We've reached cinematic saturation. With the digital universe prepped for instant download, you can see anything you like, anytime you want.
Anyone who's ever grocery shopped while hungry knows where that gets you.
The problem with unlimited access isn't the gluttony spurred, it's the inevitable complacency. When faced with too many options, we shut down. Then, we settle for low-hanging fruit. That jag of nutrient-deficient consumption caused the Lone Star Film Festival to reassess its central mission several years ago. Now in its seventh iteration (which continues through this Sunday), the festival has refined its voice. It has moved away from the old festival model of providing access to more data. Now it serves as an arbiter of, and liaison for, films worth watching.
Getting there required they clear the static and narrow their scope. Now they show 40 selections. "That's about what most people will watch in a year," says LSFF Director Alec Jhangiani. "The idea being that if you see 40 films, here's 40 good ones."
For Jhangiani and the rest of the Lone Star Film Society, that requires counterbalancing old and new while educating audiences about those resourceful emerging talents who are creating important work. It also means spurring a dialogue, getting North Texas included in the broader film conversation and providing historical framework to bolster that discussion through its ReScreen series. Mostly though, they seem eager to build a small army of film nerds -- or as Jhangiani calls it "a community."
Since one weekend a year does not "a community" make, the Lone Star Film Society is launching a new, year-round program called Art House Fort Worth. Running at least weekly, AHFW will play-off the festival's mission, providing classic and samurai retrospectives, along with monthly silent films and new movies they feel are important. He hints that the Kimbell and the Modern will be integral pieces of that plot and hopes it will anchor into the culture, sparking increased demand for quality film in Fort Worth.
While we had him on the line, we asked the festival director which picks everyone should try to see, and which dark horses deserve our bets. Here's ten.
A Field in England (Friday, 7 p.m.) Described as "a psychedelic trip into magic and madness," this one's already my favorite. It's directed by Ben Wheatley, who was recently signed to direct some of next season's Dr. Who episodes, and is considered one of the UK's biggest names in emerging cinema. This historical/thriller/drama involves a tripped-out mushroom field and the group of battle deserters trapped inside it.
Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self (9 p.m. Friday) In March 2012, Eric Steele mixed film and theater in Midwest Trilogy. There, Bob Birdnow was a stage piece starring Barry Nash, bookended by two short films. Steele's since transitioned Birdnow into a feature film, kept his star, and has begun touring it through the circuit with the film's producer and fellow Aviation dude, Adam Donaghey. It's fresh off a screening at Indie Memphis where it attracted the "Ron Tibbett Excellence in Filmmaking Award." This is Birdnow's first North Texas festival screening. It's also a contender in LSFF's feature competition, which focuses on emerging talents operating on budgets of 500,000 or less.
"Here's a filmmaker who's found a way to do something on very modest means," says Jhangiani. "It's not a high-budget project, but it showcases his ability and showcases the actor's ability -- as well as all of these craftsmen and artists that are involved. That's the kind of resourcefulness we're looking for." (Extra tickets were recently freed up to match demand.)
Manos, Hands of Fate (Friday, 10 p.m.) Considered one of the worst films ever made, and baited into the collective conscious thanks to MST3K, Manos, Hands of Fate will get a much-deserved tribute screening tonight. Now, you might be thinking: "I don't want to watch some grainy old worn-out copy of that terrible film. I'm not an animal."
No worries. Thanks to a recent -- and surprisingly successful -- Kickstarter campaign, Manos got a facelift. It has been digitally remastered and completely restored, so join the LSFS tonight as they have a little fun with the ironic awfulness of it all.
Casa Nostra (Saturday, 11:45 a.m.) This French family drama, told in black-and-white, premiered at one of the Canne's three sidebars, devoted to young, up-and-coming directors. Director Nathan Nicholovitch and one of Casa Nostra's stars, Gilles Kazan, have flown in from Paris for the screening. So ask some questions.
Buoy (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.) "It's very focused," says Jhangiani. Executive produced by Todd Haynes, who directed the Dylan biopic I'm Not There, this feature competition contender centers entirely around one phone conversation. "You can't see the person on the other end of the line, but you can hear them," he explains. While conceptually that seems tedious, Jhangiani assures this small-budget release is a must-see. "It's completely intriguing." Writer/filmmaker Steven Doughton will be in attendance.
August: Osage County (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.) Tracy Lett's Pulitzer Prize winning stage drama gets retold for film through Hollywood's biggest names. Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor and so many more round-out this cast while award chatter orbits. "It's one of those 'This is something you should be aware of' movies, as a film-goer, as a film enthusiast," Jhangiani says.
Be Here, Love Me (Saturday, 5 p.m.) Part of the LSFF's ReScreen series, this 2004 Townes Van Zandt documentary was executive produced by Louis Black of Austin Chronicle and SXSW Film fame. He's snatching up the Maverick Award while he's here. Then, we like to think he's taking Megabus back, because Louis Black on Megabus is a funny mental picture.
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Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.) Dallas audiences got to see this screen on Tuesday when Texas Theatre ran its first installation of the New York Film Critics Series. Fort Worth gets to see Alexander Payne's (Election, Sideways, The Descendants) latest here, before its national release date on November 22. Its being discussed as a strong Oscar contender, so this is a great opportunity to see the thing with fellow Payne super-fans.
Philomena (Saturday, 9:30 p.m) Three words: Dame. Judi. Dench.
Little Hope Was Arson (Sunday, 2 p.m.) At the beginning of 2010, 10 East Texas churches burned. This doc looks inside that time, and examines the blame, forgiveness and fear that followed. Jhangiani says this is one of his favorite documentaries of the year, so grab a seat.
Lone Star Film Festival runs through Sunday. Get tickets here.