cendre, duck rillettes, bresola and bouquet of parmesan salami.

Friday September 5th

I was excited to meet with Jordan Tanahill for sips and nibbles at the Ritz Carlton Toronto’s DEQ patio. The Toronto based writer and director chatted with me over the lunch hour about the launch of his first film at TIFF, a 10 minutes short film entitled Father.

Jordan arrived at the table dressed in a Picasso inspired hand painted t-shirt by local artist Jesi the Elder, highlighter green skinny jeans and sharp black blazer. We sat in the hot-hot-heat al fresco, sipping Hennessy VSOP Cognac spiked champagne “Star Du Cinema” and turmeric laced Bacardi Reserva Limitada “Fair Game.”

Over the course of the next hour we bantered back and forth while feasting on hearty short rib poutine and kale and sweet confit cherry tomato adorned garden flatbread. What events in Tanahill’s life inspired Father? It seems as though it’s the old tale of Daddy Issues, “I’m fascinated by father and son narratives. I see the film as a meditation on the ways in which power and responsibility inevitably shift from parent to child. It was a scenario that I initially dreamt up six years ago while I was in my second year of film school.” Our conversation was quickly interrupted when I realized Sex in the City star Cynthia Nixon was sitting directly in front of us (a whisper away). She nibbled away on a Caesar Salad while Jordan and I unapologetically polished off a calorie laden French fry medley.

By 6pm Toronto was a muggy mess. Standing on the sidewalk outside of Soho House film fans with a penchant for a pretty party stood like zombies in dire need of a hit of AC. That night Toronto’s exclusive private club celebrated the World Premiere of Nightcrawler, one of the fests most anticipated films by Director Dan Gilroy.

Handsome bartenders offered an essential thirst quench via Grey Goose mix and mingled cocktails. La Poire infused Mise-En-Scene was my bevy of choice, offering a refreshing hit as the Club Floors walls dripped with sauna inspired perspiration.

Guests eagerly awaiting the films top talent nibbled on memorable migrating canapés: petite kale salad, crispy margherita pizza and plump meatballs slathered in marinara. The snack attack was finger licking good but the room didn’t truly smack its lips until Rene Russo and Jake Gyllenhaal joined the crowd in drop-dead-gorgeous ensembles inspired by noble noir. Other notable guests that stopped by the House throughout the evening include Jennifer Garner, Harvey Weinstein, Jason Priestley and Darren Aronofsky.

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I bolted out of the Soho House at 8pm, spilling onto King Street West in the heart of TIFF-town. At Peter Street a parking lot was brilliantly transformed into an al fresco concert hall. Beer and live music lovers descended upon Grolsch Open House, sipping suds while upbeat acts Reuben and the Dark and Bobby Bazini crooned under the twinkle of the night sky.

The party suddenly took a quick turn when the crash and boom of a summer storm cast its shadow across the city. Musicians darted for dry as overhead lights were powered down with the quick flip of a switch. The room was a buzzing as Grolsch guests huddled around the bar nursing their porcelain latch topped green beer bottles. The room erupted into spurts of ohhh and ahhh as shots of lighting jolted towards the CN Tower. The energy was electric, romantic even, offering a perfect example of how sometimes not everything goes to plan but in the end the impromptu most often offers the most memorable moment.

Thursday September 4th

NKPR hosted its annual IT Lounge at their spacious office on Adelaide Street West. I arrived shortly after 10am to a gong show of “busy bees” as media grabbed bags of this and that while Natasha’s beautifully coiffed staff scampered around in stilettos playing product tour guides for visiting journos.

In Toronto’s competitive TIFF gifting lounge circuit, NKPR undeniably puts on the best show. With the agencies expansion into NYC and now LA Natasha’s strong connections with Hollywood clearly shine through. A DJ sponsored by TD Bank performed live while media adventured through food, beverage, fashion and consumer products.

My favourite swag from this years IT Lounge: Caitlin Cronenberg’s daring collection of “Poser” nudes, Goody’s “Spin Pin,” RUDSAK leather fashions, cutesy cool Yo Sox and sweet treats from Yogen Fruz.

