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A night with lots of promise

But who got to sit with Ewan McGregor and Deborah Kara Unger, Amy Verner asks

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

The early arrival of Colin Farrell to the the InStyle magazine/Hollywood Foreign Press Association party last night was as good a start as any to what is often considered the festival's most coveted ticket.

He walked into the Windsor Arms Hotel's airy and glowing Courtyard Restaurant, said a few hellos, and looked every bit debonair in a slim black suit.

And indeed, within the next 10 minutes, I caught Mark Ruffalo exchanging warm greetings with two older Italian women. As a friend offered him a glass of wine, we discussed his three long days of press ahead for his movie Reservation Road. At least last night he could have fun, he conceded.

Brushing past him was David Schwimmer, practically incognito in a baseball hat - perhaps more so because few guests were dressed so casually.

Most interesting about this gathering is that stars don't feel the need to be sequestered. They pose for camera-phone photos. They hug strangers.

The mood was just as convivial and très chic at the private dinner at the newly designed Chanel boutique for Woody Allen's film Cassandra's Dream. Sitting at the same table as Ewan McGregor and Deborah Kara Unger would be some people's dream come true. Let me keep you in suspense until tomorrow. This one is live and lots of fun.

Over the past few evenings, I've noticed that, as high calibre as the films may be, the live performances are what really strike a chord.

"You paid a pretty penny for your ticket and, damn it, you should see the entertainment," acknowledged a thoughtful Chantal Kreviazuk as she adjusted the angle of her piano in order for the 400-plus guests of the Best Buddies gala to get more than a glimpse of her (rather nice) legs.

As the musical interlude between a "deconstructed Greek salad" and choice of filet mignon, baby halibut or poussin (translation: young chicken), the Canadian chanteuse gave a special four-song concert on Monday night that garnered two standing ovations.

The fundraiser's $750-a-person ticket will contribute to fostering friendships among young students and individuals with intellectual disabilities and leveraged TIFF star power by honouring someone whose influence extends beyond the celebrity bubble.

Where last year's lifetime achievement award went to Lou Gossett Jr., the 2007 recipient - drum roll please - was Burt Reynolds, who appeared happily fed and laid back when I ventured over to congratulate him.

At a table that included Best Buddies co-chair Danny Greenglass, director Norman Jewison and Lynne St. David, in addition to festival father-at-large Barry Avrich, Mr. Reynolds was a humble man of few words.

He mentioned that he has a new movie in the pipeline (The Deal) and that he was able to see a few flicks before leaving town yesterday.

Mr. Avrich made a film about Mr. Reynolds specifically for the gala that brought the house down. "Cool does not age" was how he described the 71-year-old beneficent bandit to me afterward.

I tip my own hat to eTalk Daily co-host Tanya Kim, who took the time to host the event (which also included a live auction and screening of David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises) in what must be one of the busiest weeks of her year.

Me, too. So I boogie-nighted off to the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District for Time magazine's second TIFF party, now celebrating Trumbo, a film about the screenwriter/novelist and member of the Hollywood Ten.

Inside the VIP area (accessed with a hand stamp detectable only by black light), I noted the irony of being able to count just as many present-day celebs.

Two glamazons were hard to miss: Leelee Sobieski and Tricia Helfer, who co-starred in the film Walk All Over Me, which premiered last night (followed by yet another Time magazine party).

Towering above me (I finally surrendered and wore flip-flops), Ms. Helfer, a former supermodel best known for her role in Battlestar Galactica, beamed with excitement about her first festival film. And about raising a barn, à la Witness, which she did with husband Jonathan Marshall, a L.A-based entertainment lawyer, this summer in Alberta, where her family still lives.

The original Canada's Next Top Model host also hinted that she has a top secret "green project" up her sleeve (perhaps now is a good time to mention that she wore a draping black minidress accessorized by fabulous baubles on loan from the Swarovski suite in the Four Seasons Hotel).

"We want to do something that everyone can relate to," she said. Good thing, because I can't say I'm too concerned about those Cylon robots she fights on TV.

Speaking of television, I briefly spotted Michael Adamthwaite, an actor who hails from North York and has appeared in such shows as Whistler, The Dead Zone and Stargate SG-1.

But the ultimate cameo appearance at the swing-era bash was by Donald Sutherland. He looked to be in no rush and yet, before I had a chance to trade words with the thespian grise, he donned his black trench coat and glided beyond the velvet rope.

Which left me with no where to look but straight toward Jessica Alba. For the second night in a row. Not that she noticed. Spending the first part of the party on her cellphone (taking a break to nibble on a chicken satay), she then devoted all of her attention to Harvey Weinstein. Powerful, he most certainly is, but he's no George Clooney. (I was even told yesterday that they were spotted at the Drake Hotel's Sky Yard over the weekend.)

But far be it from me to jump to conclusions. After all, it's well known that the independent film impresario has been dating fashion designer Georgina Chapman.

averner@globeandmail.com

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