Spotlove Does Toronto

Jesus, if one more fucking idiot bumps me in line with his Mama Cass-sized backpack, I’m going to force him to watch Joel Schumacher movies until his eyes burst… oops… back to my column…

Hey folks! The good Doctor’s here for a brief intro note from the 26th Annual Toronto International Film Festival. Bigger then Sundance, more accessible then Cannes, and way way cooler then Venice (but hey, what festival isn’t?), the TIFF has assuredly become Cinema Central for 10 days every September. Whether you’re Joe Eszterhas or Joe Public, there’s tickets available and lots to see. And, best of all, the TIFF doesn’t whore itself out to Hollywood. Sure, the studios are in here in tow, but with 60% of the features being non-English fare, this truly is a film festival, and not a Cannes-Cannes for the stars.

326 films. 249 features. 175 World and North American premieres. I’m getting no sleep and loving it.

Going into Day 1, the early buzz is building for festival opener, Canadian Bruce Sweeney’s anti-romantic “Last Wedding.” Sweeney, who’s debut feature “Live Bait” made a Sundance splash in ’95, has a gift for dirty humor and unforgettable dialogue, so the festival is showing some gut for sticking it into the opening night slot. Watch for a battle for American distribution rights if this one takes off here.

Another notable on the first night is a searing crime-drama from new Chinese director Wang Chao called “The Orphan Of Anyang” that has critics raving and audiences lining the streets. Chao is making Takeshi Kitano-sized waves so far and the festival is barely a day old.

Tomorrow’s buzz beaters include Scot Hicks’ highly-anticipated “Hearts In Atlantis,” Rose Troche’s “Ice Storm”-like “The Safety of Objects” and “Before The Rain” director Milcho Manchevski’s “Dust,” who’s bold imagery is reminiscent of Rain’s stark landscape. On the international front, Shinobu Yaguchi’s “Waterboys,” a comedy about a young boys’ sync-swimming team, looks VERY promising.

Doc’s Pick: Screening next week, Henry Bean’s “The Believer,” a complex study of identity crisis manifested into extreme racist actions, has been getting massive buzz and is an early candidate for People’s Choice Award at the festival. Some of you may wonder why the name is familiar… Bean’s directorial debut won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. This is one to watch for.

Coffee and sleep, (and hopefully copious star-fucking) await. I’ll be back soon with more buzz from Toronto.