I've been attending the Toronto International Film Festival in various permutations over the last decade. There was the weekender trips with girlfriends in my late 20s, the era where I was on the clock for People magazine as their Canadian stringer, and the time I premiered my former magazine Naked Eye there at two event launches.
I've been to the red carpet galas, attended the exclusive George Christy Four Seasons luncheon, wrangled Jann Arden & Feist at Fashion Cares for an enRoute magazine photo shoot, and shook my groove thang at the In Style magazine celebrity Babylon parties. I've dealt with every form of thermonuclear hostile publicist, red velvet rope & clip board gate keeper, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt AND the 4 a.m. street meat thankyouverymuch.
This year was especially interesting as it was my inaugural TIFF season on Twitter -- adding a virtual blizzard of information into the mix. My coverage this year was a pu-pu platter of events, lounges, pop-ups and charitable causes and with most of it being re-tweeted in real-time, I quickly learned that I could not "dance at every wedding."
September 5, 2012
Tonight I was off to the SKKY Vodka's Blue Alley event, a blue-lit street party-meets-Cirque du Soliel side show. After enjoying a TIFF-inspired libation named Sky Peach Paltrow next to model Stacey McKenzie, I wasn't sure if I was entering early stages of menopause or if the cramped space was the catalyst, but I was looking for the exit soon after arrival, capturing minimal glimpses of the solid gold inspired contortionist dancers on my way out.
Next up I was off to the Producers Ball taking place at the brand new Shangri la Hotel and hosted by those highly crushable, heavily Canadian accented Property Brothers Drew & Johnathan Scott. The hotel drips of decadence as I arrive to the rooftop ball room adorned in an Old Hollywood motif with a silent auction adroitly displayed around the bar in support of Paul Haggis' charity, Artists for Peace and Justice. Jill Hennessey, who I've seen often over the years, gave me a warm smile as I sojourned on the outdoor rooftop with stunning views off to make pithy small talk with friends and strangers alike -- making sure not to blow my entire "festival load" on this, my first night out. Wait, what?
September 6, 2012
Today I check out a TIFF staple; NKPR's famed IT Lounge. One of the things that sets this lounge apart from a bevy of others is owner Natasha Koifman's ongoing synergy with charitable organizations enmeshed into her gifting suite approach. This year, guests and sponsoring brands benefitted Kandy with a K -- an online candy boutique to help raise funds for over 10 different charities. My personal faves from this swagalicious day, was the diaphanously lovely Navy Blue maxi dress from RW&CO. priced at a reasonable $98.00 and an iced out elysian blue cuff by Lia Sophia, which I can't help but wear everywhere to the adoring oohs & ahhs of complimentary on-lookers. On my way home, I pass by the new pop-up Target hotel, (formerly The Templar hotel) in all of its candy cane, swirly, confectionary, branding gradation for a private tour.
September 8, 2012
Let the cinephiles roll their eyelids, but gifting lounges have become part and parcel to the TIFF landscape -- giving many brands a boon in biz, and worthy charities important visibility. Today I'm doing a back to back lounge-a-thon between the Canadian Film and TDotTv suites.
First up, I arrive at the First Weekend Club's Canadian Film lounge at the Fairmont Hotel. G-d bless the Fairmont brand, but unlike the other properties, the famed Toronto building is stuck in an antiquated time warp somewhere in between Carol Channing's feather boa dressing gown and Bob Fosse's leg kicks -- and not in a good way. Add to that, the creep-o-factor of feeling like the twins from The Shining would tricycle themselves out in front of me during the many windy corridor turns, and I have three short words for the Fairmont TO: Needs Face Lift !
The suite was part gift & service offerings with a side room dedicated to neck and feet massages, make up applications and blow-outs. Back in the main room a Canadian drum circle of crunchy granola industry types like Sook-Yin Lee are fawning over the organic properties of Sigrid's Natural Skin Care, while I can't wait to high tail it out there discreetly with my new We Vibe 3 -- the Cadillac of the 'couples vibrator' -- erm, for a friend.
A quick jaunt through the Tdot TV interview lounge at the gorgeous Bata Shoe Museum had me on the receiving end of an electric blue hair extension fastened by Doll Bar Inc., and I learned about the great work CANFAR is doing to end HIV and AIDS globally.
The highlight that evening was the Lauryn Hill, ONEXONE concert at Toronto's Kool Haus. Before she took the stage, Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black and K'naan warmed up the stage with knock-out performances respectively -- until Ms. Hill finally took her place in the spotlight. Dogged by many an earlier review that mentioned erratic behavior, late arrivals, and disjointed performances, I was thrilled to see Lauryn Hill on time, on point and performing like the superstar she is. "Did you miss me?" she cooed into this sold out audience. After a massive unison of cheers swelled from the crowd she answered "I missed you too"!
Amongst guests like Jeremy Bieber (a.k.a. papa Bieber) who was decked out in head to toe HeadRush gear (think Ed Hardy meets Sons of Anarchy) I laser in on one half of the Property Brothers in my VIP section who is white-man dancing like he has two cement blocks on his feet and my crush immediately turns to mulch.
I cap off the evening with a stop at the blanketed white Nikki Beach Pop Up at the Spoke Club, and end up at the newly minted Soho House Toronto where I spotted a patina of celebs like Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt sporting a gorgeous new blonde hair colour and the beautiful Susan Sarandon.
September 13, 2012
I decide to end off a very blurry week at the extraordinary film premiere of Twice Born starring Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch, and later found myself at the Ritz Carlton hotel bar toasting to this frenzied week -- when alchemy struck.
In what never ceases to amaze me about the wondrous, serendipitous moments that personify TIFF, I was suddenly sitting right next to the retina searing beauty of both Penelope Cruz and the smoldering Javier Bardem. Better than any film at eleven I could have eyeballed at TIFF, I was watching in real time at an eyelash-length -- a scene out of La Dulce Vida. Plumes of thick, sexy Spaniard smoke wafting from the mouths of a tuxedoed Bardem and a harem of male appendages surrounding a gamine-pouted Cruz in her pink Versace gown (sans smoke) -- all of them speaking wild and passionate Spanish, as I dog-ear the conversation while pretending to play it cool -- sipping my martini under the stars.
While TIFF can sometimes feel like a paint-by-numbers swag grab, a never ending step and repeat wall often starring Canadian singer Keisha Chanté (that girl is EVERYWHERE), I never cease to have a gilded stand-out magical moment at one of the world's largest film festivals, and 2012 definitely did not disappoint. See you next year!