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TIFF 2014: Cut! That's a wrap...

09/14/2014 09:50 EDT | Updated 11/14/2014 05:59 EST
Evan Agostini /Invision/AP
Actress Kristen Wiig arrives at the "Welcome to Me" premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014, in Toronto. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

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I knew this day would come: the end of TIFF'14. It's so bittersweet. But it's been another successful fest with great films, dazzling stars and an excellent street party for the first time. (Sorry drivers, again.) But before we roll up the red carpet and put away the barricades, let's have one more quick chat about some of the films I've seen over these last couple of days and about the closing night gala.

Don't believe the hype

There's a hard lesson I learn every year: don't pay attention to the good and bad buzz because chances are it's not 100% true. Basically I heard that two of my film choices weren't very good. But then I was pleasantly surprised:

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The Cobbler: Adam Sandler plays a fourth generation cobbler in Manhattan's lower east side who discovers that his old shoe stitching machine imparts magic powers into the shoes. He's able to become another person simply by slipping on their shoes after repairing them on this machine. And this takes him on quite the adventure. The wildly original film also stars Method Man, Ellen Barkin, Steve Buscemi and Dustin Hoffman. (Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey fame is very funny in this too, which is so refreshing.) It's great to know that the production has gained distribution; don't miss this, it's a lot of fun.

The Forger: Stars John Travolta as a convicted forger, who happens to be the son of another small-time crook, played by Christopher Plummer. Time is of the essence in this story: he wants to get out early so he can spend time with his sick son, so a deal involving a bribe for a judge is set with a cruel club owner played by Anson Mount of Hell on Wheels -- I believe they're still shooting in Alberta so he didn't attend the gala. (I sent him a little note of praise on Facebook, and surprisingly he or someone on his team actually replied; Super nice of him regardless.) Rounding out the cast are Tye Sheridan (from Joe which was at TIFF'13), Jennifer Ehle (also in A Little Chaos) and Abigail Spencer (This is where I leave you). This film reminded me of The Art of the Steal, but it's more dark and menacing -- but no less satisfying.

Sometimes, it's just meh...

I also attended the galas for Before We Go and Pawn Sacrifice. Chris Evans, in his directoral debut, stars in Before with Alice Eve. I heard comparisons to Before Sunrise/Sunset, so my expectations were low. Also, the majority of the audience were teeny-bopper Evans fans who amused themselves with endless selfies before the intros. I thought the story was predictable and suspect the ending was too, because I left early to get to my next line. Maybe I'll re-watch it and will change my opinion.

Tobey Maguire's turn as Bobbie Fischer in Pawn Sacrifice was as strong as other performances I've seen so far by other actors this season, however I didn't really have an emotional link to the story. I'm a huge fan of Ray Donovan, so it was excellent to see Liev Schreiber, who played Fischer's opponent in the famous 1972 World Champion chess tournament.

Closing night festivities

The Page Eight closing night gala is one of my favourite TIFF memories. When given the opportunity to be in the same room with Bill Nighy, don't refuse. If you've seen him in Love Actually or Pirate Radio, he oozes that same kind of cool and sex-appeal in person. He knows it and plays it up just for you -- even all the way up in the nosebleeds at Roy Thomson Hall, where I was sitting. When the director David Hare welcomed him to the stage, Nighy walked straight to the centre, struck a pose and the audience erupted. I called down "You're bloody gorgeous baby!" to which he deadpanned: "Please, contain yourselves."

That was also a great party with a Swinging London feel and excellent food. The theme of last year's party for Life of Crime was 1970s kitch -- they served little chilli-dogs and they had a DJ playing in a mock-up of a basement with an orange shag rug and wood paneling. For giggles, I went to the DJ and requested The Hustle. I mean, if you're at a '70s party, this song is requisite. The guy looked at me and said in a lovely cockney accent: "Who wrote that?" Wow. Just wow.

Now, about last night... By the time Day 10 comes along, I'm running on fumes -- which I gather was the same for the TIFF crew. Everyone is a little bit wacked out and subsiding mostly on adrenaline. Regardless, they pulled off a great show this year and their pick for the closing film was amazing. Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman are exquisite in A Little Chaos. She plays a gardener commissioned to create an elaborate water treatment for Louis XIV in the gardens of Versailles. The costumes were gorgeous, the story was fascinating and I suspect we'll see noms for Kate and Alan (acting and directing for him.) I was a bit disappointed at the end of the film when they were recognized with the spotlight, she was no longer there and Rickman didn't stand; apparently, he was very emotional and humbled by our accolades. It's worth your time, so make sure you see it.

For the first time in a several years, the after party was held at a separate location: The Arcadian Court. They didn't have a theme that reflected the closing film and the hors d'oeuvres lacked luster, compared to other years. It would be nice if they could find a way to provide a little more nibblies to help balance the free champagne. Anyway, it was an interesting space and the people watching once again didn't disappoint.

Quick thank-yous

Before I sign off and get back to my post-TIFF recovery (have a bit of a cold at the mo') I want to thank the Huffington Post Canada blog editing team. Even though I've been on vacation since the end of August, writing these articles never felt like work to me. It was a real thrill to do this over these last two weeks and the blog team was incredibly helpful and patient.

I'd also like to thank you too for reading my posts; I have no idea how many of you there are -- outside from those who shared this stuff on social media -- but I'm very grateful. Thank you.

Now -- let's restart the count-down clock, shall we? 365 days to go until TIFF'15 (their 40th and my 10th.) I can hardly wait. Until then, happy recovery!

Cheers

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