By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 1 Comment
I rode my bike a lot, ate a ton of free food, and became best friends with Angelina Jolie
5. BREAKING AWAY
TIFF caused major downtown traffic mayhem. It was so nuts that my well-tempered colleague Brian D. Johnson even blogged about how annoying it was trying to travel from event to event. Not for this gal, though. I rode my bike to every downtown press conference, interview, film screening and red carpet and then hauled myself back uptown to the Maclean’s office, sometimes clocking in more than 25 km a day. I even biked to all the parties all dolled up in a dress and heels. And didn’t I feel oh-so-smug while I passed gridlocked cars! That is, until I fell off my bike standing still at an intersection. That’s right, I was stationary before I fell.
4. FREE FOOD! Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 4:03 PM - 0 Comments
‘Hollywood people are so strange’
What sort of food do you serve at a cocktail party before the gala TIFF premiere of a movie called Butter? Why, buttered shrimp and butter chicken, of course (and a little foie gras on itty-bitty pancakes too!). And to wash it all down? Cocktails featuring Vitamin Water, since the soirée was hosted at the VitaminWater rooftop on Queen Street West.
Party-goers, who otherwise indulged in plenty of drinks, held back from sampling the tasty treats. Save for me, of course—and gossip maven extraordinaire Lainey Lui, who tweeted from the party that she may have eaten enough for five. “Hollywood people are so strange,” Lui tweeted about the non-noshing crowd. She looked every bit as gorgeous in person as Jennifer Garner, who stars in the movie about a quirky Midwestern community that goes bonkers over a butter sculpting competition.
A radiant—and pregnant—Mrs. Affleck wore a short, blush-coloured sparkly number that showed off her baby bump. Co-stars Ashley Greene and Alicia Silverstone were in attendence, too, and were also outfitted in glittery above-the-knee frocks. But taking the fashion cake was Olivia Wilde, who looked like a bone fide movie star and a Grecian goddess draped in a white floor-length gown with a Byzantine-looking bejewelled neckline.
The one-of-a-kind party featured an artist dressed like a sexy milk maid carving a giant block of butter into the shape of a Vitamin Water bottle and a photo booth, which nobody was more excited about than I. “Can I go again?,” I asked a security guard. “You can go as many times as you like,” he said. And the organizers even provided a table strewn with big glass bowls of colourful candy and little brown bags so guests, like me, could fill up a loot bag for home time. Garner apparently filled up her purse with goodies, presumably to snack on during the premiere.
I left right before the Butter stars did and saw those ubiquitous black TIFF SUVs on the street waiting for the ladies to take them to their red carpet. As I got on my slightly less glamourous two-wheeled ride, a flash went off from the crowd of eager fans waiting for Garner and the gang to come out. I looked up from underneath my bike helmet, grinned and posed. “Oh, sorry,” said a trigger-happy young lady, “that wasn’t for you.”
By Jessica Allen - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
At TIFF2011, Jessica Allen learned the ins and outs of celebrity hunting. Now she’s back …
A novice navigating Toronto International Film Festival nightlife on the opening Friday and Saturday eves of the festival—the only nights, the pros will tell you, that guarantee spotting gaggles of A-list celebrities—is a comedy of errors. Mistakes are inevitable, like leaving George Strombolopolous’s party at ONE restaurant uptown on Friday night in order to get downtown to Soho House—a pop-up club sponsored by Grey Goose in an old brick building—because Twitter, the all-knowing oracle of TIFF, which was difficult to consult earlier (because there was dinner with Harvey Weinstein to report on), says that the cast of Ides of March, including George Clooney, Ryan Reynolds and Philip Seymour Hoffman, are there, not to mention Mark Wahlberg, who has got behind the bar to make cocktails for himself and his entourage, and Tilda Swinton, who is at this very moment eating dinner. Of course, upon arrival, the stars have left and Swinton is out of sight.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 4:27 PM - 1 Comment
Kathy Griffin would drop F-bombs whenever the crowd stopped laughing at her dirty jokes
I’ve been told that last year’s amFAR Cinema Against AIDS Gala at The Carlu was one of the most dazzling attractions at TIFF. (No wonder, considering tickets start at $1,000 and tables go for $25,000.) This year, more than 500 guests, mostly dressed in black ties and really fancy floor-length gowns, saddled up to eat dinner (more on that later), watch host Kathy Griffin swear like a f–king trucker, listen to amFAR chairman Kenneth Cole give a fantastic speech on recent advances in AIDS research, try to get a photo with amFAR chair Kim Cattrall and watch a pro (Lydia Fenet of Christie’s) conduct a spirited live auction on Sunday night. By the time it was over, $800,000 was raised for AIDS research. Not too shabby.
Leading up to the ballroom on the Carlu’s 7th floor is a long, dimly-lit corridor outfitted in black and purple with touches of old Hollywood glam, like plushy black round settees and pretty ladies dresed like movie confectionary girls from the 1930s. There were plenty of recognizable sorts there, like Suzanne Rogers, dressed in a Kelly Green floor-length gown with a bejewelled neck, and actor Brian Cox, who I watched like a creep in the shadows for ten minutes. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
‘It was a bit schizophrenic’
Yesterday, as four other reporters and I sat on plush sofas and stools around a leather coffee table in the mezzanine lounge of the Park Hyatt, Ralph Fiennes walked in—no, glided in—and sat at the head of the table. I was the last one to introduce myself: “I’m Jessica Allen from Maclean’s magazine.” Squinting his blue eyes for a moment, as though he was going through the file folders of information in his mind, he responded in a soft voice, “Ah yes, I know Maclean’s.”
