I grew up near here, but at the time it wasn't near at all; Toronto was just stations on the TV, voices on the radio, where the Sunday paper came from. It was an hour-and-a-half drive, or a well-planned afternoon on a terrific transit system, and it was a world away. Coming to Toronto for the Film Festival is, for me, always a bit disconcerting -- I remember how awestruck I felt at age 14 seeing the inside of Toronto's retail landmark Eaton Centre for the first time. Bear in mind, the EatonCentre is a mall with one thing going for it: It is enclosed during winter. But I was easily impressed. In many ways, I still am, and grateful for it.

And Toronto never leaves my mind. How could it? I watch the trailers for movies I wouldn't watch in a thousand years and, yes, there's Milla Jovovitch running down Toronto's City Hall building, as it explodes about her. Or I perk up during a dull action film for two things: Brian Cox and the moment Chow-Yun Fat strides by a Toronto Sun box. Or the music of Broken Social Scene playing counterpoint to Ryan Gosling's imploding life in Half Nelson. These things crop up everywhere.

Or they do if you look for them, and all Canadians are cultural critics at heart -- early on you're told That culture is not you. It's not you because it's American, French-Canadian, English-Canadian; spinning the TV dial was an act of cultural roulette. And you went to the movies at a big movie palace, The Tivoli, and for a few dizzy Star Wars-Indiana-Jones-Aliens years, you would be part of a line that stretched down the block past the funeral parlor.