This year the team at Rock-It Promotions hosted their annual Tastemakers Lounge presented by Brita in a petite suite at The Intercontinental Toronto Centre. Items in the lounge were hand picked to make a hectic festival experience comfortable and fun, with a Canadian twist. Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, founder of Tastemakers Lounge chirps, “Hosting Tastemakers during the Toronto International Film Festival for a decade has been an incredible experience. We are especially proud of the many Canadian brands we’ve been able to introduce on an international stage!”

My favourite swag from this years Tastemakers Lounge: olive + piper adorable gold necklaces, Papa D’s Tropical “Hot Sawce,” suave black leather hats from Danier, “just in time for winter,” boots from Sorel and lovely hand massage courtesy of LUSH.

Gail and Christian from Stylist Box created a fun fashion-centric space for their 2nd annual lounge. The duo’s Stylist Suite is an exclusive styling lounge for celebrities in the heart of Toronto’s trendy Dundas West neighbourhood. During TIFF Stylist Box provides exclusive access to fashionable looks for actors, producers and television personalities to borrow for special appearances while offering complimentary styling, hair and makeup services. Gail and Christian tour me through their massive closet mentioning that this year Ari Millen from Orphan Black will be wearing a Gian-Paolo Mazzotta suit and Clara Pasieka from Maps with the Stars will be decked out in Lucian Matis and Riches et Celebres shoes.

My favourite tricks and treats at this years Stylist Suite: wine duo from Marynissen Estates in Niagara, man bun styling thanks to Greg May Hair Architects, pretty leather touch screen gloves by Quill & Tine, ColourFix Leave in Conditioner by sudzz and ice cold Peroni on their petite patio.

In the eve the city’s prettiest people descended upon the razzle dazzle Yorkville neighbourhood for Toronto Life’s “Most Stylish” soiree. The party was thrown in the hotels ballroom to celebrate the launch of the mags coveted Stylebook. Ladies with a penchant for pretty were entertained by sparkling Swarovski jewelry while makeup artists from Yves Saint Laurent painted fresh faces.

DJ Lapelle spun moody beats while Toronto’s fashion glitterati posed here and there apparently deaf to my chirps “over your shoulder who are you wearing?” Parched personalities quenched their thirst on ice cold Peroni, Stoli Elit on the rocks and flutes of sparkling vino. While it appeared as though the majority of the room was pouring its energy into sucking-in-their-guts I fancied a fine feast featuring a seafood station (oysters on the half shelf, crab legs, smoked salmon and trout) and extravagant table decked out with fresh fromage and house made charcuterie.

Wednesday September 3rd

I was up at the crack of dawn for my first day of the festival, brewing a pot of coffee at 6am in preparation for a 20 hour work day. My first appointment that morning was an appearance with Chris Howson on Proud FM where we gabbed about the best spots in TIFF-town to sip and nibble. I find the majority of media covering TIFF’s social scene stick to rambling on about where to see celebrities.

Last year at the festival I spent several hours standing in line at Press & Industry Screenings chatting with film critics from all over the world who all seemed to be starving. They complained about having no clue where to grab a decent meal. I specifically remember waiting in line for Gravity and talking with the New York Times film critic about all of the best spots within a ten minute walk of the TIFF Bell Lightbox to enjoy a fine feast.

I was humoured as a crowd of critics gathered round as I chirped out a few of my favourite eateries. This year I have dedicated two stories in Metro Newspaper to my favourite spots to sip and nibble during the festival. Chris and I chatted about my favourites which include: Pai and Byblos on Duncan, Home of the Brave, El Caballito, Weslodge and Luma on King Street West and Luckee by Susur Lee at the Soho Metropolitan.

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This year Glo Communications hosted its annual Bask It Style Lounge in the 3,000 square foot Royal Suite located on the 16th floor of The Fairmont Royal York. The hotels premiere suite is decked out in British decor and features two bedrooms, spacious living areas, two wet bars, a fireplace and dining table. Helen Mirren, Martin Sheen, Tom Wilkinson and even the royal family have all spent time resting and relaxing here.

Bask It Style, a twist on traditional gifting, gives busy stars on the go at TIFF one less thing to worry about while promoting their films and schmoozing with their industry peers. This year Glo took celebrity gifting to new heights by assembling and hand delivering VIP gift bags to the hotels where the top stars call home during the festival. The ambiance of the place was wildly enchanting. Eager media whisked themselves from one station to the next while surrounded by stunning views of the Financial District.

