Here’s some of what I learned from the films, the current and my personal experience at the Toronto Film Festival, which I’ll be taking leave of tomorrow:

(1) Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air is now the lead contender to win the 2009 Best Picture Oscar, and it may continue to be that even after Clint Eastwood‘s Invictus comes along. That’s because the subject of Invictus is somewhat narrower — institutional racism, South Africa, Nelson Mandela, etc. — and the focus of Up In The Air is about what people of all tribes and denominations are feeling (i.e., afraid of) right now.

(2) Annette Bening is now a likely Best Actress contender for her performance in Rodrigo Garcia‘s Mother and Child.

(3) A film that plays exceptionally for three-quarters of its length will not necessarily play that way during its last half-hour. A seasoned distributor told me this happens quite a lot, but I was stunned to notice this in the case of Mother and Child. Not to any fatal degree, but the payoff I was expecting didn’t quite happen.

(4) When you stay up until 2:45 am, you’ll pay and pay and pay the next day. I actually knew this before I came to Toronto.

(5) Even at a high-calibre film festival like Toronto’s, a film showing with a weak focus will stay that way throughout its running time despite urgent requests that it be fixed. I tried to point this out at a Cumberland press screening of Mother and Child, and the projectionist just wouldn’t agree. I knew this also before coming here.

(6) Cats don’t hold back if they don’t like you. They give it to you straight.

(7) Grant Heslov‘s The Men Who Stare At Goats will play well for those who can roll with its deadpan, lightly absurdist tone.

(8) There’s absolutely no reason why anyone should feel good about Megan Fox being a big star these days.

(9) Michael Moore‘s Capitalism: A Love Story is not just his toughest film — it gives no quarter — but one of his two or three best. It will almost certainly take one of the five Best Documentary Feature Oscar noms and, I believe, stand the test of time. It’s going to ignite a right-wing fever, of course, when it starts showing in the States.

(10) The N.Y. Film Festival committee blundered badly when they turned down Joel and Ethan Coen‘s A Serious Man, which is indisputably one of their darkest and greatest works.

(11) Snoring loudly during a movie is a no-no under any circumstance, but it’s especially outrageous during a press screening. Falling asleep on a subway train is a bad idea also.

(12) You can run your tail off during this festival and still miss at least half of the films you wanted to see. There’s no beating it. You’re intended to leave saying, “Jeez, if I only could have seen (fill in the blank).”

(13) The Road isn’t good enough to overcome the dystopian subject matter. But Collapse is.