Texas ties run strong in these SXSW films

Pierce Brosnan stars in “The Son.” Contributed

Some were shot here. Some come from filmmakers who live here. And one is set in the Austin music scene (though our critic begs to differ). These are some of the movies with ties to Texas that screened at South by Southwest.

“The Son”: Based on the 2013 novel by Austin’s Philipp Meyer, shot in Central Texas, set in Texas — this TV series, coming to AMC on April 8, could only get more “Texas” if you threw in a cameo from Willie Nelson riding on Bevo while eating some Blue Bell. Pierce Brosnan plays the family patriarch; critic Charles Ealy says “he’s an archetype, of course, but what a complex character, whom Brosnan fully captures in the first two episodes of the new season.”

REVIEW: Get ready: ‘The Son’ might be the next great Texas TV series

“Song to Song”: SXSW’s opening night movie, from Austin director Terrence Malick, is “a modern love story set against the Austin, Texas, music scene.” But according to our critic Joe Gross, it “is a movie about Austin the way “Star Wars” is about Tunisia — it was shot there, but in terms of the flavor of the place, it might as well have been a matte painting.”

REVIEW: The gorgeous ‘Song to Song’ has little to do with music or Austin

“Disgraced”: This Showtime documentary is about the 2003 murder of college basketball player Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson and the accusations that followed against Baylor University and head coach Dave Bliss.

REVIEW: ‘Disgraced’ will leave you disgusted with Dave Bliss and Baylor University

“The Honor Farm”: This is Austin director Karen Skloss’ first narrative feature, “a story that subverts every aspect of the horror genre, not in a satirical way but in a sweet and very mushroom-trippy way.”

REVIEW: ‘Honor Farm’ delightfully subverts horror genre at SXSW

“Infinity Baby”: Austin-based filmmaker Bob Byington has created what critic Matt Shiverdecker calls “a gleefully sardonic comedy sharply observed in black-and-white across our fair city.” It stars Kieran Culkan, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr and Noël Wells.

REVIEW: ‘Infinity Baby’ mines futuristic concept for sharply observed laughs

“Walking Out”: This feature from brothers Alex and Andrew Smith (one a current Austinite, the other a former) tells “an intense story of survival against the odds, an unexpectedly emotional journey” and stars Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins.

REVIEW: ‘Walking Out’ is a bold and unexpectedly emotional tale of survival

“La Barracuda”: This thriller from Austin-based directors Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund is about half-sisters who meet for the first time, and how that affects the extended family; it features lots of Texas music and some tracks live at the Saxon Pub.

REVIEW: Familial deception is at the heart of Austin-based film ‘La Barracuda’

 

RELATED

Get ready: ‘The Son’ might be the next great Texas TV series

“The Son,” a new series based on the 2013 novel by Austin’s Philipp Meyer, premieres April 8 on AMC, and if you were a fan of the epic Texas novel about the McCullough family, then you’ll be a fan of the new show, too.

Pierce Brosnan plays the family patriarch, Eli McCullough, who was kidnapped by the Comanches as a boy, only to thrive with them and go on to found a Texas empire after leaving the tribe. He’s an archetype, of course, but what a complex character, whom Brosnan fully captures in the first two episodes of the first season, which premiered at South by Southwest.

The episodes go back and forth in time, including the initial attack on a Texas homestead where the young Eli, played by Jacob Lofland, is kidnapped by the Comanches. He endures a lot of pain and suffering, but the first two episodes give you an inkling that he might be a survivor, and a thriver, rather than a victim.

The patriarch version of Eli is no less interesting. In the first couple of episodes, we see a hard businessman realizing that the age of cattle is waning and that the age of oil is on the horizon. But there’s much more going on. The episodes explore the tensions between the Anglos and the early Tejanos, who resent the arrival of the whites as much as the Indians did. There are attacks on the McCullough ranch, and you realize fairly quickly that McCullough isn’t one to respond nicely to attacks.

There’s tension in the McCullough family, however. One of Eli’s sons, Pete, played by Henry Garrett, thinks negotiations might work. He has a wife and daughter, and he seems like a more modern version of his ruthless father. But guess what? Circumstances will test his mettle.