My favourite swag from this years Bask It Style Lounge: Lego’s Visual Guide to Architecture courtesy of DK Publishing, milk chocolate from Green and Black’s Organic, local brew from Brickwork’s Cider House, Mary Kay’s MK Men Face Bar and from the best-selling author of Wicked, Gregory Maguire’s Egg & Spoon.

Once again EGPR’s Essentials Lounge was hosted at The Templar Hotel. Esther Garnick’s annual TIFF lounge is a unique offering where celebrities aren’t invited and the real pampering is offered up to overworked media. Local writers get giddy with glee each year when the Essential’s Lounge opens its doors as the products here are intentionally useful. Garnick is adamant she would never feature a brand in her lounge that wasn’t inherently helpful to media who cover TIFF from dusk till dawn. The Essentials Lounge always stands out on TIFF’s lounge circuit for its pamper-pleasing hands on treatments. This year media booked appointments in advance for a Skinceuticals Express Facial, Brow Shaping and/or Lash-N-Dash and hair touchups at a pop up salon offered by Schwarzkopf Professional stylists. 

My favourite treats from this years Essentials Lounge include: a liquid morning wake up call courtesy of Balzac’s Coffee, Square Cut Dual Tone undies for men from Calvin Klein, BC Oil Miracle Finishing Treatment by Schwarzkopf Professional, handy portable smartphone charger from PoweRocks, Micronail cuticle and nail polisher from Emjoi, watermelon juice via The Good Press, slick black leather boots from Rockport and “Tiny Tea” organic blend from Your Tea.

The big ticket party ($1500 per person) that night took place at TIFF HQ’s Bell Lightbox as the festival hosted its 3rd Annual Gala Fundraiser. Pretty people arrived in fancy frocks and glamorous gowns shortly after 5:30pm and were quickly whisked up to the 2nd floor for a lively reception where the city’s film loving philanthropists sipped on ice cold Grolsch while nibbling through petite plates featuring bahn mi, truffle mac & cheese croquettes and cilantro stuffed spring rolls. A cluster formed by the banister as a gaggle gawked at the red carpet and paparazzi gong show below.

Just before 7pm Cinema 1 filled to the brim. I could hear the clickety-clack of a thousand stilettos and smell a cloud of addictive butter tossed popcorn while I plopped peanut M&M’s into my eager mouth. The room roared as Canada’s favourite TV host, George Stroumboulopoulos waltzed onto the stage. Strombo spent the next hour candidly chit chatting with Hollywood legend Al Pacino. Highlights of the intimate encounter include Pacino’s hilarious commentary on how he was selected to act in the Godfather, emphasis on his passion for theatre and coy declaration that “I always knew I was going to be a star!”

Pacino was offered a standing ovation before shuffling off the stage, replaced by a whimsical auctioneer who spent the next 30 minutes heckling the audience to give big for a good cause. The auction was full of jaw dropping prizes and their resulting winning bids escalated to such a feverish pitch that it made for good entertainment (insert: drawn out oohhh’s and ahhh’s). Film fan philanthropists that evening made history by opening their wallets with great generosity: $6000 to Shadow with TIFF CEO and Director Piers Handling for a day at TIFF14, $9100 for a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Taille watch and tickets to two of Al Pacino’s films playing at this years festival, $25,000 for an exclusive TIFF Noir Membership which grants special privileges and unprecedented access to the festival and exclusive year round benefits at TIFF Bell Lightbox and a whooping $51,000 for a five day trip to the Cannes International Film Festival.

Once the auction had wrapped the crowd scurried to the elevators and zoomed up to the 6th floor for a glitz meets glam al fresco party on Malaparte’s rooftop terrace. Guests were greeted by enthusiastic bartenders who shook up cocktails, popped beer bottles and poured fancy flutes of sparkling wine. Inside a lively band had ladies throwing off their shoes to rip up the dance floor while their partners enjoyed a fine seafood feast featuring shrimp cocktail, lobster and mussels. Back outside a team of chef’s from Oliver & Bonacini kept busy building wee plates featuring truffled mashed potato, succulent steak and umami forward forest mushrooms. Standing under the glow of the CN Tower I spotted filmmaker Don McKellar and actress Sandra Oh, flashing a quick smile I quickly lost myself amongst a sea of bow tie and Birkin.

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