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.
For round 1, head over here.
8. Room (2015) | Dir: Lenny Abrahamson | Drafted by: Rick Copper
(Rick’s previous picks- The Florida Project)
Love a snake draft since it allows the last person from Round 1 to go first in Round 2. It’s not much of a steal to snag Room at pick 8 and in fact I was toggling between it and Uncut Gems which (SPOILER ALERT) Waleed grabbed at 9. Matt seems to think his second pick coming up at 12 is better than what we all picked before him this round, but Matt also thinks Paddington 2 deserved an Oscar.
Ok. Room. No one will argue this is the film that made Brie Larson a household name as she took home the Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Actress (she had fierce competition from Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, but I agreed with her victories).
Room is based upon a novel written by Emily Donoghue (who also penned the script prior to writing the novel), where Joy (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live in a tiny squalid shed on a man’s property, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) who kidnapped Joy seven years prior. You can do the math, but the boy is Old Nick’s kid. Small wonder, but Joy suffers from depression and malnutrition. You think?
Room is a fascinating psychological study not merely regarding the kidnapping and confinement, but the adjustment after Joy gets Jack free by getting him to play dead (and subsequently gets freed herself) as they must deal with her now-divorced parents and the norms of the outside world. It’s a great deal of turmoil making it a fascinating watch. As such, dare I say, make room for Room.
“That’s it Jack, it’s the only light we get. Yes, Old Nick is an asshole.”
9. Uncut Gems (2019) | Dir: The Safdie Brothers | Drafted by: Waleed Ismail
(Waleed’s previous picks- Everything Everywhere All At Once)
There has never been so much tragedy wrapped up into one movie. And I’m not just talking about the movie itself, which is one of the most anxiety-inducing films I have ever seen. The greatest tragedy is the absolute lack of recognition for the best acting performance of 2019… by Adam Sandler.
For all the talk about Joaquin Phoenix’s performance for The Joker, the fact that Adam Sandler was not nominated for his portrayal of a compulsive gambler is just plain nuts. It is just two hours of watching a man make every wrong decision a man can make. And it is incredible.
On top of that, Julia Fox as Sandler’s girlfriend creates a dynamic that manages to be incredibly toxic, while somehow being completely perfect for him.
Kevin Garnett brings it in this movie the way he killed it on the court. His final scene across Adam Sandler just had me on the edge of my seat. And it just doesn’t stop until the movie is over.
All in all, the Safdie Brothers absolutely killed it with this movie.
10: Eighth Grade (2018) | Dir: Bo Burnham | Drafted by: Josh Chuboff
(Josh’s previous picks- Moonlight)
The beauty of Eighth Grade is that it’s highly specific and generational. It’s the first movie to capture, in a major way, the teenage experience of those who have only existed on this planet during the digital era. There are, of course, all sorts of films that portray teenagers glued to their text messages and Instagram posts, plugging into the on-line stream. What Eighth Grade captures is how the omnipresent digital air we breathe has begun to make a profound mark on our social structure and personalities.
-Owen Glieberman, Variety
11. The VVitch (2015) | Dir: Robert Eggers | Drafted by: David Sitko
(David’s previous picks- The Farewell)
As a fan of horror movies, I am happy to leave a horror movie, simply entertained. A majority of horror films focus their tricks on jump scares, which only produce physical reactions to an immediate and abrupt change in visual and auditory stimulus. Which is fine. Great, for me. But what I’m saying, is that most of the time, I’m not scared, I’m just literally reacting to a loud noise and something jumping on screen. What myself and others chase, is that growing psychological terror. Something on screen doesn’t jump out at you. It slowly announces its presence, and your mind reacts in fear as it realizes what is going on. One of the best scenes in the last 20 years, for me, that encapsulates this feeling, is the scene where the witch introduces herself to the boy in this film. After that scene, I already knew I was going to see this movie multiple times in theaters, bringing others along, because I knew they were also looking for what this film puts out. I understand many will have trouble with the language barrier, but if you can get past that, you will be enjoying a modern classic. The amazing scores reminded me of classic horror from the 70s. The depth of attention to detail in this film is phenomenal. There is so much that goes into making a horror movie stand out, and this movie has it all.
12. The Lobster (2015) | Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos | Drafted by: Matt Drufke
(Matt’s previous picks- Ex Machina)
Ok, If I get to shit on Riki and Kate for not taking Ex Machina, then I have to dish it out to the other four dips in this draft who let my overall #2 A24 film fall into my lap despite each of them getting TWO PICKS EACH! I said with my first pick that A24 is amazing at letting brilliant artists make bold statements. And while Alex Garland made a tight and taut science-fiction thriller, with The Lobster, A24 let Yorgos Lanthimos make… well… I’m not exactly sure what this movie is, besides absolutely perfect.
In a world where you are transformed into an animal as a penalty for not finding love, Lanthimos and The Lobster create an insane set of rules for the world and do not care if the audience ever catches up. This is a sloppy work of genius; loose in its rules and always feeling like it is in absolute freefall, as Lanthimos’ best works usually do. You can call it a satirical look at how our society views marriage or as a pitch black comedy. It’s those things and a million more. That’s why it’s one of the best films of the century.
