Thursday, February 29, 2024

Lone Star

There was more meat in this film than anticipated, but part of that may be due to the inclusion of the  DVD special features (basically two interviews).  John Sayles conceived this idea and Texas supplied the material.

In an early part we find a teacher giving the broad outlines of Texas history that included conquests, treachery and slavery.  Contrasted with an argument between whites and Mexicans in a school board meeting.  The town itself has a split between whites and Mexicans with a few blacks  that mostly are the result of a military base.  The Mexicans are not homogeneous by any means with varying amounts of Spanish conqueror blood and indigenous. and a desire to assimilate or retain their culture.

The story is about how the 1957 past pops up in the 1996 present.  A skeleton is uncovered and is identified as a previous sheriff.  The current sheriff realizes that the killer may have been his father and nevertheless begins an intense search.

In this search some secrets are uncovered.  Some of them surprising and one quite shocking.  There are links from the past and we can understand racial tensions have eased somewhat.  We see evil characters and a few good ones.  It helps explain a little bit of the current Texan culture where the European whites try to maintain dominance.  The film uses technology to illustrate the changes and that history is part of the present.

A quote from one of the interviews  is referring to Roger Ebert saying movies make for empathy. The last line of the movie I believe sums up the feeling of creator John Sayles "Forget the Alamo."

A lot of talented people  made this such a memorable film.  Here are some key ones.

John Sayles was writer, director and editor.  He was an independent film maker as he wanted to have control over his subject.  On a film 15 years prior to this one he had visited the Alamo during a protest for the John Wayne movie where he started forming his opinions.  For each speaking character he would write a little biography so they would have background material.  He has 24 credits as director, 38 as writer and 30 as an actor including  "Matewan" (1987) and "Eight Men Out" (1988).  A quote "When we say 'we" how big a 'we" do we mean.  The United States Constitution has a small 'we'."

Maggie Renzi, producer met John Sayles while both attended Williams College and since then they not only partner, but also live together.  She has 18 producer credits and 11 as actress including "Matewan" (1987) and "Eight Men Out" (1988).  She was involved in crew selection and casting.  She was noted for taking good care of the extras.

Mason Daring provided the music with a heavy Tex Mex sound.  He has 29 music departmnet and 85 composing credits including "Frontline" (1983-2024), "Eight Men Out" (1988) and "Something's Got to Give" (2003).

Stuart Dryburgh was raised in New Zealand where he gained experienece.  He was selected for this film by Maggie Renzi who spotted him at the Sundance Film Festival.  One of his remarkable feats was transitioning from the past to the present where the camera was shifted from one background scene to another without a cut, i.e. seamlessly.  He has 57 credits as a cinematographer and another 12 for the camera and electrical department.  Films include "The Piano" (1993), "Once Were Warriors" (1993), "The Painted Veil" (2006) "No Reservations" (2007), "The Upside" (2017), "New Amsterdam" (2018) and "West Side Story" (2021). 

Chris Cooper played the present day sheriff Sam Deeds.  While a set builder at a community theatre he was a last minute substitute in a play.  He has 77 acting credits,, 2 as director and one as producer.  Films include  "Matewan" (1987),  "A Time to Kill" (1996), "The Horse Whisperer" (1998), "Capote" (2006), "Remember Me" (2010),  "The Company You Keep" (2012), "August:  Osage County" (2013)and "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" (2019).

Elizabeth Pena played Pilar the romantic lead with a Mexican background.  Her Cuban parents had set up an Hispanic theatre group and Elizabeth got started with it  She spent time with repertory theatre   She has 104 film credits including "La Bamba" (1987) and "Rush Hour" (1998).  She was a founder of the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.

Kris Kristofferson played Sheriff Charlie Wade, a racist evil man.  To many of us Kris is more famous as song writer and performer.  A big breakthrough for his song career was piloting a helicopter into the yard  of Johnny Cash to offer a song which was later recorded.  Eventually he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Before all that he was a Rhodes Scholar and was also an army ranger captain.  He has 120 credits as actor and 6 as film composer.  His films include  "Blood & Orchids" (1986) and "Payback" (1999).

Matthew McConaughey played Buddy Deeds, the father of Sam.  He was in student films and commercials before breaking into Hollywood.  He has 79 acting credits, 7 as producer and 2 as a director.  His credits include  "Contact" )1987),  "A Time to Kill" (1996) "Amistad" (1997),  "Free State of Jones" (2016), after 2019 took time off to break away from romantic comedies "The Lincoln Lawyer" (2011),  "Mud" (2012), "Dallas Buyers Club" (2013 for which he lost 47 pounds), "Interstellar" (2014). "Gold" (2017and "Serenity" (2019).  Check

Joe Morton played the colonel at the military base whose father was a town resident.  He has 139 acting credits including "Speed" (1994) and "Scandal" (2012).

Miriam Colon played the mother of Pilar.  She founded the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre of New York City.  She has 115 film credits including "The Appaloosa" (1966) and "Better Call Saul" (2015).   

Frances McDormand played an ex wife.  She earned a BA in theatre at Bethany College and then a MFA from Yale.  She maintained a relationship with theatre winning a Tony Award.  She married her director, Joel Coen and has collaborated with Joel and Ethan Coen on films.  She has won three Oscars for acting and one as a producer and has also won an Emmy Award.   She has 68 credits as an actress as well as 5 for producing.  She has added an inclusion rider to her film contracts which requires an equitable diversity in cast and crew.  Her films include:  "Miller's Crossing" (1990), "Fargo" (1996),  "Primal Fear" (1996) "The Promised Land" (2012), "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012), "Olive Kitteridge" (2014), "Three Billboards Outisde Ebbing Missouri" (2017)  "Nomadland" (2021) and "Women Talking" (2023).

Aside from an enjoyable movie this has been an educational experience. 

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

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