Yes, there will be singing hockey players, but don't let them scare you away from the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

While plenty of stars are getting ready to strut down carpets of various shades during TIFF this September, the conflagration of luminaries on opening night promises to be the most -- er, unique.

OK, it's kind of terrifying to think that all of these people will be in one place at one time, especially if you're a sheepish Canadian who cringes at corny displays of patriotism. In case you didn't suffer enough trauma at the sight of Michael Buble dressed as a Mountie at the Winter Olympics, you may want to consider the potential guest list for the world premiere of 'Score: A Hockey Musical' on September 9. The cast for this Toronto-shot tribute to sticks and pucks includes Nelly Furtado, Don Cherry, Theo Fleury and George Stroumboulopoulos. Author Margaret Atwood was in it, too, until her cameo ended up on the cutting room floor. Even so, we wouldn't be surprised if she still came out to add to the almost unquantifiable Canadian-ness of TIFF's first big night.
Yes, there will be singing hockey players, but don't let them scare you away from the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

While plenty of stars are getting ready to strut down carpets of various shades during TIFF this September, the conflagration of luminaries on opening night promises to be the most -- er, unique.

OK, it's kind of terrifying to think that all of these people will be in one place at one time, especially if you're a sheepish Canadian who cringes at corny displays of patriotism. In case you didn't suffer enough trauma at the sight of Michael Buble dressed as a Mountie at the Winter Olympics, you may want to consider the potential guest list for the world premiere of 'Score: A Hockey Musical' on September 9. The cast for this Toronto-shot tribute to sticks and pucks includes Nelly Furtado, Don Cherry, Theo Fleury and George Stroumboulopoulos. Author Margaret Atwood was in it, too, until her cameo ended up on the cutting room floor. Even so, we wouldn't be surprised if she still came out to add to the almost unquantifiable Canadian-ness of TIFF's first big night.

'Never Let Me Go' Trailer



The festival will begin on a very different note than it did last year when it opened with 'Creation.' A British drama starring Paul Bettany in mutton chops, the Charles Darwin biopic was a controversial choice in some quarters because it meant that Canada's largest and most prestigious celebration of cinema did not open with a Canadian film, as has traditionally been the case. What with its egregious degree of Canadian content, 'Score' should assuage the worries of anyone who fretted over a lack of it in 2009. The latest effort by writer-director Michael McGowan -- whose Joshua Jackson road movie 'One Week' was similarly stuffed with Canadiana – will also hopefully be the only selection among TIFF's slate of 300 features to include singers on skates.

Otherwise, the 35th annual TIFF is shaping up to be a typically star-packed affair, one that will make prominent use of the fest's beautiful new home. A five-screen facility with multiple galleries and restaurants, the TIFF Bell Lightbox opens Sept. 12 with a variety of events, including free screenings of classic movies. The new venue will also shift the festival's geographical axis southward away from the Bloor-Yorkville area (read: ritzy) to the Entertainment District at King and John (read: hipsters/clubgoers). That said, clubs and restaurants all over the city will be busy with parties and paparazzi.

'Conviction' Trailer


Never Let Me GoThe list of VIPs expected to arrive with new movies is plenty impressive. Locals will keep their eyes peeled for on -- and off -- screen appearances by Ben Affleck (here with 'The Town,' his second effort as director, after the Oscar-nominated 'Gone Baby Gone'), Hilary Swank (who plays a woman trying to free her imprisoned brother in 'Conviction'), Paul Giamatti (in a new adaptation of Mordecai Richler's raucous novel 'Barney's Version'), Ryan Reynolds (in the claustrophobic thriller 'Buried'), Keira Knightley (in both 'Never Let Me Go' and TIFF's appropriately titled closing selection 'Last Night'), Robert De Niro (who joins Edward Norton in the crime drama 'Stone'), Colin Firth (as King George VI in 'The King's Speech'), Keanu Reeves (who stars opposite Vera Farmiga and James Caan in 'Henry's Crime') and Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling (seen together in the indie drama 'Blue Valentine'). Hopefully, Joaquin Phoenix will be on hand to explain what the hell happened to him -- the fruitcake actor is the subject of 'I'm Still Here,' a documentary by his friend, Casey Affleck.

'Stone' Trailer



Black SwanMeanwhile, many of the world's best filmmakers will be trying to impress audiences with new works. The list of high-profile directors represented at TIFF 2010 includes Clint Eastwood (here with 'Hereafter,' in which Matt Damon sees dead people), Danny Boyle (whose latest is '127 Hours,' a gruesome survival tale about an American rock climber starring James Franco), Darren Aronofsky (who follows up 'The Wrestler' with 'Black Swan,' a psychological thriller that puts Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in ballet slippers), Julian Schnabel (with 'Miral,' about several characters in Jerusalem), Robert Redford (who returns with 'The Conspirator,' a drama set in the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (whose redemption story 'Biutiful' features a bruising performance by Javier Bardem).

'Buried' Trailer



Having helped launch the likes of 'American Beauty,' 'Sideways,' 'Ray' and 'Slumdog Millionaire,' TIFF has become ever more crucial as a launching pad for movies bound for Oscar glory. As a result, new Hollywood fare often garners more attention than selections from elsewhere in the world. Hopefully, there'll be something left for such films as 'Little White Lies' (French actor-director Guillaume Canet's follow-up to his nifty hit thriller 'Tell No One'), 'I Saw the Devil' (a serial-killer shocker by South Korea's top talent) and 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives' (the wonderfully weird Thai film that won top honors at this year's Cannes). Likewise, there should be some buzz leftover for potential sleeper hits and future cult classics like 'Peep World' (a comedy that unites 'Dexter''s Michael C. Hall with funnywomen Sarah Silverman and Judy Greer), 'Rare Exports' (a Finnish horror comedy about a very bad Santa) and 'SUPER' (a superhero satire starring Ellen Page and Rainn Wilson).

TIFF's annual program of late-night freakiness, Midnight Madness, opens with 'FUBAR 2,' the much-anticipated sequel to the hard-rocking comedy that rates as one of Canada's greatest cinematic achievements. The thought of seeing Dean and Terry "give'r" again is what really fills us Canadians with a sense of national pride.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9 - 19.

**Jason Anderson writes regularly about movies for Eye Weekly and the Toronto Star.