Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Bobcat Goldthwait saves Midnight Madness screening (probably)
At Toronto, Midnight Madness regulars know how to keep themselves amused. Every night, while viewers file in for a 12am screening, the crowd bounces a beach ball around the theater. This inevitably creates a rivalry between balcony and orchestra, with each section hogging the ball for itself. But tonight, half an hour after a screening of Katsuhito Ishii's Smuggler was supposed to start, this activity seemed to be losing its interest. Programmer Colin Geddes had already announced that the theater was experiencing technical problems.
About 30 minutes in, just as people were beginning to leave, Geddes suddenly brought Bobcat Goldthwait onstage. The comedian was evidently still in town after his God Bless America played last week; he delivered an impromptu, roughly 15-minute routine that included jokes on airplane engine fires and Toronto's ever-entertaining mayor. "I guess I'm Michael Moore tonight," Goldthwait began, referring to an infamous Toronto screening fiasco from opening night 2006, when the projector broke 20 minutes into the world-premiere showing of Borat. Michael Moore and that film's director, Larry Charles, took the stage, inviting the audience to ask them questions "on any topic" while Sacha Baron Cohen was hurried back to the Ryerson University auditorium. It remains my favorite screening in seven years of TIFF.
The Borat event had to be rescheduled; tonight there was more success, at least as long as I stayed. When I left, shortly before 1am Eastern time, the commercials preceding Smuggler had just begun to roll, and presumably the film is still playing without a hitch. Don't quote me on that: As a journalism prof warned me years ago, if you're covering a Fourth of July parade, make sure to stay until the end; you never know if the float you're shadowing is going to turn over and catch on fire. But I'm ignoring that lesson tonight—in this case, the parade float is a two-hour yakuza picture coming at the end of a long festival and what, for me, would have been a record eight-movie day. This has been a very good fest, one destined to be remembered for many films. But with perhaps a third of screenings starting late, often due to digital projection issues, TIFF may want to think about inviting Goldthwait to more premieres.