Top 10 Worst A24 Films

A24 produces some amazing movies and even the misses aren’t absolutely terrible movies. Ok, well, the #1 spot is, but the rest are somewhat redeemable. Keep in mind this is my own personal opinion and not what I’m declaring as law. If you disagree, let me know in the comments section, ya bastard.

10. The Florida Project

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directed by: Sean Baker; written by: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch

cast: Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Mela Murder, Caleb Landry Jones, Macon Blair, Sandy Kane, Chris Bergoch

2017 / USA / 111 minutes

Wow, I can already feel the anger brewing in the comments section and as I write, I haven’t even posted this yet. I watched this movie three times, THREE times, hoping that I just didn’t get it or fully understand what it was going for. All three times I arrived at the same conclusion – this is just uncomfortable, exploitive poverty porn that sees its struggling subjects as nothing more than Maury Povich guests and tries to dazzle us with credible performances (mostly from a wonderful Willem Dafoe, who belongs in a better movie) and gorgeous purples and pinks. I don’t think they tap into any sort of humanity in the characters besides Dafoe‘s, especially with Bria Vinaite‘s mother character. You can argue that this is sometimes how people are, but I disagree. There’s dignity in everyone, Sean Baker just wasn’t looking deep enough. It’s really a shame because I actually quite like his previous film, Tangerine, a micro-budget, iPhone-filmed dramedy about a trans prostitute looking for her pimp’s cheating ass on Christmas Eve. (Streaming on NETFLIX)

9. Lamb

directed by: Valdimar Johannsson ; written by: Sjon and Valdimar Johannsson

cast: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snaer Guonason, Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson

2021 / Iceland / Poland / Sweden / 106 minutes

You know you’re in dire straits when you’re wishing a movie was about the non-verbal animal characters rather than the two humans it presents. That’s exactly what you wish in Valdimar Johannsson‘s lusciously captured but mostly hollow motherhood story about a pair of farmers in Iceland that decide to parent a half-lamb, half-human hybrid one of their herd gave birth to. The problem lies mostly with the protagonists, two of the most boring, one-note characters I’ve ever had to sit with for the duration of a movie. At least one-dimensional characters in action films are too busy shooting or jumping for you to give a shit, but here we’re imprisoned by some of the most rote, sitting around doing nothing on the farm scenes I’ve ever had to watch. I almost bit my own arm off, I was so bored. The more interesting scenes of the film involve the POV of the sheep who realize something is wrong with the humans trying to raise a lamb as one of their own. When animals capable only of staring and nudging gates with their noses are upstaging your talking characters, you’re in deep shit. The whole thing ends with a bit of a shock, shocking at first because it’s unexpected and then shocking on the ride home because you realize it was the most straightforward thing they could have done with this story. ($19.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

8. Menashe

directed by: Joshua Z. Weinstein; written by: Joshua Z. Weinstein & Alex Lipschultz & Musa Syeed

cast: Menashe Lustig, Ruben Niborski, Yoel Weisshaus, Meyer Schwartz, Yoel Falkowitz, Josh Alpert

2017 / USA / 82 minutes

Speaking of boring, Menashe may only be 82 minutes but it felt like three hours in a theater. It’s the story of an orthodox Jewish community that won’t allow single dads to take care of their children. They must be married or the kid will grow up to be a serial killer. If this sounds harsh well then, that’s what the movie wants you to think. Menashe is about a man who lost his wife, is fat and bumbling so isn’t really prime real estate for a sexual partner, so the church wants to take away his child. It would be more affecting if I connected more with these characters. I expected to since I am in fact Jewish (a quarter on my mother’s side) and a notorious lard ass, but I just didn’t. Organized religion bugs the shit out of me and the more fundamentalist it is, the more annoyed I am. While I understand the point of this is to say this law is super fucked up, I just didn’t find myself caring enough about the protagonist and his son. This thing needed a character development script touch-up, yesterday. (Streaming on NETFLIX)

7. The Souvenir

written & directed by: Joanna Hogg

cast: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton, Richard Ayoade, Ariane Labed, Jaygann Ayeh, Jack McMullen

