A Cursory Introduction to A24 Films

The distribution company behind “Lady Bird” and “The Disaster Artist” is the most exciting force in the industry

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Anyone who claims that the film industry is in a state of creative bankruptcy pays too much mind to the franchises dominating the pop cultural landscape and not enough to the wonderful catalogue of works being produced by A24. The name may not ring loud and clear to most, but you’ve probably seen or, at the very least, caught wind of some of their notable releases: “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird,” “The Disaster Artist” and “Room,” to name a few.

Now, there’s a lot of junk out there, some of it polished enough to give off the illusion of authenticity to hide how soulless it is — per instructions from the Monopoly Man’s greedy little offspring calling shots behind the curtains. A24, like any company, wants to make money too; but what makes the company so damn exciting to see flourish is the heart within their business. Even for casual moviegoers, seeing the name A24 attached to a trailer should instill a rush of excitement. More often than not, it’s a signal of good things to come.

Created by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel and John Hodges in the fall of 2012, A24 quickly grew to be a beloved indie company by film buffs ever since their momentous start. Katz, Fenkel and Hodges aren’t exactly champions of modern day filmmaking, but they are in their own special way. There’s a tremendous pool of films that would not exist in the capacity that they do if not for distributors putting down their pennies on it. Leaving (high) positions in Guggenheim Partners, Oscilloscope and Big Beach to bet on a startup indie film company takes guts, and it takes belief; it’s important to commend actions like this when hotshots like Disney and Warner Bros are churning out movies with no sense of love or care.

2013 was their first year in business, with “Spring Breakers,” “The Bling Ring” and “The Spectacular Now” turning heads to the then-unknown company. Then, in 2014, they hit gold with the Oscar winning “Room.”

A GQ article from earlier this year compiles a bunch of the positive feedback stars like Patrick Stewart and directors like Sofia Coppola had to say about the company. Brie Larson (“Room,” “Spectacular Now”) remarks that “A24 has the unique ability to find and champion authentic narratives that cut to the core in a raw and honest way.”

But what good is my praise, is Larson’s praise, without some firm proof? A24’s got a hefty catalog of movies to check out, but I’ve picked out a handful to get the uninitiated initiated, a list of their must-watch films to get a sense of how they’re helping the film industry during its drought of artful cinema. This isn’t even a quarter of A24’s list of films, rather only a fraction of some of their strongest ones that may not have the strongest reach, but deserve to.

Hall of Fame

 

“Spring Breakers”

“Spring Breaaaaak.” Harmony Korine’s streak of unorthodox filming practices (my favorite: Wanting to distribute “Trash Humpers” in random locations) and divisive arthouse films culminated in his most successful film ever, “Spring Breakers,” one of A24’s first distributions. It’s wacky, a bit pretentious, but I can assure you it’s not as dumb as you might be lead to believe. Plus, Gucci Mane’s in it. Not sure how many other movies have got Gucci in them.

“The Spectacular Now”

Ok so this one is a bit corny but it’s legitimately a good coming-of-age film and I cannot bag on it for little more than my own petty criticisms. It’s one of the more accessible films to a mainstream audience for sure, so it’s a good starting point for someone not hoping to watch some cuckoo arthouse horror movie or anything remotely challenging.

“Enemy”

Cuckoo arthouse horror movie that is really challenging. Still thinking about this movie to this day and quite frankly if it doesn’t convince you of Denis Villeneuve’s position as one of the greatest directors working right now, nothing will.

“Under the Skin”

Cuckoo arthouse horror movie that is really challenging. Haunting in every sense of the word and the perfect display of Scarlett Johansson’s abilities as an actor. Can’t speak highly enough about Mica Levi’s score.

“Locke”

Tom Hardy. In a car. 85 minutes. Very intense.

“The Rover”

Imagine if someone stole your car. That would really suck! Only in “The Rover” it really, really sucks since it’s post the apocalypse and now you’re more hapless than when it was just the post-apocalypse. The silver lining: Robert Pattinson can lead you to your car and he’s also really dumb.

“Slow West”

Quite literally a slow western film. Even the shoot outs are relatively slow. But it’s the good kind of slow. Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee have a really interesting dynamic throughout the film that pays off excellently in the end and it’s easily one of the most memorable Westerns of the 2000’s.

“Ex Machina”

An entertaining sci-fi thriller that’s more cerebral than the average one in this category. Its jaw-dropping special effects, however, are the real star of the show (alongside Oscar Isaac’s dance moves).

“The Witch”

One of the most thoroughly unnerving horror films to be put out in recent memory. Gets under the skin like few others with its creepily advancing plot about a 17th century family being torn apart by the notion that a witch is tormenting them.

“Green Room”

A grueling white-knuckle thriller about a punk band squaring off with a bunch of Nazis armed with attack dogs, shotguns and machetes. Not for the faint of heart.

“The Lobster”

A lobster rises from the depths of the ocean to terrorize a coastal fishing village, avenging the deaths of its family. Just kidding, it’s about a weird dystopia where single people have to go to this estate and look for a mate within 30 days or else they get turned to an animal of their choice.

“Swiss Army Man”

Paul Dano is stranded on an island but Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse can fart so he rides him like a boat to try to make it back to civilization.

“A Ghost Story”

A man dies, becomes a sheet ghost and passes through time until like, 2078; Rooney Mara gets really sad and eats her first pie ever on-camera for, like, 9 minutes. It’s not very accessible to most folks but it’s a beautiful story for anyone willing to engage with its minimalist plot.

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