13. Climax (2018) | Dir: Gaspar Noe | Drafted by: Riki Adams
(Riki’s previous picks- Lady Bird)
This is one of the most viscerally uncomfortable flicks I’ve ever seen. The premise is a dance troupe is unknowingly dosed with LSD at a post-rehearsal party before they hit the road, and things go off the rails. Beautifully shot, the choreography between the camera and the actors as well as the actors and each other is stunning. It’s very French, and director Gaspar Noe is not for everyone. Sophia Boutella who (maybe?) is best recognized as the mummy opposite Tom Cruise in The Mummy carries the flick as our audience surrogate navigating the madness. The rest of the cast is predominantly made up of dancers rather than actors, and we are introduced to them in the first 10 mins through interviews (pay attention to the frame) which, like the rest of the film is largely improvised. The entire production took just a few months from conception in Jan 2018 through its premiere in May that same year. Filmed in 15 days in chronological order to allow for the story to organically develop, and with one shot lasting nearly half the film’s runtime at over 40mins without cuts (but plenty of movement and action) it’s a flick that one can feel really immersed in (for better or worse).
Potential Trigger Warnings- Overall generally not for the squeamish, drug/alcohol abuse, violence, sexual violence, and more I can’t reveal without spoilers but it’s intense. Also probably a strobe warning just to be safe.
14. Obvious Child (2014) | Dir: Gillian Robespierre | Drafted by: Kate Peterson
(Kate’s previous picks- The Blackcoat’s Daughter)
So I guess drafts mean like, if you go first in the beginning, the next round you go last or whatever. That’s ok, I did not have to worry about these nerdy comedian dudes taking my number 2 pick off the board because it has to do with girls and vaginas and love and everyone else on this project is TERRIFIED of those.
A24 is one of my favorite film studios because it takes chances on scripts and directors without much “market research” behind them. Some of the resulting films don’t make much money, but they might break new ground. Obvious Child is something Lena Dunham might’ve made if she were talented or charming. It’s also Gillian Robespierre’s writing and directorial debut, which you know, way to make us all feel like shit because your first movie ever is awesome, Gillian.
Obvious Child follows Donna, played with so much this-is-every-comedian-in-real-life energy by the extremely relatable Jenny Slade, a twenty-something stand up comic with no real plan or direction in life. Lucky for her, she has suspiciously wonderful/supportive friends and family, who know she’s capable of more than getting drunk at open mics and working in a financially doomed hipster bookstore, but they let her float about without judgment or consternation until she figures that out for herself. She’s just recently found out that her long-term boyfriend left her for one of her closest friends, because dudes do be like that. Thinking they had a real future together, she finds herself even more lost than she was in the first 4 minutes of the film.
Donna copes by having the worst set at a comedy show that would still count as better than anything i’ve done at the Shrine, and drinking her feelings with her Messy White Girl Standard Issue Gay Friend Ryan, played by the side-kickiest Paul Briganti, (who even buys her drinks)! I almost stopped the movie right the fuck there, because a stand-up comedian having money to buy another stand-up comedian drinks and who is also WILLING to do so is something even Spielberg can’t make believable, not with War of the Worlds budget money, but then Donna makes uncomfortably long eye contact with the adorable Max (played by Jake Lacey). Max, Donna, and Ryan drink and flirt until 4 or 5 fart jokes and 3 minutes of bad dance movies later, the aforementioned hook up. Donna wakes up the next morning and slips out like Max isn’t cute and can’t afford a decent apartment, because she doesn’t have time for all this right now.
Cut to several weeks later, when sore boobs and a bad joke made by her sister help Donna realize she is probably pregnant, later confirmed via urine-on-stick scene.
So it’s Knocked Up but in New York City, right? WRONG you cynical jerks! This isn’t a “now what am I going to do with my baby, oops we fell in love” pregnancy movie, this is an ABORTION movie. What makes Robespierre’s story so different is that Donna never really considers keeping the baby, because she understands immediately that it would be the worst idea ever. She is in no place financially or emotionally to be a mom, and she doesn’t know if she’d even want to be if all the other stuff in her life was hunky dory anyway. Most pregnancy-then-romance movies whisper about abortion, like it’s never actually something to be considered as a viable option, and that is absolutely insane. Abortion is (until recently) a legal medical procedure that nearly 1 out of every 4 American women have had.
Donna finds Max, who wants a relationship with her, because she wants to tell him about the pregnancy/abortion as she thinks he has a right to know, but she can’t figure out how. The chemistry between Slate and Jake Lacey is palpable/so much fun to watch, and they eventually catch feelings like idiots. Then something even more amazing happens: when Donna has the procedure, nobody is telling her she’s going to hell, or that she’ll regret it for the rest of her life, (in fact her mother says, “Oh thank God, I thought you were going to tell me you were moving to Los Angeles!”). The clinic’s not dark and scary, the doctor isn’t some murderous maniac holding a butcher knife and wearing a bloody apron. In fact, everyone in the facility goes out of their way to make sure Donna is comfortable and safe. It’s over in minutes, but we stay with Donna the entire time. The audience is made to understand that this is a big deal – a heavy and personal decision, but it was the right one for her and she will go and live her life normally without dying of guilt or cancer. I mean, she may still die from poverty though like a legit stand-up comic, so that could still be sad.
Max is supportive the entire time, and he wants to continue with their relationship. He doesn’t scream about how he had no say in the matter and he doesn’t take off on Donna because she’s damaged goods, he knew it was Donna’s choice and he was ok with that. It’s important for us to see this narrative, especially now. But Obvious Child isn’t a political movie, or atheist propaganda – it’s a grown up who is still growing up story, and the grown up happens to be female and so she faces real life female situations. This is a love story too because Donna is still loveable, even if she has an abortion.
Spoiler alert – she’s still a comic so neither her relationship nor her life will work out in any way shape or form after the credits roll.
What will round 3 have in store? Tune in next week to find out!