TIFF: That's a Wrap 

The best of the fest

For the record, watching 40-plus movies in 10 days is... well, it's a bit insane. Having said that, over the years I've also endured more than my share of legislative filibustering (either is capable of inspiring the better part of ourselves or a giant time-suck). I'm very happy to report that, having survived the marathon that was the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, that this year's showcase was neatly packed with smart, engaging, challenging, tearful and cheerful enterprises.

TIFF organizers told me that approximately 432,000 people watched hundreds of films this year. Simply put, TIFF was not, by any means, an exclusive experience. Considering that audiences pleasantly cued for 90 minutes to watch a film that was almost as long, TIFF really is a bit of a love affair between movies and the masses. And that's my chief reason why, in addition to attending press screenings, I chose to watch at least a third of the films with the general public. It's a bit humbling when a paying audience confirms or rejects your own critical assessment.

Here are some of this year's headlines:

Yes, the Best Picture of the Year Premiered at TIFF This Year: 12 Years a Slave is, far and away, the finest film I've seen in years, and TIFF audiences, quite appropriately, honored the movie with its People's Choice award (previous year's audiences singled out The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty and Chariots of Fire).

Big is Better: Big movies made a comeback, and by big I mean films with massive budgets. I'm usually skeptical of bloated productions, but a steady string of blockbusters were pretty great, led by Gravity, Rush and Prisoners.

Acting Up: TIFF included a galaxy of Oscar-caliber performances, including Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Dame Judi Dench (Philomena), Matthew McConaughey (The Dallas Buyers Club) and two shoo-ins for Oscar gold: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave).

And here's my scrapbook of pressed leaves from my Toronto visit:

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12 Years a Slave

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Blue is the Warmest Color, Can a Song Save Your Life?, The Fifth Estate, Gravity, The Lunchbox, One Chance, Philomena, Prisoners, The Railway Man, Rush, Sunshine on Leith, The Wind Rises

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August: Osage County, The Dallas Buyers Club, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Enough Said, Gloria, Night Moves, Parkland

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Bad Words, Belle, Devil's Knot, The Invisible Woman, Fading Gigolo, The Grand Seduction, Labor Day, The Love Punch, Right Kind of Wrong, Therese, Words and Pictures

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Blood Ties, Don Jon, Last of Robin Hood, Life of Crime, Third Person, Under the Skin, You Are Here
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