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The 15 Best Films of SXSW 2010

By  · Published on March 24th, 2010

During a film festival it is my job – as editor – to ensure that everyone on the FSR team is in the right place at the right time. We are a professional publication, you know. Or at least, we try to be. But it makes my job infinitely easier when I work with the likes of Landon Palmer, Brian Salisbury and Brian Gibson, this year’s SXSW 2010 team. As you may have gleaned from the grand nature of our coverage, these guys were all over the place reviewing films, conducting interviews and keeping the Alamo Drafthouse’s chef in business. The result is another fantastic year of covering South by Southwest. In the end, we will have reviewed over 60 films and conducted over 30 interviews. We had the chance to speak candidly with up-and-coming indie filmmakers and the likes of Robert Rodriguez and Edward Norton. And we got early looks at films like Kick-Ass, Predators and MacGruber, while still taking time to celebrate independent selections from SX’s narrative competition. As an editor, I could not be more pleased with the coverage we delivered for you. Hopefully it will spur some of our beloved readers into action and get you interested in some of these films, big and small.

As is the case every year at this time, we need to wrap things up. Much to our dismay, SXSW cannot go on forever. And while reviews will continue to post in the next week as we get caught up on screeners and anything we haven’t written up from the actual fest, we’re confident that we can present you with our picks for the 15 Best Films of SXSW 2010. Below you will find our selections, with captions from the team. You can safely put any and all of these films on your must-see list for the future. I know that we’ll be keeping an eye on them.

All of the links below lead to our reviews of each film, if available.

And Everything is Going Fine

The given spectator’s particular degree of interest in Spalding Grey will determine whether or not they embrace this film, but with some simple wikipedia research beforehand to provide informative context for those unfamiliar with Grey going in, Soderbergh’s non-fiction tribute And Everything is Going Fine is ultimately quite rewarding as a portrait of a man allowed to posthumously speak about himself. Limiting the scope of the doc exclusively to archive footage of interviews with Grey and segments of the famous monologues that defined his career, And Everything is Going Fine is an engrossing example of what happens when one’s life and one’s art become one in the same. With somebody who spoke so liberally about himself, the doc didn’t need to go to outside sources to give us an insightful view of the life of the man. — Landon Palmer

Barry Munday

Barry Munday is quite simply the funniest movie I have seen since The Hangover. While it wasn’t picked up for distribution before the festival, you can bet it will be picked up after the festival. I really can’t wait for my friends to be able to see this one. The film is hilarious and has a lot of heart. — Brian Gibson

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio

This is one of those films that wake you up, and make you realize that you have some responsibilities in this world. Happily though, the film doesn’t do it in a preachy way that makes you feel horrible about yourself. It is easy to watch a documentary like this one and want to run right out and start making a difference. The film is a wake up call that inspires the soul, feeds the mind with creativity and gives us hope for further generations. — Brian Gibson

Dogtooth

No film in recent memory has bestowed such great trust in audience intelligence to put what seem at first like completely disparate and unrelated pieces of information together into the meaningful, affecting portrait making up its whole. It takes about 20–30 minutes to really understand what is going on in Dogtooth, but it slowly, quietly assembles itself as a disturbing, darkly comic tale of an intricate project of oppression. The unusual tone of this film – being simultaneously upsetting and hilarious – is a hard one to achieve, but Greek filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos achieves it with an amazing level of control. Dogtooth will likely prove to be one of the most unique, memorable films I see this year. — Landon Palmer

Elektra Luxx

The follow-up to Women in Trouble, a film that made this very list in 2009, Elektra Luxx follows the tale of one particular woman, a porn star played by Carla Gugino. She’s still in trouble. Pregnant, her career in porn behind her and her life filled with people trying to take advantage, Elektra tries to navigate her own situation without suffering from a major breakdown. A wonderful supporting cast, including a very naked Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), a very funny Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) and a very square Justin Kirk (Weeds) add charm to the mix that keeps Elektra Luxx light and fun. And when combined with the smart writing of writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez, it’s still a winning combination. — Neil Miller

Enter the Void

I had a hard time reconciling the ambition of this movie with the often frustrating, indulgent stylistic process of achieving its goal, but several days later I just can’t get Gaspar Noe’s existential, semi-experimental epic journey out of my head. This is probably one of those movies that will get even richer and better with time and multiple viewings, and it should be experienced in its intended entirety (please don’t cut anything out, IFC). Enter the Void is a cinematic endurance test if there ever was one, but it’s ultimately a rewarding journey that occasionally displays the potential of cinema to transcend time and space. I can’t wait to see it again. — Landon Palmer