2019 / UK / USA / 120 minutes

A two-hour journey into the life of that one girl you hated in film school. You know, the one with a bevy of wealth and no discernible talent? Yeah, that one. Here she’s played, in a pretty lifeless performance, by Tilda Swinton‘s daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne. No one is a bigger fan of nuanced acting/micro-expressions than me, but this crosses the line into non-acting. She’s just there, taking up space, much like her character. No offense to Tilda or her daughter, I’m sure they’re both lovely people IRL. I just could not find anything nice to say about this performance other than it’s not so obnoxious it makes me want to stab my eyes out with a toenail trimmer. Tom Burke delivers the performance of the film as her heroin-addled, narcissistic boyfriend (even more narcissistic than her character). Sounds like a recipe for drammmmaaaaa, but this is the dullest emotionally abusive couple situation I’ve ever seen in a movie. Someone throw a chair or even a pie. He, along with an appearance by Richard Ayoade, almost saves the movie but alas, it’s two hours of not giving a shit. On the plus side, it’s shot incredibly well and obviously directed by someone who knows what they’re doing. (Streaming on Amazon Prime)

6. The Disaster Artist

directed by: James Franco; written by: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, Megan Mullaly, Jason Mantzoukas, Andrew Santino, Nathan Fielder, Sharon Stone, John Early, Melanie Griffith, Hannibal Burress, Charlyne Yi, Jessie Ennis, Randall Park, Bob Oedenkirk

2017 / USA / 104 minutes

I’m a big fan of the glorious awfulness of Tommy Wiseau‘s The Room and I’m a big fan of the hilarious book The Disaster Artist, that co-star Greg Sestero wrote. However, this movie adaptation feels like a hat on top of a hat – totally useless. They don’t really approach this insane real-life character with any form of seriousness or desire to get at what emotional problem drives his bizarre behavior, which is fine, but if their only point is to point and laugh at how ridiculous he is…why not just watch The Room? The Room is way funnier than your favorite Apatow stars slapping on wigs and impersonating a movie that’s way over-the-top to begin with. Also, why do you want to support James Franco? (Streaming on NETFLIX)

5. The Bling Ring

written & directed by: Sofia Coppola

cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann

2013 / USA / France / 90 minutes

When it comes to pretty-looking but confoundingly hollow movies, Sofia Coppola‘s name usually fizzles to the top of my brain. Granted, Lost in Translation was a bit of a fluke. It’s a surprisingly deep character study about two lonely and wounded people getting an appetizer of a what if?, different-life-scenario for the brief span of a Tokyo vacation. The Virgin Suicides was also all right, but Somewhere, Marie Antoinette, and in this case, The Bling Ring, are all lacking in the humanity department. It’s pretty rich people living bougey lives in LA or Versailles and like hella depressed their life has no meaning. With The Bling Ring it’s even worse because it’s about people who aren’t those people but want to be so they break into their houses and steal their shit/live vicariously through their shoe collection. This is actually a somewhat interesting story if they took the time to actually flesh out the teen robbers in a way that didn’t seem so static. There’s literally nothing to hold onto or be attached to here other than spoiled hot young sociopaths being totes naughty. (Streaming on NETFLIX)

4. High Life

directed by: Claire Denis ; written by: Claire Denis & Jean-Pol Fargeau & Geoff Cox

cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, Andre Benjamin, Agata Buzek, Lars Eidinger, Claire Tran, Ewan Mitchell

2018 / France / Germany / Poland / UK / USA / 113 minutes

As good as Robert Pattinson is in this and as much as I love hearing him say the line “I think you’re foxy and you know it” to Miss Chocolat herself, Juliette Binoche, I just couldn’t grasp what the fuck this disturbing trainwreck of a movie was going for. It’s like someone ate 2001: A Space Odyssey with a half-gallon of whole milk and then had the shits for two hours and tried to form the remnants into a model replica of Discovery One. It’s in the future and this scientist lady is using felons to go up into space and do dangerous work. It’s like a space chain gang! There’s also this big black sex chair in a private room where people can go to get stuff inserted in their holes or insert their poles into holes. Is this supposed to be funny? I found it frequently disengaging and overwhelmingly pretentious, it’s the cinematic equivalent of a Victorian-era mocking laugh. The joke is on us, I guess. (Streaming on SHOWTIME)

3. Under the Silver Lake

written & directed by: David Robert Mitchell

cast: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Don McManus, Jeremy Bobb, Rikki Lindhome, Zosia Mamet, Patrick Fishler, Jimmi Simpson, Sydney Sweeney

