Courtesy Austin Film Society

Awards season is in full swing, and not just in Hollywood. On March 3, the Austin Film Society (AFS) brings back its annual Texas Film Awards to honor both rising stars and Texans who have left deep impact on the independent film industry. Fittingly, this year's ceremony takes place on a movie-set-turned venue, Willie Nelson's Luck Ranch in Spicewood, Texas

In a release announcing the 2023 honorees, AFS also announced this year's Master of Ceremonies, Texas native and actress Edi Patterson. Known for her roles in films and series including Knives Out, The Righteous Gemstones, Partners, and Vice Principals, Patterson performs in improv and sketch comedy shows for the Groundlings Main Company where she is a member. She is also a member of improvisational theater company Impro Theatre.

Emmy and Critic's Choice Award nominated actor Jonathan Majors will receive this years's Rising Star Award. Majors grew up in Cedar Hill, Texas, and has starred in films including Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Jeymes Samuel’s The Harder They Fall, and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. Majors also starred in the series Lovecraft Country, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award, and was most recently in J. D. Dillard’s Devotion. He will next appear in Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, in theaters on February 17, and Ryan Coogler’s Creed III, in theaters on March 3.

Previous Rising Star Award recipients include Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, Unbelievable), Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One, the X-Men franchise), Jesse Plemons (Fargo, Breaking Bad), among others. The award honors an actor who has made a lasting impact with their work early in their career.

For his impact on global cinema as a creative producer and executive, Warner Bros. Pictures Group Co-Chair and CEO Michael De Luca will be honored. A resident of Fort Worth, de Luca boasts over three decades in the business, three Academy Award® nominatios for Best Picture of the Year (The Social Network, Moneyball, and Captain Phillips), and three Emmy Award nominations (for producing both the 89th and the 90th Academy Awards® and for producing Escape At Dannemora).

Among his many esteemed positions in the industry over thirty years, De Luca served as one of the youngest heads of production in Hollywood history when he was appointed President and COO of New Line Productions at age 27. There, he helped launch lucrative franchises (Friday, Blade, Austin Powers and Rush Hour), release major hits (Seven, Wag the Dog, Pleasantville, Magnolia, I Am Sam and Boogie Nights), and produced the film adaptation of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, which grossed over $1 billion internationally.

The ceremony on March 3 will also see independent cinema’s “first couple”, Janet and John Pierson, inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame. The honor will celebrate their impact on the independent film industry, and especially on the Austin and Texas community in helping to grow the SXSW Film & TV Festival to what it is today. Among their many projects as exhibitors and subsequently producer's reps/financiers for independents in the 1980s and 90s, the Pierson's also created the IFCtv show Split Screen, which involved 100 independent filmmakers and seeded new projects including The Blair Witch Project, American Movie and How’s Your News? The show has a permanent streaming home on the Criterion Channel. T

Moving to Austin in 2004, John Pierson joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin Radio-TV-Film Department, influencing a generation of students and offering his famed Master Class, which brought in high-profile industry guests to Austin. From April 2008 to Oct 2022, Janet Pierson was Head of SXSW Film Festival (now SXSW Film & TV Festival), taking the famed festival to new heights with talent discovery and launching major films. For her work at SXSW, Janet made The Guardian’s Film Power 100 list in 2010 and 2013’s Indiewire Influencers and now serves as Director Emeritus of SXSW Film & TV Festival.

Taking place in Luck, TX, the 2023 Texas Film Awards will feature a red carpet and cocktail party, followed by dinner and an awards ceremony. Sponsored by Blue Suitcase and Arts+Labor. annual event directly supports regional filmmakers and sustains AFS’s efforts to catalyze Austin and Texas as creative hubs.

More information about the Texas Film Awards can be found here, and tickets and tables are available for purchase here.

Edi Patterson

Courtesy Austin Film Society

Texas native and actress Edi Patterson will serve as the event’s Master of Ceremonies.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Hugely popular San Antonio restaurant Ladino celebrates first anniversary with Mediterranean party

Luck be Ladino

Although Ladino has only been a Pearl gem for one year, the mediterranean hotspot already feels like a San Antonio staple.

Helmed by executive chef Berty Richter and Emmer Hospitality, Ladino is slated to celebrate its first anniversary this Sunday with a festive party celebrating the restaurant's success as well as its future. Guests will enjoy a welcome beverage (and more cocktails for purchase), plus unlimited grilled meats, pita sandwiches, and other bites. DJ Zain will keep the energy up, while guests play yard games and kids get their faces painted.

Chef Richter tells CultureMap, '"In the world of restaurants and hospitality, we always strive to progress, keep learning, and improving."

When Ladino opened last September, it represented a promising branching out from its Austin-branched hospitality group parent, which had prior (and has since) earned acclaim from national publications for its cultural vibrancy — and deliciousness, of course.

In Ladino's case, the cultural touchstone is the Judeo-Spanish language of the same name that Chef Richter spoke growing up, which also included elements of Castellano, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, and Hebrew. Richter's Turkish mother inspired many parts of the restaurant's popular Mediterranean menu.

Despite a strong point of view, the restaurant does have something for everyone, and is very accommodating to patrons with dietary restrictions. Signature staples include the sourdough-based pita bread (which comes unlimited with the hummus dip), kibbeh nayeh with Wagyu tartare, shishbarak (lamb and pork dumplings), and saffron chicken. The Wagyu Denver steak is a consistent standout, with a perfect crispy edge surrounding the medium rare middle.

