As I write this (Thursday, 6:08 PM, CST), the Toronto Film Festival web site is overloaded and you're as likely to get an error message ("server timed out," "server too busy") as anything else. That's the Internet equivalent of being there: you can just imagine crowds of people standing in line, milling about noisily in theater lobbies, and cursing their wireless connections. Of course, I'm sitting comfortably in my apartment 1500 miles away, listening to cicadas singing their summer song, while I surf the web looking for festival news and views.

Like our own James Rocchi, several dozen writers have filed initial dispatches; I liked how Duane Dudek of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel transitions from an airport story to a local angle in his comments on Michael Clayton. Dudek also mentioned his plans to see Spanish chiller The Orphanage, which was one of the early press and industry screenings this morning. Tom O'Neill of the Los Angeles Times saw the film but said he "didn't get it." On the other hand, David Poland at The Hot Blog thought the festival couldn't have gotten off to a nicer start, calling The Orphanage "a classical thriller ... a solid movie that inspires thoughts about world cinema truly being without borders." Michael Guillen at Twitch wrote a full review: "My hand remained over my mouth through most of this movie; a sure sign that I'm ready to stifle a scream."

Meanwhile, the ever-quotable Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere passed along comments from the men's room about Ang Lee's Lust, Caution (not as salacious as you might think): "I wasn't wowed down to my toes, but Lust, Caution has integrity and conviction, and I respected Lee's decision to tell the story in the way that he did."

As you might expect, local residents have their own viewpoint. One law student blogs: "I have so many movies I want to see but no time. It's happening all around me and where I live, in the city I love, and I wish I [had] the money and time to dive into it." Matthew Kumar in Torontoist acknowledges: "It's easy to write off the festival before it's even begun: maybe you're already sick of all the coverage, annoyed about how scarce tickets can be ... confused by the huge number of films or maybe you're just not that big a fan of cinema. But we suggest you just roll with it and try and take part."

Shawn Micallef in Spacing Toronto comments: "It easy to get that sort of intangible sense that 'something is going on' walking around many parts of the city. I'm always amazed at how many people not at all involved in the film industry are excited about TIFF - the vast majority remaining on the less-couture side of the velvet ropes during all the parties and events that go along with the films themselves - indicating it really does take over a chunk of the city's consciousness."