Four Lions

Is it too soon to make fun of terrorism? Not if it’s done right, says this unrelentingly funny film from Brit director Chris Morris. Four Jihadist extremists set out to fulfill their destiny in London, by striking a blow against their western enemies by blowing themselves up. The only problem is that they’re not exactly the brightest terrorists in the training camp, leading to a hilarious series of exploits that might get them to their final goal, but not in the way that they had planned. — Neil Miller

Kick-Ass

There is nothing quite like two played-out genres getting a simultaneous heel to the temple. Kick-Ass is unquestionably one of the best superhero films of all time as well as one of the smarter parodies of the last several years. The performance of young Chloe Moretz is so ballsy, so uproariously vulgar that you can’t help but fall in love with her. Nicolas Cage continues his win streak with a turn that channels Adam West in all his hokey glory. Non-stop fun, side-splittingly funny, and the most satisfying opening night film to any fest I have ever seen. — Brian Salisbury

The Loved Ones

Horror goes back to prom in this amazing little fable. The story is chockfull of allegory for growing up while satiating the gore appetites of hardcore fans. The pacing of the film is perfect; feeling like a careening boulder toward an inevitable climax. But that’s not to say that The Loved Ones does harbor a few special surprises. Robin McLeavy, as the spoiled sociopath, is phenomenal and I dare you to take your eyes off of her. — Brian Salisbury

Marwencol

Marwencol was the first film I chose to see this year, and I think I made the right choice. It went from being an interesting-sounding little documentary to one of my favorite docs of recent memory. While the film may not be for everyone, everyone could easily find some way to empathize with the subject and appreciate the honesty and beauty in the art that he creates. — Brian Gibson

Micmacs

The word ‘visionary’ gets tossed around quite often in the rhetoric of film criticism, but Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of the rare filmmakers for which the word appropriately applies. His visual sense is iconic and unmatched, but it is this marriage of the visual with his incredible storytelling abilities that make his films such a satisfyingly ‘full’ cinematic experience all around. Micmacs is probably his most playfully, cartoonishly whimsical film since Delicatessen, and it’s as much of a purely enjoyable experience as it is a journey into the limitless imagination of Jeunet. If Micmacs doesn’t leave a smile emblazoned on your face, you are not human. — Landon Palmer

The People vs. George Lucas

Few documentaries have moved me to such passion and rage as The People vs. George Lucas. The expectation going into this is that it will be 90 minutes of whining fanboys. While those wounded fanatics do add hilarious color commentary to the worst of Lucas’ offenses to that beloved film series, it is just as much an indictment of the crimes the man has committed against film as an artform. The clever usage of fan art and fan films is not only fascinating to watch, but really emphasizes the scope of the fandom of Star Wars. — Brian Salisbury

Thunder Soul

It would be a cliché to say that this film is the most soulful film that played SXSW, but it’s true. The story of a stage band director in Houston, Texas, Thunder Soul chronicles the life and times of a man who took kids off the street, gave them music and a purpose, and ultimately changed their lives. It’s a well-crafted documentary that tells a beautiful human story, and benefits from perfect timing, making for a bittersweet, heart-wrenching experience unlike any other documentary I saw at this year’s festival. — Neil Miller

Tony

This was one of the biggest surprises of the festival for me. An unheralded gem that brings a great deal of character back to horror. The serial killer film as a genre seemed to have mined all potential until Tony decided that a quiet, methodical character study was just the right spark to bring life back to mass murderers. The film delivers on all fronts and never cops out. The performance by lead actor Peter Ferdinando is unsettlingly brilliant. — Brian Salisbury

Waking Sleeping Beauty

I was walking into this one thinking it would just be Disney patting itself on the back for 90 minutes or so. I was dead wrong, this was all about the love of animation and nothing about the success. I had never heard that Disney was dangerously close to scrapping the entire animation department. This amazing story shows how that group of animators found something that Disney had been missing for over 30 years. — Brian Gibson

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the upcoming One Perfect Shot TV show (HBO Max, 2021) and the co-host of The Storm: A LOST Rewatch podcast. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)