Chef Richter plans to keep the menu generally the same for now, with the ongoing tradition of rotating some dishes out based on seasonal availability.

"We are excited to continue exploring the cuisines and cultures that Ladino represents, while strengthening our relationships with local farmers, growers, producers, and the communities of San Antonio," says Richter.

Now open seven days a week, Ladino offers a happy hour on weekdays from 5-6:30 pm. Deals include six dollars off of the hummus dip and pita, $5 off of Ladino's signature cocktails and wines by the glass, and deals on other plates like babaganoush, a spicy Feta plate, and more. The happy hour specials are only available at the upstairs bar, which is easily accessible catty-corner to the main Ladino entrance at the Pearl.

Tickets ($40, $15 for kids) to the anniversary celebration on October 1, from 4-8 pm, are still available via Eventbrite. Regular reservations and to-go orders may be made at ladinosatx.com.

Botanical Garden's Lightscape mesmerizes with new exhibits and discount tickets


Call it the grown-up version of posing with Santa Claus. Since its dazzling debut in 2021, the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Lightscape has been the essential stop for holiday photoshoots. Planners are already working hard to ensure the annual tradition is more brilliant — and accessible — than ever.

Tickets are now on sale for the showstopping exhibition, running November 17 to January 1. The festivities will include familiar displays and brand-new illuminated works from global designers.

French creative studio Pitaya will return with a new installation, "Spark Ballet." The work features dozens of hanging lanterns glowing with firefly lights as a flickering guide around the lake. Visitors will also be treated to a pair of large-scale spectacles from UK outfit ArtAV, including an array of sparkling stars and a 40-foot-high LED tree.

Some of last year’s favorites will make an encore. The "Heart Arch Walk" allows guests to stroll under a tunnel of love while "Floraison" canopies explorers with brightly lit poppies. As always, the "Winter Cathedral" provides one last selfie spot.

The ever-popular "Bluebonnets" will also mesmerize sightseers, this time with an army of life-sized cowboy nutcrackers. The "Fire Garden" will have a new addition, too — the 25-foot dragon last seen in the blockbuster Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time exhibition.

Peak date tickets cost $28 for adults and $18 for children, with VIP packages and member discounts available. For the first time ever, the garden also offers Value Nights on select dates in November and December. Revelers can score tickets as low as $18 for adults and $10 for kids online.

San Antonio Botanical Garden Lightscape

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Botanical Garden

The Pixel tree makes an ideal selfie stop.

Rock star Bono's daughter makes her own sweet music in Flora and Son

Movie Review

The new Apple TV+ film Flora and Son centers on a single mother and her teenage son, a situation that typically calls for an uplifting story about the mother’s struggles trying to support the two of them, and the bond that develops between them as go through the troubles together. While that element exists somewhat here, it goes down a much different path that’s both saltier and equally as rewarding.

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son.

Set in Dublin, Ireland, the film follows Flora (Eve Hewson), a single mom to Max (Oren Kinlan), who gets in a fair bit of trouble. She shares custody with her ex, Ian (Jack Reynor), and their antagonistic relationship, along with Max being a teenager, likely has an effect on how Flora and Max get along. A typical interchange between mother and son has them calling each other all sorts of bad names, although there rarely seems to be any true animosity behind their arguments.

When a guitar Flora refurbishes for Max goes unappreciated, she instead starts taking online lessons herself with an American named Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). She’s no less brash with him, but her sincere interest in learning how to play and in finding out more about Jeff’s music opens a new door for Flora. Soon, a discovery that Max is making music of his own on his laptop helps them communicate better than they have in a long time.

Flora & Son is the latest music-focused film from writer/director John Carney (Once, Sing Street), and he once again finds the sweet spot in telling a personal story enhanced by song. Flora has more than a few rough edges, making her a less-than-ideal protagonist, but the heart of the character shines through precisely because she has no filter. Once music is added to the equation, it become that much easier to see the type of person she is and why you should root for her.

Both Hewson and Gordon-Levitt are charming actors, so they establish a connection through a screen well. Fortunately, though, Carney chooses not to leave it at that, adding a slight fantasy element to some of their scenes by having Flora imagine Jeff in the room with her. A romantic element naturally arises, but it’s the unexpected way in which two lonely souls find each other from across the world that makes them the most interesting.

There are a couple of decent songs that come out of the process of all of the music-making, but nothing that you could truly call an earworm. Instead, it’s the feeling you get seeing the characters interact when they’re sharing music with each other that makes the film sing. Only one character could be classified as a professional musician, with the rest of them making music for the pure joy of it, an emotion Carney translates well in his storytelling.

Hewson (the daughter of U2’s Bono, in case you were unaware) is having a moment after 15 years in the business. She has a boldness that serves her as well in this role as it did in the recent Apple TV+ limited series, Bad Sisters. This is Kinlan’s first major part, and he acquits himself well. Both Gordon-Levitt and Reynor are seasoned actors who know how to make the most of their limited scenes.

The depiction of a mother/child relationship in Flora and Son is atypical, but it still winds up in a great spot thanks to the power of music and some fine performances. Carney’s love for both songs and filmmaking has yielded some memorable movies over the years, this one included.


Flora and Son opens in select theaters and on Apple TV+ on September 29.