Fodors Article: Just Back From Toronto International Film Festival

Any Torontonian will tell you the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is the perfect time of year for a city visit. Fall has just kicked in, Hollywood stars grace the streets, and the influx of visitors makes the downtown area swell with carnival buzz.

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I spent the first few days celebrity-spotting the likes of Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and a myriad of other silver screen giants on the red carpet (and, I confess, even attempted an iPhone snap of Colin Farrell arriving at my hotel). Ontario is the third largest entertainment sector in North America and chances are you’ll stumble onto a movie set. Walking down Richmond Street West, I encountered a motorbike chase sequence for the upcoming flick Kick-Ass 2.

As one of the most highly regarded film festivals in the world, TIFF has a history of selecting Oscar contenders. This year’s Blackberry People’s Choice Award went to the Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence-led dramedy,Silver Linings Playbook. I saw fifteen features, but could hardly make a dent in the smorgasbord of 372 films from 72 countries. After sitting in a dark theater for a week with perfect fall weather teasing me through Scotiabank Theatre’s huge glass panels, it was time to trade star-spotting for city sightseeing!

Here are a few things to see and do around Toronto beyond visiting the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

CN Tower EdgeWalk

My most thrilling activity was the EdgeWalk around the CN Tower, holder of the Guinness World Record for “Highest External Walk on a Building.” Once you trust that your safety harness is strong enough to hold the weight of a bus, leaning off the edge won’t feel so terrifying. Exposed to the sun and wind, and with no safety railing, the EdgeWalk gives you a guided introduction to the city as well as an adrenaline rush to brag about. Video and photos are included in admission. Here is video of me taking the city in stride!

King & Queen Streets

Fortunately all the TIFF theaters are located within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Toronto. King Street boasts a vibrant nightlife of clubs, bars, and cafes. Comedy club The Second City on Mercer Street has the sharpest show I’ve seen for a while: deft performances and swift lighting changes set to improvised live music.

As you head north of King Street, stop for a flat white (a latte without foam) at the Dark Horse on John Street. Two more blocks and you’ll find King’s parallel counterpart—Queen Street—renowned for its boutique shopping.

BATA Shoe Museum

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If the idea of a shoe museum makes you think of trailing your girlfriend down Fifth Avenue on a Saturday morning, think again. The BATA Shoe Museum on Bloor Street takes an anthropological approach to footwear. From Ancient Egyptian sandals, to Gothic poulaines, Renaissance period chopines, and Tudor-age sabatons, even the more carpetry footwear of Buddhist, Christian, and Shinto priests, walk for centuries in the shoes of diverse world cultures.

Shoes from famous people the world over have found their way into the collection: Justin Beiber’s high-top Supra Skytop II sneakers, Marilyn Monroe’s sexy red stilettos, and even the simple plastic thong sandals from His High Holiness the Dalai Lama. If you’re interested in history, people, cultures, and pop icons, chances are it will be you dragging your girlfriend along to the footwear exhibition.

If you have time, the Royal Ontario Museum next door contains Canada’s largest collection of world culture and natural history. There are exhibits specially designed for kids, and the foyer contains the largest dinosaur cast on display in Canada—the Futalognkosaurus, measuring over 105 feet.

Gooderham Building & St. Lawrence Markets

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Moving east to the wedge intersection of Front and Wellington Streets, you’ll find the Gooderham Building, Toronto’s equivalent of New York’s Flatiron Building. Though nowhere near the size or scope, this 1982 structure is frequently featured in postcards with the city’s modern skyscrapers as backdrop. Across the road is St. Lawrence Market, recently named “the world’s best food market” by National Geographic. Try some peameal bacon, also known as Canadian bacon: cured boneless loin rolled in ground yellow cornmeal.

If you’re a city-lover, Toronto in September provides the perfect mix of clear fall weather, Hollywood glamor, nightlife, shopping, and cultural activities, all within a relaxed atmosphere where you’re constantly greeted with a friendly, “eh?”

