Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.