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SXSW: 10 Films That Stood Out at the Festival

WORLD PREMIERES

Buzzard.” The great kick of Joel Potrykus’ hilarious and horrifying study of an American sociopath is that as ruthless as the film is in dissecting its antihero (the mesmerizing Joshua Bruge), it reserves perhaps its subtlest, most withering critique for the by-the-book, 9-to-5 culture that at least partially spawned him. Cheers to the lucky buyer, Oscilloscope Laboratories, for confirming its reputation as one of the most adventurous distributors in the field. (Justin Chang)

“The Great Invisible.” Although perhaps not quite as distinctive an inquiry into Southern subcultures as her 2009 documentary, “The Order of Myths,” Margaret Brown’s deeply sobering and sympathetic feature — the worthy winner of the festival’s grand jury prize for nonfiction features — has a moral and structural complexity entirely appropriate to its subject: the devastating fallout from the 2010 BP oil spill. (Chang)

“The Heart Machine.” Thoroughly modern without being ostentatious about it, and featuring excellent performances from Kate Lyn Sheil and John Gallagher Jr., newcomer Zachary Wigon’s film captures an unnerving, formally accomplished snapshot of digital-age obsession. (Andrew Barker)

“Kelly & Cal.” Helmer Jen McGowan and screenwriter Amy Lowe Starbin make an impressive feature debut with this warmly observed tale of two outcasts bonding in stifling suburbia, featuring an inspired match-up of veteran Juliette Lewis and newcomer Jonny Weston. (Geoff Berkshire)

“Long Distance.” Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer shared a well-deserved acting prize for their beautifully harmonized performances, but Carlos Marques-Marcet’s poignant debut feature — the finest of the films I saw in the narrative competition — is no less noteworthy for its formal assurance, its dramatic integrity and its timely understanding that what technology gives, it can also take away. (Chang)

“A Night in Old Mexico.” Reteaming with screenwriter Bill Wittliff 25 years after “Lonesome Dove,” Robert Duvall is perfectly cast as a cantankerous rancher in this Tex-Mex-flavored shaggy-dog story, a handsomely produced labor of love from director Emilio Aragon. (Joe Leydon)

“The Possibilities Are Endless.” At times resembling an avant-garde film collage as much as it does a traditional documentary, Edward Lovelace and James Hall’s “The Possibilities Are Endless” details Scottish indie-music darling Edwyn Collins’ struggles to recover from two massive strokes with remarkable artfulness. (Barker)

“Yakona.” Making a far more effective case for environmental protection than a dozen “Inconvenient Truth” knock-offs, this narrativeless, nearly dialogue-free film aims to do nothing less than epitomize the entire history of the cosmos through gorgeously photographed sequences alongside, around, and within Texas’ San Marcos River. It succeeds more often than not. (Barker)

FESTIVAL FAVORITES

“Boyhood.” It premiered two months ago at Sundance, but Richard Linklater’s intimate American epic belongs no less to SXSW, to Austin, or indeed to any viewer who embarks on this nearly three-hour, 12-year emotional journey. As his “Before … ” trilogy has proved, the passage of time and its impact on human relationships is Linklater’s great subject, one that few filmmakers have wrestled with as ambitiously or as movingly as he has here. (Chang)

“Only Lovers Left Alive.” An overlooked standout of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival competition, Jim Jarmusch’s hauntingly beautiful portrait of a centuries-old marriage between two hipster vampires marks a glorious return to form. There can be no more heartening rebuke to the usual canards about “the death of cinema” than the sight of Linklater and Jarmusch, two pioneers of the American indie movement, both working at the top of their game. (Chang)

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