What’s so great about the series? It captures the essence of the novel, with an inventive switching of time periods between young and old Eli, while paying respect and giving voice to all of those who resent the rise of the McCullough dynasty. And you might want to watch out for a star in the making: Garrett, who plays Pete. He’s a Method actor, and he knows what he’s doing.

Also, Lofland, who plays the young Eli, played Neckbone in Jeff Nichols’ “Mud,” and you’ll see why he’s one of the hottest young talents these days.

Meyer, a former Michener fellow at the University of Texas, has been intimately involved with the development of the series, and showrunner Kevin Murphy and he seem to have developed a creative and intellectually hospitable relationship. The first 10 episodes are done. And Brosnan says he’s up for more, if AMC is willing. That looks likely, based on the first two episodes. But Brosnan says there’s one stipulation: He doesn’t want to film the Central Texas-shot series again in 105-degree weather during the summer. Meyer and Murphy say that’s a deal.

RELATED: James Bond is in Austin, and he’s becoming quite the Texan

Noah Hawley talks about making ‘Fargo,’ ‘Legion’ for TV

 

Noah Hawley, left, and Philipp Meyer.

Austin’s Noah Hawley talked about making two of the most interesting series on TV in recent years, “Fargo” and “Legion,” during a Saturday appearance at South by Southwest. The interviewer: Pulitzer Prize finalist and Austin resident Philipp Meyer, whose “The Son” will be premiering on AMC this spring as a series starring Pierce Brosnan.

Hawley, who’s not only a show runner but also an acclaimed novelist, said that making “Fargo” for TV was like making a 10-hour movie. And he noted that the Coen brothers, on whose movie his series was based, aren’t exactly talkative about their creative process, so he had to analyze it for himself. What did he discover? That they let the camera do a lot of the talking.

Hawley said he thinks the key to the success of “Fargo” was the focus on creating “a feeling and a sensibility” that reflected the original movie.

With “Legion,” which is currently showing on FX, Hawley has a different challenge. He’s in comic-book territory, and he’s dealing with one of the most powerful mutants ever, played by Dan Stevens. So he says he has tried to keep the audience guessing for the first few episodes, that he’s trying to establish “a state of mind” once again.

But since “Legion” is on a commercial network, he says, he has to take into consideration the fact that his narrative will be interrupted for commercials. “You have to approach it a bit different” when that’s the case, he said.

” ‘Legion’ isn’t clear to anyone yet, but we’re moving in that direction,” he said. “We’re creating a world.”

Much of the session on Saturday focused on process, on how Hawley communicates with various directors to keep the episodes consistent in tone. “You do what’s called a tone meeting,” he said. “You go over the script page by page, and the meeting can be three to four hours long.”

He said he thinks the key to success for “Legion” and other series is to engage the viewer, to disrupt expectations, to make them put down a cellphone and actually focus on what’s on TV.

“We’re not going to all you what it means, and if we do that, the viewer’s imagination is engaged,” he said. “If you don’t give what’s expected, there’s tension that makes the audience engage.”

 

‘The Son’ starts shooting in Austin this month, with new star — Pierce Brosnan

 

FILE - 23 OCTOBER 2012: Tonight the twenty-third film in the James Brown series ‘Skyfall’ starring Daniel Craig as 007 will make its red carpet Royal World Premiere at Royal Albert Hall in London, England. Irish actor Pierce Brosnan appearing as British secret service agent James Bond, late 1990s. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)

Austin writer Philipp Meyer’s “The Son” is scheduled to start shooting this month in the Austin area, and Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond, will be replacing Sam Neill as Eli, the patriarch of an oil and ranching family.

The new casting was first reported by Deadline.com, which said Neill dropped out of the project for personal reasons.

theson__140604221005The AMC series is based on the book by Meyer and written by Meyer and fellow Michener Center for Writers grads Lee Shipman and Brain McGreevy.

“The Son,” a 2013 Texas epic about the McCullough family, has been hailed as some of the best fiction to come out of the state in recent years.

It deals with Eli McCullough, who was kidnapped by Comanches as a child and goes on to found an empire. It also follows the fortunes of his children and their heirs.

Besides starring as Bond, Brosnan is also known for the 1980s NBC series “Remington Steele.”