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Lone Star Film Festival 2 - Starts today

It's back. Regardless of what went down last year, Alec and Dennis proved to me beyond any doubt that they were going to bring a great festival in year two. As you look at the schedule of films and events you can see that they delivered. I'm proud that my hometown is able to support such a culturally significant event. Film is art and deserves to be heralded the same as any painting at The Modern.

There is a great line up but I'm going to concentrate on short films because features already get plenty of attention from regular media. So here are my recommendations for short film watching. You should definitely make it a point to watch some short films. Sometimes the true artistry of filmmaking stands out more when one is limited by time. Plus, this is where you find the stalwarts of future film stardom. There are lots of great shorts playing, some I haven't seen, but these below are my favorites (follow the links for screening info).

Glory At Sea: I'm honestly not quite sure how to put into words my adoration for this film. Glory at Sea is a true epic. I literally mean that. Even though it's under 30 minutes it is a magnum opus of the likes I've rarely seen. It is hands down one of my all time favorite films. Do yourself a favor and see it now, on the big screen, no matter what.

Quick Feet, Soft Hands: Paul Harril is a prodigious talent. His last short film, the Sundance winner Gina, an Actress, Age 29 was a wonderful film and he follows it up with an even more accomplished outing this time. Quick Feet, Soft Hands is an intense relationship drama that focuses in on the rarely seen realities of not only a couple living paycheck to paycheck but also the crumbling dreams of a life-long pursuit. It propounds the question "When is it time to give up and is there ever actually a time?" It's the simplicity that counts, no overwrought triteness in the presentation here. Paul proves himself to be a maven of efficiency in his storytelling by giving us masterful set ups of lighting, composition, and action that speak when the characters don't. As you can probably guess, I loved it.

My Mom Smokes Weed: Okay, full disclosure here, Clay is one of my best friends. However, that doesn't mean I can't fully recommend this awesome and funny film. The title is quite exact. A young man, visiting his aging mother has to take her on an errand to obtain the titular substance. As you can guess, it doesn't go off without a hitch. What's so great about My Mom Smokes Weed is that it very maturely moves beyond the obvious slapstick comedy and renders a surprisingly emotional commentary about leaving a place for your mom in your life even when you've grown up into adulthood.

Woman In Burka: A hilarious look at the sometimes unglamorous life of an Indian actress being typecast as Arab in a post 9/11 entertainment industry. Even though the film is laugh out load funny at times with lots of deliciously irreverent humor it also has an emotional honesty that I love.

Spider: This is just a really amazing, humorous, action packed little film. It has an amazing twist ending that's both hilarious and horrifying. Highly enjoyable.

Scaredy Cat: A very personal, highly affecting essay documentary Scaredy Cat accomplishes an amazing feat by trying to understand both the victim and the criminal. Told in an immensely creative and engaging way this short represents truly inspired documentary making that breaks from the insipid conventions of reality TV.

Doxology: Don't let the word experimental scare you. This is a really fun film full of artistic special effects that will have you wondering "How did they do that?" The scene where he dances with a car is worth the price of admission alone.

When The Light's Red: Another great personal documentary that has the filmmaker facing those people we all see begging at intersections. What could easily be overwrought bleeding heart material is rendered with a light hand.

The Smallest River in Almirante
: This is one of those films often called a gem. Indeed it is. I really loved this one a lot. It's a beautiful and lyrical film reminiscent of the the things I love about Malick films.

Stars and Suns: A supremely well crafted film. Beautifully shot with great use of special effects that instead of distracting, actually add to the emotional journey of the characters.

Small Apartment: Like the three characters - a young man, his girlfriend and his father - living in the space described by the title, this film can get a little uncomfortable. It's in the best way possible though. By being brutally honest about the lust and love left in a broken older man this film transcends it's awkward subject matter.

One Of The Last
: A documentary about an old Italian farmer who still does it the old way. I loved listening to him talk about his life and philosophy and just observing his actions throughout the day. He's definitely the kind of guy you want to spend the day with just hanging out and talking. That's what this doc gives you.

I know I said I'd be talking shorts but there are two features I do want to point out. Let The Right One In doesn't need any help from me because it's been widely heralded but I'll just join the course by saying it is a mesmerizing film that takes the notion of romanticizing vampires and turns it on it's head. A definite must see.

If you want to see a film that truly embodies the grit and gusto of independent filmmaking then you have to watch The New Year Parade. The storyline might seem familiar but I promise you won't see a film that handles it's melancholy subject the way this one does. I love the softly turning mechanisms of The New Year Parade and how it balances it's subtle storytelling with completely engaging insights into a little known Philadelphia subculture.