I can remember my parents taking me to see John Sayles’ Lone Star 20 years ago and how it utterly blew my mind. I was in my cinematically formative years, devouring the works of Scorsese and Mann and Stone and Scott and Tarantino, and then my dad had me see City of Hope, Matewan, and Eight Men Out at home with him on VHS, and in tandem with Lone Star, I became a lifelong fan of Sayles’ uniquely humanistic approach to storytelling. He’s one of the most natural, unhurried, and totally relaxed filmmakers that I can think of, and this 1996 neo-noir crime gem is easily one of the best and most layered works. Set in a small Texas town and featuring a stellar ensemble cast featuring the always amazing Chris Cooper, a note-perfect Kris Kristofferson, the fabulous Elizabeth Pena, and Matthew McConaughey in one of his first big attention-getting roles, the story centers on murder investigation that stretches generations, and as usual for Sayles, themes of racism, class, and family are at the forefront of the narrative. The tone is contemplative and the performances are beautiful and tragic and honest, while as a filmmaker, Sayles was able to capture a very believable sense of place and atmosphere through strong work with the amazing cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (Blackhat, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). Leisurely paced with Sayles serving as his own graceful editor, the film is never boring, and at times gets downright sprawling, and it seems a shame that an outfit like The Criterion Collection hasn’t released this as the special edition that it truly deserves.