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09/05/2014 05:27 EDT | Updated 11/05/2014 05:59 EST

TIFF 2014: Meeting Robert Downey Jr.

This was my first Opening Night Gala as a TIFF Patron member and it truly was a magical night. The Judge is a poignant story with the right amount of levity to keep it balanced. As we left to head over to Roy Thomson Hall, we were offered an array of gourmet popcorn. Outside, we could hear the fans screaming for RDJ.

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NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30: Robert Downey Jr. leaves Gemma restaurant on April 30, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)

If there's one thing that the American film industry does well is producing excellent court case films. Twelve Angry Men, To Kill A Mockingbird, A Few Good Men to name a few.

They've all become classics. And last night's The Judge starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall can be added to this illustrious list. It doesn't merely examine how Downey's defense lawyer character tries to build a solid defense for a proud small-town judge with a long history. It also looks into the unfinished emotional business that bubbles up in families when aging parents enter their final years.

The Judge is a poignant story with the right amount of levity to keep it balanced. However, some might suggest that Vera Farmiga and Leighton Meester's characters don't really work within the larger storyline. Regardless, the performances were outstanding and last night's audience rewarded the stars with a standing ovation.

This was my first Opening Night Gala as a TIFF Patron member and it truly was a magical night. It started with a cocktail party in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom. Food stations were set up along the room's perimeter: pasta, charcuterie, Reuben sandwiches, pulled beef brisket sliders, dim sum, sushi and a sweets table. A four sided bar offering champagne, wine, beer, mixed and soft drinks was set up in the middle.

Food and drink aside, the people watching and the fashion was awesome. We saw the usual cocktail dress, long gown and vintage frocks. But then we saw walking shorts paired with a golf shirt, short-shorts with a T and a fringed bag, lace, sequins, back tie, no tie. It was a real style smorgasbord.

As we left to head over to Roy Thomson Hall, we were offered an array of gourmet popcorn. Outside, we could hear the fans screaming for RDJ. Considering how short our walk was, it was made trickier thanks to our heels and hazards like TV trucks, TV cables, taxis, black Escalades and celeb-stalkers. Once inside, we were treated to the red carpet interviews with Downey and the rest of the cast.

Later, we headed over the TIFF Lightbox for the after party. It was very unique to be able to walk down the middle of King Street West, now that it's been closed for the weekend. (Sorry drivers.) The place was packed and we wondered who all these people were, they couldn't have all fit in RTH. It turned out that they were TIFF employees, young film makers, members and other VIPs. We were kind of frustrated because there weren't many options on where to go in the building; it's not really the best venue for a big party. We were hot and squished, but not in a good way. The best spot -- the rooftop patio with the floating staircase -- was reserved for extra special VIPs. So after awhile, we left like many before us and headed over to the Ritz to see what was happening there. Things were still hopping but you could feel the first night slowing coming to a close.

I always get a bit sentimental at the beginning and the end of TIFF. It's like the smell of buttered popcorn triggers a stack of memories from previous fests. Take for example TIFF'11. I was part of a volunteer blogger team commissioned to write about our TIFF experiences for the CBC website. I decided to write a piece on the opening film about U2, From the Sky Down. I joined the growing crowd behind the barricade outside Roy Thomson Hall and waited two hours for Bono and The Edge to arrive. While it's tiring to stand around for that length of time, the people around me were fun, so that helped. When U2 arrived, I set up my iPad to video tape them as they greeted the crowd. Dutifully they made their way along the barricade, signing albums and posters, taking pictures and chatting with the fans. When Bono got to me, I wished him a good time. All he saw was the apple on my iPad. Not knowing that I was taping him, he thought I was putting it out as an offering. So he did the most natural thing: he signed my iPad. I burst out laughing, to which he said: What're you laughin' at?

The next day, my brother texted me from the Hazelton patio: Bono and The Edge just walked past our table. I replied: "Bono signed my iPad."

"Ok, you win."

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