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Big Night: Cash and laughs at TFCA annual gala

The Toronto Film Critics Association threw a lively party Tuesday night at the Carlu where Toronto Star film critic Peter Howell officially took over from Brian D. Johnson as president of the influential group. Both men spoke briefly from the stage, but the show was stolen by a cast of luminaries that included award presenter Margaret Atwood, co-host Mary Walsh and filmmaker Don McKellar, who gave a special TFCA 20th anniversary prize to Denis Villeneuve for his remarkable body of award-winning work.

Walsh was consistently entertaining, scoring big laughs with her riff about "dick flicks," but McKellar brought the house down with a shout-out to precocious upstart fillmmaker Xavier Dolan. "Maybe he'll have a body of work in 20 years," McKellar joked. (At the age of 27, Dolan already has an impressive ouevre of major feature films.)

But the gala didn't just serve up big yuks -- serious money was handed out as well. Big winner of the evening was filmmaker Hugh Gibson, who left $100,000 richer after winning the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award for his movie The Stairs, a doc that takes a compassionate look at the lives of drug addicts in Toronto's Regent Park. The two runners-up for the prize, Matt Johnson for Operation Avalanche and Kazik Radwanski for How Heavy this Hammer, each took home $5,000.

A full list of the TFCA's winners is on the group's website here.

Margaret Bream/Night Vision

New TFCA president Peter Howell, right, at the group's annual gala Tuesday night at the Carlu, with Johanna Schneller and Marc Glassman. Howell is the Toronto Star's film critic, Schneller is a freelance entertainment writer, and Glassman is the editor of POV Magazine.

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