TIFF09: The Fesitival’s Opening Salvo of Titles

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I should have suspected something was up when chatting with Andrew late last night about the Toronto International Film Festival this year, and noticing that the website was currently under maintenance. This morning, the TIFFG announced the ‘festival of festivals’ titles, their yearly aggregate of many films that have played around the world at other big continental festivals like Berlin and Cannes.

Toronto remains styling itself the largest and most important North American Film Festival, and they bring the variety and the quality only hinted at in this early international list. Personally, I’m most looking forward to Hiroakazu Kore-Eda‘s Air Doll. A film that promises to be a heck-uv-a-lot better than Lars and The Real Girl, when the sex doll actually comes to life. Other Asian titles include new films from Tsai-Ming Liang, Hong Sang-Soo, and Pen-ek Ratanaruang and the much acclaimed Karaoke out of Malaysia. I am quite glad to see TIFF heavily sampling The Orient from which titles seemed a bit sparse in last years edition. I must confess much ignorance to the European and Middle Eastern cinema in the below line-up, but fans of Red Road can rejoice, as Andrea Arnold returns with her follow-up, Fish Tank. I will be popping around the web to get a handle on these titles, note that Kazakhstan has a film in there, with no sign of SBC.

TIFF always begins with a big title list like the below just before passes/packages/tickets go on sale, in the 2009 edition of TIFF which runs between September 10-19th, Passes are going on sale on July 6th.

Full list of titles, directors and one sentence description are tucked under the seat.

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Spotlight on: Ray Winstone

Having recently seen The Proposition for the first time, I was impressed enough with Ray Winstone’s performance to delve a little deeper into his work. As it turns out, he’s had a very interesting, not to mention impressive, career thus far. I’m not sure exactly how regular a posting this Spotlight On series will become, but I can say that, if it does blossom into a regular offering, it will owe its inspiration to Ray Winstone.

Having achieved a respectable level of fame in the new millennium, the truth of the matter is that Ray Winstone has been around for a while. His breakthrough performance came in Alan Clarke’s Scum, an overlooked gem that started life as a 1977 BBC television drama before being given a theatrical release in 1979. Winstone played Carlin, a young hoodlum locked away in a juvenile detention center, and was excellent in what would prove to be a very demanding role. He was also one of the best things about 1981’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, playing the lead singer of a British punk rock group touring America.

Having done mostly television throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, Winstone returned to feature films in 1997 with Nil by Mouth, the directorial debut of friend and fellow actor, Gary Oldman. Two years later, he was again cast in a film by an actor-turned-director, this time Tim Roth. The title of that movie was The War Zone, and Winstone turned in a stellar performance as a father who’s sexually abusing his teenage daughter.

Ray Winstone has kept himself busy over the last 11 years, appearing in 29 feature films (while also managing to mix in a few television stints along the way). He’s appeared in everything from Big-budget Hollywood productions (he was solid as Jack Nicholson’s second-in-command in Scorsese’s The Departed) to lesser-known independent features (Face was a sturdy, if somewhat forgettable crime drama). His best performance to date, however, can be found in Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, where Winstone plays Gal Dove, a retired thief whose utopian life in the south of Spain is thrown into chaos by the arrival of a venomous old associate.

As busy as Ray Winstone’s been over the last decade or so, it doesn’t appear to be tiring him out; he has seven films slated for release in 2009 and 2010.

To catch a glimpse of Ray Winstone at his absolute best, watch the video clips hidden under the “more” link below. If you like the clips, then I strongly recommend checking out the films (links to the DVDs on Amazon can be followed by clicking on the title above each clip)

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