One of my wife's friends in college invented something he called BraveStat ™, which extrapolated the potential performance of our favorite baseball team, based on their first game of the season. (A guy who hits a homer in the first game will hit 162 homers that year, and so on.) Well if I apply BraveStat technology to the Toronto International Film Festival—call it TIFFstat—then it looks like every movie I see is going to be either good or great.

With only five films viewed, it's really too soon to start talking about trends or themes, but it can't be a coincidence that the first two movies I saw both had "bang" in the title–The President's Last Bang and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang–or that both feature scenes where a man loses a finger and crudely, comically tries to reattach it himself.

Both films are also immensely entertaining. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang marks '80s action screenwriter deluxe Shane Black's return to the business of crudity and comedy, with a handful of '80s survivors in tow (most notably Robert Downey Jr. as a crook-turned-actor-turned-amateur-detective, and Val Kilmer as the gay P.I. who plays mentor and scold). It's way too inside-Hollywood, with a lot of self-serving "look how broken we all are" shtick; and the noir plot is dense and distracting, as noir plots often are. But it's also funny as hell, with some of the most acid-tongued dialogue and movie-savvy scenario twists in many an age.

The President's Last Bang is equally dense, with over a dozen significant characters that are hard to sort out. But the particulars—drawn from actual South Korean history—aren't too tough to understand. It's 1979, democracy has broken down, the chief administrator has become an incorrigible lecher, and some of his most trusted staff are plotting to take him down. The coup attempt is portrayed with dazzling cinematic style, using long pans that Brian DePalma would be happy to claim as his own. But even better is the movie's clear-eyed view of human nature at its coarsest. The governors may dwell in opulent homes and offices, but they stink as bad as anyone.

Another mini-trend in TIFF's early going is movies where performance matters as much as content. Prior to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Downey and Kilmer got on stage and gave a nonsensical introduction that was still very entertaining, based on of starpower alone. At last night's midnight show, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, showed the controversial actress-comedian as a more multi-faceted talent that one might've expected., She writes catchy, scabrous songs, performs them herself, and strings them together with knock-'em-dead one-liners. Silverman's not as relevant as some contend—her act is too ironic and petulant to be truly meaningful—but she's funny, and has extraordinary presence.

Then just today I saw a revival of the award-winning, Bob Fosse-directed 1972 TV special Liza With A 'Z,' which presents the triple-threat dynamo Minnelli at the peak of her powers. She looks fantastic, especially in the slinky red mini-dress that she wears midshow, performing "I Gotcha" and "Son Of The Preacher Man" with full-body Fosse moves. Fosse's imaginative lighting and regular cuts from the full stage to individual faces reveals both the artificiality of performance and its collective impact. And Kander & Ebb's songs are one "big finish" after another. The whole thing is pretty much an hour-long goosebump machine, topped only by the screening itself, which saw a packed theater applauding every song and giving Ms. Minnelli herself a long, tearful standing ovation. I might see better movies this festival, but I don't expect to live through a better moment.

It was through a happy quirk of scheduling that I picked Liza With A 'Z.' In other circumstances I would've just waited for the soon-to-come DVD, but I had a slot to fill, and that was my best option. Meanwhile, there are movies playing at TIFF that I want to see but won't be able to, because I can't make them fit. So it goes. Sometimes the time slots are unfavorable for other reasons too. Later this fest I'll be catching a midnight show of Takashi Miike's latest, The Great Yokai War. Miike's a "Midnight Madness" favorite and a director whose work I generally enjoy, but I'd almost rather watch one of his movies in the middle of the afternoon, when I'm still relatively alert, then at the tail end of what's probably going to be an exhausting seven-movie day.

On the other hand, I was certain that this morning's 9:30 AM screening of the two-and-a-half-hour naturalist epic The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu–seen by a critic working on about four hours' sleep–was going to be an unintentional snore. I couldn't have been more wrong. The film follows a cranky, smelly old drunk as he suffers from head and stomach pains, and calls an ambulance that delivers him into the purgatory of the Bucharest hospital system. It's well-observed, starkly shot, and absolutely riveting—like a visionary episode of E.R. , or a Wiseman documentary with a plot, or a less intense, more true-to-life Dardennes film.

Tonight: Tideland, Shopgirl and the midnight show of Banlieue 13. Tomorrow morning and afternoon: Takeshis', Three Times and Linda Linda Linda. Statistics show that they should all pretty much be excellent.

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