As A24 Films celebrates it’s tenth anniversary this year, every cinephile has to admit that this company has quickly risen to one of the most impressive studios releasing movies today. Their films are commercially successful, critically acclaimed, and adored by film geeks all over the universe. As an exercise, we gathered a group we loving call the Fancy Boys Film Society (Matt Drufke, Rick Copper, Kate Peterson, Riki Adams, Waleed Ismail, David Sitko and Joshua Chuboff) and while sports nerds were doing their fantasy football drafts, we had them create a fantasy A24 roster. For six rounds, each picked their favorite films from the acclaimed studio. Here is that draft.
1. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) | Dir: Oz Perkins | Drafted by: Kate Peterson
Coming out of the gate with a stunner, my first pick from A24 is sure to make Matt Drufke cry because it wasn’t Ex Machina, but he has to give credit where credit’s due – The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a fantastically dark and unmappable horror gem. I chose Oz Perkins’ directorial debut because, in my humble opinion, it embodies A24 perfectly. This is the only studio that could’ve made this movie. The sullen, weird, twisty story needed to be produced by the same place that gave us The Witch.
We begin (just as we end) in a nightmare. Kat sees her parents burning in a car crash and screams, only to wake in her boarding school dorm. It’s just a dream, right? This is the last day of school before break, and everyone’s parents are picking them up. Kat’s mother and father haven’t shown up yet, and can’t be reached by phone. They probably just went out for some cigarettes and will be right back. In the meantime, she’ll have to spend her break on campus with only the company of two nuns and the slightly older Rose, who gave her parents the wrong pickup date so she could stay behind and see her douche nozzle boyfriend.
Am I missing anyone? I feel like I am…there’s definitely another character hanging around….oh yeah, I remember, SATAN. That’s right, Satan has decided to fill the vacuum of authority and love in Kat’s life from the boiler room, but he can’t just come out and say hello, right? He has to start slowly, like when you ease into a hot bath….with snakes in it. A phone call with static and whispers here, some chants and instructions coming from the pipes there, this has the good kind of jump scares, not that Paranormal Activity 7 shit.
Despite her best efforts to ignore Kat, Rose finds herself worried about boarding school Jan Brady. Kat is behaving strangely, she seems frightened and is doing a lot of weird convulsing and contorting into positions human beings aren’t supposed to be in, she’s PRAYING TO THE BOILER. Not your regular bitchy-teenage-girl strange.
These scenes are intercut with a storyline from the future, where we see Joan (Emma Roberts) waking up in a hotel room. Joan seems to have just gone through something awful, she looks rough, but like she’s on a mission. She cuts a hospital bracelet off her wrist in the bathroom and has flashbacks of murdering a nurse. She does her best to hide her thoughts and intentions from the nicest Canadian-esque couple that ever existed as she hitches a right with them up north. They’ve taken pity on poor Joan after finding her alone in the middle of nowhere. After all, it’s freezing out and there’s a storm coming (oh boy is there ever).
Stick with this film, even if you find the timeline back-and-forth a bit confusing (as I did at first).
The lighting, music, and long hallway shots convey a feeling of utter loneliness that’s just brutal. Everyone is going through something terrible. By the time you finally see blood, it’s horrifying and visceral, something like the shower scene in Psycho. A24 gives another film that asks, “Why fight the darkness when it has such a warm embrace?”
2. Lady Bird (2017) | Dir: Greta Gerwig | Drafted by: Riki Adams
My love for this movie mostly stems from this- I also grew up catholic and relatively poor in a well to-do city (on an admittedly different scale), chock full of resentment for circumstances I wasn’t yet mature enough to understand, and didn’t really grasp until later in life. This flick spoke to me.
It registers, as an adult, the heartbreak of the parents as they struggle to keep the bills paid, the frustration they have with their child who is too wrapped up in her own shit to understand how fraught their situation is, but also remembering being a teen caught up in my own shit and having adversarial relationships with my parents… it’s all palpable and played expertly. The relationship between Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf is so tense and real the air is constantly thick with things they can’t say. In her first outing as sole writer/director Greta Gerwig really captured something I appreciated. And the supporting cast is dynamite- while the leading mother daughter pair are the highlight, the father played by Tracy Letts manages to convey the metaphorical weight he carries on his shoulders in every word he utters, Timothée Chalamet entered my consciousness for the first time playing every soft boy shit head using detachment and coolness to manipulate dates, and Beanie Feldstein 2 years before her leading role in Booksmart shines as Lady Bird’s best friend weathering the growing distances between them. A24 has a handful of coming of age stories. This is one of the best (and I’ll be talking about others in further draft picks).
