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Toronto International Film Festival: the buzz this year

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That doesn't mean I could avoid all the Madonna hoopla at the festival. Apparently, in what is being billed as Hydrangea-gate, a fan presented her with a hydrangea on the red carpet and was rebuffed because the diva prefers roses. Additionally, Madonna's camp denies the report that, before her press conference, eight volunteers were told to turn and stand facing the wall so she could walk down the hallway without them looking at her.

Clooney, on the other hand, who was also represented at the festival in the entertaining if hardly groundbreaking politics-is-a-dirty-business drama The Ides of March, which he also directed, plays up to his public with smiley, goofy aplomb – unless he is asked about his personal life, which always prompts his standard curt reply: "Next."

The first film I caught in Toronto, Werner Herzog's documentary Into the Abyss, about death row inmates in Texas, was not exactly an upper – except that it's a very good film, and good films are always a lift. With his unmistakably dolorous voice, almost verging on self-parody, Herzog spoke with the audience after the public screening and revealed that making the movie prompted him to take up smoking again after quitting for years. This is also what happened to him in 2005 when he made the bear-mauling documentary "Grizzly Man." He plans more documentaries about capital punishment (which he opposes), so a smoke-free future seems unlikely.

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