The first time I saw this film was at the height of my film addiction. In a good week, I’d see about eight to ten films, in a bad, about three. My preference was for celluloid but, unlike some people, I never turned my nose up at tape. I’d even give up an afternoon to watch movies on television, usually two or three at the same time, most often George Stevens’ Giant (1956), Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946), and whichever John Hughes film was in rotation on TNT and USA. Movies, films, flicks, I didn’t care what they were called, I devoured them all. I’ll tell you proudly that I PAID to see Gilbert Adler’s 1996 film Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood in the theater. I went so often to the matinee that I began to recognize other film addicts. One man in particular would emerge from the theater always wearing a set of clothes different than the ones he was wearing when he entered. Turns out he had a twin: they were both body builders who wore too much cologne, so I often smelled him in the theater before actually seeing him, or I should say them, but that’s another story. For a period of about four years, I could walk into a video rental store knowing that I had seen absolutely everything in the “new release” section, both foreign and domestic. I had even worked my way through most of the “classic” inventory as well. It was during this period that I discovered John Sayles’s early films, Lianna (1983), Brother From Another Planet (1984), where I was first introduced to the wonder that is Joe Morton, Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), and Matewan (1987), which marked the first pairing of Sayles and Chris Cooper. As a person who can and has watched John Cusack in anything, including Tapeheads (1988), I had seen Eight Men Out (1988) and had always thought of it as a “Cusack” film, so when I became a “serious” student of film, I was surprised to find out it was actually written and directed by John Sayles. Before the swagger of Tarantino and the guerilla-style of Rodriguez, there was Sayles, one of the original independent filmmakers, who has always balanced commercial projects with personal ones. He has followed this pattern since his first days as a screenwriter for Piranha (1978), a film that had people terrified of jumping into local swimming holes for fear of being eaten alive by flesh-devouring fish that have been genetically altered in a government experiment to find alternate “weapons” that can be used against enemy combatants. Sayles also served as screenwriter for Alligator (1980), a film about “Ramon,” a baby alligator who is flushed down the toilet as a baby and grows to monstrous size as a result of foraging on animals used in laboratory hormone experiments. Remarkably, he made his directorial debut with Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980) and was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay. I initially stumbled across Sayles’ works City of Hope (1991) and Passion Fish (1992) during my David Strathairn period and became a fan of his narrative driven films. So when I read about Sayles’ new project in British film magazine Sight and Sound, I anxiously awaited the new work and held out hope that Strathairn might play some small part in the film. Those of you who have seen Lone Star know that I was disappointed in this regard. After the film opened, I had to endure a month of listening to my friends in metropolitan cities tell me how great the film was. When it finally came to the state where I was living at the time, I had to drive an hour to the “big city” of Omaha, Nebraska because a theater there, called Indian Hills, I kid you not, was the only place in three-state area showing the film. At the last minute, I invited a “friend” whom I really wanted to impress to come along with me. To make a long story short, he accepted. We had great conversation on the way, stopped for dinner before the film, made it to the theater moments before the previews, which for...
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