Being both far too old and nowhere near hip enough to do things like attending midnight screenings and go to cool parties, I arrived home from Toronto last night in much better physical shape than my hipper, younger (at heart) colleagues. Mentally, though, I'm pretty drained -- clearly I'm soft in more ways than one. I did, however, have a great time at the festival -- despite the daily grind of screenings, the little thrill of WAITING IN LINES to see obscure films from Eastern Europe never wore off. I mean, who are these people? Not only do they get excited about the debut feature from some Romanian guy no one has heard of, but they actually take time off from work, buy passes, and see four and five movies a day, aided by intricate, color-coded schedules that let them know what each friend is seeing at every minute. I can't tell you how many women in their 60s I saw taking sandwiches out of their purses and eating in line, because those were their only free minutes for the next 12 hours -- if I'm doing that when I'm 65, my grandkids damn well better realize how kickass their grandma is.
Despite persistent, jaded mutterings that TIFF 2006 wasn't as good as the festival has been in the past, I was really impressed by the quality of the slate, at least as far as it was reflected in the 20-something films I saw. As the designated viewer of foreign movies no one has ever heard of, I was privileged to see some amazing films -- most of which, sadly, are highly unlikely to ever be released on these shores (What distributor is going to buy the rights to a movie about a talk show in Romania?). In addition, though, I also saw a handful of big(ish)-name releases, only one of which managed to meet and surpass my (obviously too high) expectations. Anyway, what follows is a loose, how-I-feel-today list of my five favorite films of the festival -- for the more obscure ones, just hope the programmers of your local festivals see fit to bring them to town. Otherwise, a region-free DVD player is probably your only hope.