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You Wanna Talk Film Festivals?

OK, let's talk film festivals.

To spin off James Carville's famous mantra for the first Bill Clinton campaign, "it's the movies, stupid, IT'S THE MOVIES!"

That's what I finally had to tell myself about 10 Toronto Film Festivals ago after spending decades intermittently chasing actors of varying pedigree and star wattage only to realize that the average movie actor selling you something is far less interesting than the person who cuts your hair (no matter what gender you are).

George Clooney and Brad Pitt could clown around from now until next Thursday for the sake of the Coen Brothers' "Burn After Reading" (it opens in Buffalo eight days from today) but that wouldn't necessarily give the movie a reputation for anything more than snarky wiseass minor Coen. (We'll see, we'll see.)

On the other hand, at last year's Toronto Film Festival, most of us who went to the "Juno" screening went because we so much liked Jason Reitman's previous film "Thank You for Smoking." How could we possibly have known in advance we'd fall a little in love with the film and its tiny star Ellen Page? (An even better question: How could we possibly have known its subject -- teen pregnancy -- might turn out to be a pivotal issue in a presidential campaign?)

It isn't often, believe me, that a journalist gets blown away by someone called forth by the movie hype machine. For every Tom Hanks dazzling you with wit and brains, there are 400 Brad Pitts, so non-electric, unquotable and downright tedious that you can forget you ever talked to him. For everyone like stripper Blaze Starr called out of semi-retirement for the Paul Newman/Ron Shelton movie "Blaze" and confiding White House closet sex with JFK to a few of us jaw-dropped members of the press, there are a few hundred actresses telling you about their "journey" to a momentary respite from oblivion.

So here we are -- critics, industrial types and movie fanatics from all over the world -- gathered at the Toronto Film Festival. Wanna see stars? Hang out at the Avenue Road hotels, the Four Seasons and the Park Plaza. You'll catch some on the fly. My personal watchwords to myself are, "It's the movies, stupid, it's the movies. See those!"

Yes, it's true Tea Leoni decided at the last minute not to chat up the press on behalf of David Koepp's "Ghost Town." Who, after all, would want to hear some journalist from France, Belgium or Altoona ask what it's like to be married to a guy in rehab for sex addiction? (That's David Duchovny, as you no doubt know.)

But does that mean ANYTHING AT ALL about "Ghost Town," which is directed by the fellow who wrote Spielberg's "Jurassic Park?"

Nah.

Let's get real here. The stars show up in mammoth platoons, true, but it's all about the movies, THE MOVIES.

You don't believe me?

Look, on the IMDB web site, at the cast list for the summer's mega-catastrophe "The Love Guru." Tell me that isn't among the jollier casts extant. Who wouldn't want to chat them up?

Then, I dare you, try to sit through the movie.

Case closed.

Off to the movies.

--Jeff Simon

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