The Best and Worst Films of SXSW 2014


The Great Invisible
The winner of this year’s feature documentary Grand Jury Prize revisits the Deep Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill, which dumped 176 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days in 2010. It gives you what you pay for — stunning figures, accounts of mind-boggling hypocrisy and incompetence, and endless rage. We know the facts; director Margaret Brown’s skill is in drawing out the characters, from shellshocked survivors to family members left behind to Roosevelt Harris, a straight-talking and kind food bank volunteer who provides the heart and soul of the picture. It’s easy to get depressed by this kind of thing, but Harris provides a valuable counterpoint, reminding us of the goodness that inevitably appears in the wake of a nightmare.

The Mend
John Magary’s debut feature requires some patience — it has no earthly idea when or how to end, and does quite a bit of meandering on its way there. But it does so charmingly, telling the story of two brothers (Stephen Plunkett and Josh Lucas — remember him?) whose lives are sort of falling apart at the same time in a New York apartment that’s in barely better shape. Magary’s got a cockeyed storytelling style, but the picture’s looseness is much of its appeal; he’s got a good ear for conversational dialogue, a real knack for creating a lived-in vibe, and just hanging out there for a while.