Potential Trigger Warnings- Portrayals of emotional abuse/narcissism within the family, eating disorders, alcohol abuse
3. Ex Machina (2014) | Dir: Alex Garland | Drafted by: Matt Drufke
So, Ex Machina was my overall number one A24 film and the fact that it fell to number four, with as little offense to Kate and Riki as possible, is just goddamned criminal. Not only is Alex Garland’s debut film the best film the studio has made, but I think Ex Machina just may be the most A24 film in their entire catalog. Because to me, this studio is all about letting talented artists make bold statements, and this film is the fucking definition of that.
Using basically one location and a small crew, Garland uses all of this minimalism to ask some very big questions, chief among them, “What does it mean to be alive” Each of the three main characters, played perfectly by Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Issac, are using each other against each other in an insane game of 19-dimensional chess. And Garland is able to sew it all together effortlessly. Ex Machina isn’t just the best A24 movie. It’s one of the best science-fiction movies ever made.
4. The Farewell (2019) | Dir: Lulu Wang | Drafted by: David Sitko
First round picks. In fantasy football, you choose a player in the first round that you believe will bring the most points to your team, consistently. You believe this person to be the best fantasy player in the league, short of anyone that somebody else has picked before you. I picked The Farewell, because it’s not just one of the best A24 movies I have ever seen. It’s one of the best movies I have ever seen, period. As the child of immigrant parents, I have never seen a movie so accurately portray what it’s like visiting the ‘home country” so true, regardless of ethnicity. While most other of my favorite A24 movies delve outside the realm of realism, The Farewell plants both heels deep into a realistic portrayal of a family drama. Amazing pacing, with a great mix of seriousness and humor, and one can’t help but leave this film moved by the performances and the story.
5. Moonlight (2016) | Dir: Barry Jenkins | Drafted by: Josh Chuboff
It is one of those rare pieces of filmmaking that stays completely focused on its characters while also feeling like it’s dealing with universal themes about identity, sexuality, family, and, most of all, masculinity. And yet it’s never preachy or moralizing. It is a movie in which deep, complex themes are reflected through character first and foremost. Jenkins’ film is confident in every single aspect of the way that a critic can use that word. Every performance, every shot choice, every piece of music, every lived-in setting—it’s one of those rare movies that just doesn’t take a wrong step, and climaxes in a scene not of CGI or twists but of dialogue that is one of the best single scenes in years.
-Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
6. Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) | Dir: Daniels | Drafted by: Waleed Ismail
I am thrilled that the number one movie on my board fell to me, while also being incredibly disappointed in everyone ahead of me. While I love a lot of these movies, I don’t think there is a movie that spoke to me like Everything Everywhere All At Once.
This isn’t just the top movie on my A24 list. It is one of the best movies of the last ten years. It walks an incredibly fine line between the absurd and the emotional. If you have immigrant parents, I think this movie hits especially hard.
There is a line in the movie where Ke Huy Quan asks Michelle Yeon if she feels it. Something is off. Your clothes never wear as well the next day. Your hair never falls quite the same way. Even your coffee tastes wrong. Our institutions are crumbling.
If you feel this in your bones the way I do, this is the movie for you. This is a two and a half existential crisis and it is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
7. The Florida Project (2017) | Dir: Sean Baker | Drafted by: Rick Copper
I’m jealous Riki snagged Lady Bird, but I expected it to be gone before I got to Pick 7 in the draft. I did not expect The Florida Project to still be here, but then I had forgotten Matt’s love for a movie I fell asleep watching – twice.
What makes The Florida Project so good? Named after the in-house code for Disney when they were working their plans to slowly buy property in the swamps of Orlando until they squeezed out the final people holding out, The Florida Project is a film full of tragic socioeconomics with everything schmaltzy about America, including Disneyworld, juxtaposed with the harsh reality of those live every day on the edge.
When you’re a child, your entire life is predicated upon how your parents run… or ruin… their lives. Moonee is a little girl whose father is absent, and mother has no appreciable skills for the normal work force with seemingly no desire to get some. As such they live in a 2-story hotel managed by Bobby (excellently played by Willem Dafoe) that’s basically a seedy apartment building called the Magic Castle Inn & Suites (never saw a suite in the film) in Kissimmee, Florida.
Thanks to her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite – an Instagram discovery), Moonee lives day-by-day, playing in abandoned buildings and getting free food from another tenant who works at the local breakfast diner. She lives her life as a fantasy until reality slaps her right in the face at the end. Does Moonee escape her fate and get to Disneyworld? That’s up to the viewer to decide and I am not tossing my opinion out here for Matt to stomp all over. Watch the film!
“Moonee, your mom is… well… fucking crazy.”
Look for Round 2 next week!