Find more from David Joshua Ford on his website, or follow him on Twitter,@DavidJoshuaFord.

Photo credits: St. Lawrence Market via Shutterstock; All other photos courtesy of David Joshua Ford

John Ernst Steinbeck

Finding inspiration on the steps of John Ernst Steinbeck Jr’s (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) childhood home.

He was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). He was an author of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and five collections of short stories; Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

California Eucalyptus Trees

Eucalyptus trees in California!! There are so many Eucalyptus trees in California that combined with summer’s heat, I feel like I’m home in Australia! Also present in South Africa and Brazil, this is the unsung little Aussie export! Photograph taken at Secret Grove, Santa Barbara

Apple HQ

Taking a bite out of the big apple. At Apple.

I was expecting tech mecca. Instead, the Apple headquarters were more like a university campus…nothing particularly flashy from the outside. I guess that is reserved for places like the 5th Ave New York store…

Tropfest New York!

From the Tropicana Cafe in Sydney 20 years ago to Bryant Park in New York City, Tropfest continues to make it’s mark across the world! I am thrilled to be able to celebrate its inaugural screening with a bunch of Aussies and a few Americans 🙂

Easter Sunday

Probably because I’m new here; probably because I feel very transient, having moved house four times in as many months. Probably because I have no job, yet more work than I can handle. Fortunately.

In my early 20’s I would have tried to wrench control. Or built some pattern of habit and routine to compensate the feeling of such. And it’s not that I feel out of control at present, just that I’m learning to be buffeted by the moment and yield to the opportunities that present themselves, with no guarantee of security for tomorrow. It has taken me to the most interesting places.

Easter Sunday afternoon: following an extravagant brunch-turned-day-long-eating-fest, I have fallen into a food coma. I wake drowsily to my phone’s vibrations echoing in the mattress springs. Several friends are urging me to head out to a bar in East Village. It’s a holiday weekend and I really should be out socializing. Yet with this much work to get done I must stay in tonight to edit. I slide across the bed to rest my chin on the window sill. The sunset strikes the red brick apartments opposite me above a stream of activity on the Williamsburg street below: pedestrians filing from the subway, bus brakes grinding to a halt, a JFK-bound jet looming overhead and 20121007_IMG_1619_900several men jabbering in what I think is Spanish outside the Deli below me, though I’m too tired to pick it. An ice cream van sings by. Rap thumps from a throaty engine pausing at a red light.

This is my world for the moment: New York. Sometimes I wonder
what it all means, how I ended up here and where it is leading. One side of me thinks I should have an agenda for success – some preconceived path, a self-image probably formed in my late teen years, perhaps outdated. Another side of me says to throw away all expectations save one: to observe the new experiences Liberty throws at me and enter the path-unknown without fear.

New York Fashion Week 2012: Norma Kamali & Jack Feldstein

Australian filmmaker inspires New York fashion icon Norma Kamali

NEW YORK –

“The minute I met Jack, I knew we would be friends forever.”

Fashion icon Norma Kamali walks alongside filmmaker Jack Feldstein, both dwarfed by 8-foot Glamazons at the launch of her KamaliKulture collection for New York Fashion Week 2012.

Why is that? I ask. “Because I’m small, and the right size to be a friend!” exclaims Jack, and Norma breaks into laughter.

In an increasingly common tale in the digital age, Norma discovered Jack’s neon animation films on YouTube in 2010. After a “first date” to see a 3D documentary, the techno-savvy designer, renown for being ahead of the curve, took on the challenge of making a 3D fashion film for her spring line last September, despite neither of them having worked with the format before.

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Advance Member Postcard

Advance.org Member Postcard from David Joshua Ford
David is an Australian photographer, film and television director. He has studied in Canada, and is now freelancing his craft in New York City.

Where did you grow up in Australia?
I grew up in Canberra with a very middle-of-the-road suburban childhood. Sydney was exotic, in the way New York would be in later years.

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