2015 Lone Star Film Fest Recap: ‘CAROL’, ‘ANOMALISA’, ‘CHILDREN OF GIANT’ and More


cropped-FB_9th_coverPreston Barta // Editor

The Lone Star Film Festival took place this past weekend in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square. After four glorious days of film, documentaries, panels and shorts, the event brought together movie lovers to see some of the most anticipated films of the year while interacting with the artists who made them.

Celebrating its ninth year, Lone Star featured some of the best films to come out of 2015— some of which are already garnering Oscar buzz.

-21. CAROL
Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson and Jake Lacy

Easily the best and the hardest film to get into at the festival, CAROL reeled in an expected crowd at the AMC Palace on Saturday night. It had two initial screening-theaters, but programmers opened a third overflow theater. For the lucky badge and ticket holders who arrived earlier, they witnessed a beautiful love story infused with a raw honesty thanks to Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara’s moving performances.

Set in 1950’s New York and based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel THE PRICE OF SALT, the film follows a department-store clerk (Mara) who longs for a better life and falls for an older, well-to-do woman (Blanchett).

On paper, CAROL sounds distinctive, but knowing about it does not compare to seeing it. Through its subtlety, emotional intimacy and overarching theme of a love unfulfilled, the feature highlights and transcends its characters’ sexuality. It strikes a chord and speaks to anyone who has experienced heartbreak, desire, or feels as though they are not living life authentically.

Filmmaker Todd Haynes (FAR FROM HEAVEN) combines risky material with the traditional cinematic sweep and gives us something worthwhile. CAROL is a quiet but rewarding film that marks one of the year’s finest. Do not be surprised if it ends on a few of the major awards categories come next year’s Oscars.

CAROL releases on November 20, 2015

Director: Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman
Cast: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan

ANOMALISA is geared towards a very specific crowd. You are either an arthouse film lover or a devoted fan of filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND). If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, you may know it spins together a human story with stop-motion animation. So if its narrative of a man (David Thewlis) crippled by his ordinary life doesn’t grab you, its first-rate visuals will.

The story is a bit whiny and complain-heavy, but you can’t help but admire the sort of different filmmaking Kaufman pushes. Everyone of his films are unlike the usual crop we’re used to, and that in itself is something worth commending. While his latest, ANOMALISA, may divide its audience, one thing is for sure: they’ll never forget it.

ANOMALISA releases on December 30, 2015.

article-0-1D4854D700000578-750_644x7953. TUMBLEDOWN
Director: Sean Mewshaw
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis, Dianna Agron, Griffin Dunne and Blythe Danner

One of the most exciting aspects of a film festival may be the chance of uncovering something special. For any critic or film fan, there’s nothing quite like finding a film you’ve never heard of but wholeheartedly appreciate right off the bat. TUMBLEDOWN was one of the films for many Lone Star festivalgoers.

TUMBLEDOWN tells the story Hannah (Rebecca Hall), a widow struggling to move on after the death of her acclaimed folk singing husband. But when a pushy writer from New York (Jason Sudeikis) arrives to her neck of the woods, Hannah is forced to confront her loss and the equivocal nature of her husband’s death.

There’s nothing too complicated about this film. It’s a pretty standard unlikely-romance story. However, what makes its above average is the chemistry among its talent, most notably Hall and Sudeikis at the center. They each bring a certain warmth, wit and mystery to their individual roles, making TUMBLEDOWN a bittersweet story to get lost in.

TUMBLEDOWN releases February 12, 2016.

Director: Hector Galan
Cast: Earl Holliman, Elsa Cárdenas and George Stevens Jr.

Every film festival doesn’t come without its engaging documentaries. Out of the doc litter, CHILDREN OF GIANT rang the most fascinating, especially if you’re fan of James Dean and his last film, 1956’s GIANT.

Nearly 60 years after its release, documentarian Hector Galan digs into the inner workings of creating GIANT and its 45-day production in the small Texas town of Marfa.

CHILDREN OF GIANT doesn’t break documentary ground, but that doesn’t stop its subject material and perspective from the (now grownup) children who worked on the film from being both interesting and informative throughout. It’s a lucrative film that still serves as an exceptionally relevant social drama.

CHILDREN OF GIANT originally ran on PBS and can be purchased off their website today.

Director: Robert Edwards
Cast: Christopher Walken, Amber Heard, Kelli Garner, Hamish Linklater and Oliver Platt

With a seemingly run-of-the-mill story of an old musician making his comeback, ONE MORE TIME (previously titled WHEN I LIVE MY LIFE OVER AGAIN) is a cinematic treat. Though a familiar flavor, it’s still worth chewing due to its perfect storm of acting and presentation of a complicated family.

It’s a truly entertaining tale that unfolds amazingly well, without pulling your heartstrings as shamelessly as other movies tend to do. So expect intriguing and quirky characters, utterly convincing performances and a message that we love to love: love one another through thick and thin.

ONE MORE TIME releases April 2016.

Information on the festival can be found on lonestarfilmfestival.com. If you’ve never been before, go ahead and mark your calendar for November 2016 for its special 10th annual event.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.