2018 / USA / 139 minutes

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. David Robert Mitchell‘s previous film, It Follows, was one of the greatest horror films of the 21st century, overflowing with great ideas and a wholly original villain/premise. His follow-up is an overflowing mess, overlong by about an hour and most awkwardly, a quirky satire that isn’t funny at all. Andrew Garfield plays an aimless slacker and ultimately unlikeable protagonist that manages to fuck every woman he ever meets. He uncovers a conspiracy that every piece of pop culture that we love is actually written by the same person who I guess is representative of some sort of underground society of #pizzagate dudes that run the world through the entertainment industry. It’s such a convoluted mess and its outrageous quirky swings are too dumb to really hit. The first half-hour or so captures your attention but quickly after you realize there’s not much more to this movie. Unsurprisingly, it was pulled from release last-minute and dumped on VOD. I’m hoping for a documentary on this so we can finally understand why one of the most promising new writer/directors of the 2010s crashed and burned so suddenly. (Streaming on SHOWTIME)

2. The Green Knight

written & directed by: David Lowery

cast: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Ralph Ineson

2021 / Canada / Ireland / UK / USA / 130 minutes

from my review published 8/6/21

The amazing and gorgeous visuals of David Lowery‘s The Green Knight are completely wasted on a supremely undercooked and emotionally vacant adaptation of the 14th-century poem (took them long enough to adapt, huh?), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The problem lies not only in the screenplay, or lack thereof (couldn’t have been more than 14 pages) but in the pacing as well. I love a good slow burn as long as I have something to hold onto, any character or piece of information that is relatable that can navigate my way through the story. I don’t have to be spoon-fed, in fact, I detest it, but give me something. Mulholland Drive, for as unconventional and bizarre as it is, remains engaging because the audience cares about Naomi Watts‘ character and her emotional journey. The even more avant-garde Eraserhead is compelling because at its core it’s really about the frightening responsibility of parenthood as seen through a slimy, shell-less hermit crab monster baby. The Green Knight is so obtuse it’s almost impossible to follow, and since we don’t understand any of the characters, we end up not caring. It’s not even obtuse in an organic way, it’s like it’s own living organism or thing. It’s forcefully obtuse like the filmmaker panicked at the thought of the film being too narratively straightforward and the characters/motivations skewing too modern, so we end up with a big pretty pile of nothing. It’s like The Green Knight is frantically trying to decide itself what it wants to be while we watch it. The cast is uniformly excellent but they all struggle to be memorable with the lack of character development they’re given. Joel Edgerton is a king or something, Alicia Vikander has a double role as a poor peasant lady and a queen person, and Dev Patel gets outshone by his own cumshot. The only bit player that manages to assemble something memorable is the always great Barry Keogan, whose vagrant land pirate slyly reveals several layers of mental illness while throwing sticks into the distance and yelling paranoid how-do-you-do’s. I admire so many technical elements of this film and while I think it’s ultimately a failure, it’s extremely evident that so much talent went into making this. Only a talented filmmaker could have the confidence to lay an incomprehensible smelly egg like this. It’s far and away the most interesting thing in the multiplexes, it’s just not a good kind of interesting. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

1. Tusk

written & directed by: Kevin Smith

cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Johnny Depp, Matthew Shively, Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp

2014 / USA / 101 minutes

The only flat-out terrible movie on this list of course came from Kevin Smith. There’s nothing redeeming about this deeply unfunny and deeply unsettling horror comedy about some raving lunatic (Michael Parks) who turns some poor boy (Justin Long) into a walrus. I guess Smith was banking on the premise and execution being so out there that it translated into hilarity, but the only thing it translated was my mood from good to dog shit. Smith showed signs of slipping with the wildly uneven Red State, another horror comedy loosely based on the Westboro Baptist Church (you know, the God hates f—- guys). That film at least had a good first half (thanks to a mesmerizing turn by Parks) before completely collapsing on itself in the Waco-inspired second half. Tusk doesn’t have a good half, it’s just a really stupid idea that should have been a one-page Fangoria short turned into an hour and forty-one-minute movie. But all is not lost, the film’s totally forgettable Hoosier Circle K clerk characters (played by Smith‘s daughter and Depp‘s daughter) went on to have their own movie that I’ll never end up seeing. (Streaming on SHOWTIME)

Dishonorable Mention

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

So this takes place in an imaginary world where human beings never emote yet we’re supposed to somehow feel sympathy for them. Hmmm. Ok. Michael Haneke called, he wants his Funny Games vibes back. Barry Keogan is really good in this, though. (Streaming on NETFLIX)

A Most Violent Year (2014)

The sleepiest crime drama I ever did see, A Most Violent Year could have benefitted from more violence or really, more action of any kind. I understand it’s trying to show how difficult it is to run a successful legitimate major business in America and how it’s almost impossible not to cut corners in its own nuanced little way, but it does that so lethargically. The acting is solid, I guess, with Jessica Chastain delivering a pretty firey monologue. I wish the movie was just that monologue 117 times. (Streaming on SHOWTIME)

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