Today I leave Toronto to head home to Seattle, leaving James Rocchi behind to see the fest through to its exhausting end. It's been a decent fest overall, not great but good. I saw a several films I enjoyed here, including Burn After Reading, Goodbye Solo, and 35 Rhums, as well as a couple of fun midnight picks with JCVD and Detroit Metal City.

I missed being able to see a lot of films I really wanted to see, due to schedule conflicts and the lack of a cloning machine at our hotel that would allow me to be multiple places at once (or at least, the ability to see far enough into the future to foresee which of two films screening opposite each other will be wretched).

It seems that lots and lots of people who attend this fest (I'm talking normal people, not those of us crazy or masochistic enough to work in any aspect of the film business) want very, very much to attend the big parties, and seem to think if they can't get in, they're missing something fun or perhaps even life-altering. There's always a gaggle of scantily clad girls and hipsters hovering around the entrance of these events, hoping to finagle a way to crash the party.


Inevitably there are several people whose names aren't on the list for a given party trying to convince whomever's minding security that there must be some mistake, they're supposed to be on the list, so-and-so assured them they were on the list, and even if no one put their name on the list they should have, because this person is (at least to himself) someone really important. And you know what Canadian security folks really love? An uptight, Type-A, full-of-himself American yelling at how he's going to have this person's job if he's not let into this lame party.

For the most part, these big parties are just a necessary evil of film festivals. They're hot and crowded and loud, you can't hear the person next to you talk, and all the VIPs the people think they'll get to see are sequestered from the hoi polloi in the VIP section anyhow. These parties, honestly, are just not a lot of fun, so it baffles me why anyone would just want to go to one. The little dinner parties that get thrown for the films, on the other hand, are a much better time.

They tend to be smaller groups, and everyone there is smart and witty and has fascinating opinions about the films they've seen. As an added bonus, they tend to be held in very nice restaurants, since the talent's there as well. I went to the dinner for Happy-Go-Lucky the other night, where the film's star, Sally Hawkins, was in attendance along with director Mike Leigh. There were other filmmakers and industry bigwigs, journalists and publicists all on hand at Josos', where the party was held, and the food was out of this world -- one of those fancy places where there's no prices on the menu posted outside, and if you have to ask, you probably shouldn't be eating there.

The most fun party of all at any fest, though, involves cheap mixed drinks, exhausted film fest circuit refugees, and karaoke, and Tuesday night's IFC/SXSW party for the film Medicine for Melancholy was a rollicking great time. We'd all just hit the tail end of the hardest part of the fest, and everyone just wanted to unwind.

With filmmaker/writer/karaoke king Michael Lerman running the show, a wide array of film journalists, publicists and what have you let their hair down for a night for some raucous karaoke action. New SXSW head Janet Pierson was on hand for the festivities, along with former SXSW chief Matt Dentler, the guys from indieWIRE, and heaps of other folks. The highlight for me was a guy singing Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby (One More Time)" -- he was quite good, and there are few things better than the karaoke irony of a guy singing Britney or a chick rocking it to some Whitesnake or Bon Jovi.

I'll have more of my reviews and a couple interviews that I'll be posting from home over the next couple of days, and James will be filing through the end of the fest as well, so stay tuned for more from Toronto ...