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 12:55 PM - 4 Comments
Our intrepid reporter chats up Ralph Fiennes, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain
By Jessica Allen - Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 8:35 AM - 0 Comments
Everybody from bow-tied festival volunteers to wannabe actresses who forgot to wear bottom parts to executives in form-fitting fancy suits showed up. Except celebrities.
It takes all kinds to get a party started and Thursday’s TIFF opening night extravagant bash at the Liberty Grand was certainly a good example of just that. Inside the series of connected opulent rooms dimly lit by dozens of chandeliers and outfitted with multiple bars and dance floors—plus an outdoor garden space with a giant disco ball strung overhead—was an astounding assortment of merry makers. The only type of reveler missing was actual celebrities (unless they showed up after 1am, and unless you consider the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi a star.)
Maybe Hollywood A-listers had little desire to mix with the hoi polloi, who didn’t seem to mind one bit that stars were decidedly absent. Actually, two lovely ladies with whom I spoke around midnight—and who I first noticed only because I saw every pair of eyes in the room turn to watch them, and their hair extensions and considerable assets, hobble by in their sky-high platform heels, might’ve cared. “Isn’t that white guy from Entourage supposed to be here?” Asked the buxom blond. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 8:14 AM - 0 Comments
I sat at a table with a lively crew of film critics who had no shortage of opinions
Last night, some 50 colleagues and acquaintances joined host Harvey Weinstein for supper at The Roosevelt Room to celebrate The Artist, a black and white, mostly silent movie set in 1927 Hollywood, that the Weinstein Co. purchased this May in Canne.
My job? To be a fly on the wall. But first I had to get out of the way of Bob Weinstein, who squeezed past me in order to reach the bar, where he ordered a diet Coke. As I excused myself, a young man said hello to him. “Oh yeah!” He said. “I read your script and it was good. There’s some real crazy stuff in there! I mean, it was rough in spots but it’s workable.” Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
Well, close to everybody anyway
Well, maybe not everybody, but man oh man, have you seen the 2,000+ TIFF volunteers at the screening venues, all smiling and greeting and waving? You can’t miss them in their bright orange festival t-shirts. They’re doing a a knock-out job of making everybody feel welcome. In fact, I was so charmed by their friendly demeanour that I asked if I could take a group photo of several of them outside the Scotiabank theatre. Their faces lit up but a woman standing behind them, presumably somebody in charge—she was not wearning an orange t-shirt—told me I wasn’t allowed. “But it’s just for a blog post that’ll sing their praises,” I insisted. Still no.
Oh well, I’m sure there’s a good reason behind it (no there isn’t). But I won’t let a little burp ruin this party. Besides, everything else is a monument to stellar planning and organization by not only TIFF, but PR firms and film distributors, too. And the hospitality! Take Alliance Films’ TIFF headquarters, the Ben Sherman lounge at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre. They invited accredited TIFF media on the eve of the festival’s opening to mix and mingle with no shortage of drinks and food, plus a DJ—and they’ll keep the lounge open for the duration of the festival for a haven of sorts so media can come and unwind, file stories and freshen up.
I didn’t know a single person, although I did recognize Shinan Govani from the National Post. So I turned my attention to the bounty of food, particularly the cheese. And I’m not talking about slices of marble and havarti: these platters were piled high with thick wedges of manchego, really old beemster and gooey, ash-rinded goat cheeses.
And I was privy to several conversations: I’ve never heard so many people say, “I really want to do Madonna.” Presumably doing Madge implies interviewing her about her turn as the director of W.E.
As I slinked out of the party, a lovely petite women gave me the warmest greeting. And then she hugged me. Onlookers looked shocked, only because they could recognize the look of confusion on my face: I had no idea who this sweet person was, and she’d clearly mistaken me for someone else. But a hug is a hug. Turns out it was Si Si Penaloza from The Globe and Mail, who confessed she was drawn to the gold detailing in my sweater. I will now be wearing said sweater to every event on the off-chance its charms will work on others, preferably someone named Ryan.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 1:09 PM - 0 Comments
Finally—the red carpets come out tonight
On Wednesday morning, the eve before the TIFF storm, I rode my bike past Roy Thompson Hall–the site of all the festival’s galas–and saw several metal stands lined up like soldiers in the lobby.
By tonight they’ll have strands of rope attached to them (golden? velvet?) to separate the common folk and media types from the stars walking down red carpets, which, by the by, I also saw—stuffed unceremoniously into big clear plastic bags. They’ll be rolled out any hour now and the first people to walk down them will be some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters, including Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, the stars of Moneyball (6:30 pm), and George Clooney, the director, writer and star of Ides of March (9:30 pm). Clooney will be accompanied by some of his co-stars, including Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. And it’ll be just as exciting Saturday night, when two homegrown Canadian directors debut their films to Toronto: Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz (9:30pm), starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogan and Sarah Silverman, plus David Cronenberg’s fictional film about Carl Yung (Michael Fassbinder) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), A Dangerous Method (6:30 pm).
It’s going to be mayhem. And Maclean’s will be there.