Arts & Culture News

What You Shouldn't Miss at Fort Worth's Greatest Film Festival

Never to be outdone by Dallas, Fort Worth has its own cool film festival.
Never to be outdone by Dallas, Fort Worth has its own cool film festival. chrisc39/WikiMediaCommons
The summer movie season has faded, so now's the time to start looking ahead to all the films that will undoubtedly dominate the awards conversation in the next few months. What do the Oscars look like now in the wake of #TheSlap? Are we going to see a greater interest in viewership from casual viewers who don’t want to miss another shocking moment? Could we see a host try to breathe life into this ceremony? These are all questions that we’ll be left to ponder until the end of March.

Hollywood is still a highly selective business guilty of catering primarily to viewers in New York and Los Angeles. While audiences on the coastal cities get to see all the major awards contenders during their initial release, everyone else might have to wait a few weeks to catch up with titles like Tar, Armageddon Time, Women Talking and Triangle of Sadness. However, film festivals throughout the country give select viewers the chance to see some of these movies ahead of their proper releases.

Film festivals play an important role in setting the buzz for a film. A particularly positive or negative reaction from a preview audience can either boost a film’s awards and box office potential or doom it to failure. Although most titles premiere at major festivals like Venice, Cannes, Toronto, New York and AFI, smaller venues play an important role in sustaining a film’s momentum. North Texas audiences get a chance to participate in the campaigning by attending local festivals.

The Dallas International Film Festival may now be in the rearview mirror, but Fort Worth is getting in on the season with the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, Nov. 10–12. With screenings in Downtown Cowtown at the Isis, Cowboy Channel Studio and Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center, the Lone Star Film Festival brings together an exciting mix of awards titles, Texas originals and student shorts.

Perhaps the most anticipated screening of the Lone Star Film Festival is the drama Living, which debuts as part of the Showcase Screening series on Nov. 11 and tells the story of an aging man (played by Bill Nighy) who reflects on his life after he’s diagnosed with a fatal illness. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it was praised for its sensitive depiction of health issues and the career-best performance from Nighy.

Living is an English-language remake of Akira Kurosawa’s beloved classic Ikiru, which also deals with an older bureaucrat wrestling with his mortality. Remaking an international film can be tricky; on one hand, you can get a brilliant reimagining like Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (a remake of the Asian action film Infernal Affairs), but you can also end up with something as disastrous as Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy. Based on the early word of mouth, it looks like Living falls into the former category.

It also may provide Nighy with the chance to contend for his first Academy Award nomination. Despite an extensive career that spans decades, Nighy is one of those veteran character actors the Academy has never taken the time to reward. This year’s Best Actor race will be fierce, with contenders like Brendan Fraser for The Whale, Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin, Austin Butler for Elvis, and Hugh Jackman for The Son all hoping to get in. A reward to Nighy could feel like a way of honoring his entire filmography.

Film festivals play an important role in setting the buzz for a film. A particularly positive or negative reaction from a preview audience can either boost a film’s awards and box office potential or doom it to failure.

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Also highly anticipated in the lineup is the dark Western Butcher’s Crossing, which stars Nicolas Cage. His transition from mainstream Hollywood star to the leading man in direct-to-VOD movies has been well-documented, but Cage has shown in recent years that he both accepts and embraces his new reputation. Earlier this year, he appeared as himself in the comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, the first wide release he’s had in years.

Butcher’s Crossing is based on a 1960 novel of the same name by John Edward Williams. It tells the story of former Harvard student William Andrews, who joins a buffalo-hunting platoon in Kansas during the 1870s. As he looks to sell the buffalo hides, Andrews begins to reflect on his life and career. In addition to Cage, the film co-stars Rachel Keller (Fargo, Legion) and Paul Raci (The Sound of Metal).

Although Cage seems to say yes to almost everything, he does still manage to choose interesting projects every now and then. In the last few years, he received strong reviews for his roles in the twisted revenge thriller Mandy, the existential drama Pig and the coming-of-age saga Joe. Butcher’s Crossing looks to be another film to rank among his recent hits. The film debuted to a strong audience response at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, where it was picked up for distribution.

Lone Star Film Festival also celebrates nonfiction storytelling with a mixed array of documentary features. Song of the Cicada explores the surprisingly moving story of an earnest mortician with an aptitude for mischief. The Galveston-set film will debut on Nov. 12 with a Q&A with writer/director Robert Weiss and producer Lewis Parry. Another local tale is Oklahoma Breakdown, a showcase for the comedian and musician Mike Hosty. Writer/director Christopher Charles Fitzpatrick will be at a Q&A on Nov. 11.

The event also includes some global documentaries that speak to timely news events. Theaters of War explores the sordid history of America’s history with the arms race, and John Ware Reclaimed looks to honor a Black cowboy whose name has been left out of history books. Despite some of these darker films, there’s also room at the festival for documentaries that celebrate culture. You can check out the story of comedian Gary Mule Deer in Show Business Is My Life (But I Can’t Prove It) and the music anthology The Birth & History of Western Swing.

The theme of this year’s event seems to be "reflection." And just as film can empower us to examine what came before, the Lone Star Film Festival looks to once again honor Texas' proud cultural history.
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Liam Gaughan has been covering film and television since before he had a driver's license, and in addition to the Observer has been published in, Schmoes Know, Taste of Cinema and The Dallas Morning News. He enjoys checking classic films off of his watchlist and working on spec scripts.

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