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Some Of The Things That Make A24 Indispensible

Have you ever seen the opening montage of Spring Breakers?

“Bikinis and Big Booties – That’s What It’s All About”

It’s a little too NSFW for our site so you’ll just have to stream it here or here, but we’re asking because that might have been the first time that A24 could have popped up on your radar.

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Back in 2013 before the indie film production powerhouse became a major player, it used to distribute films and Spring Breakers was their first. It was directed by Harmony Korine and stars James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Gucci Mane. Short on plot but stuffed with all the things that make spring break amazing (for some, at least) plus a lot of guns, violence and Skrillex tracks, Spring Breakers was an instant cult hit.

It’s important to note that A24 didn’t produce Spring Breakers, but they did promote and market it. They even generated a “for your consideration” campaign six months after the film’s release that caught steam quickly and was most likely the catalyst for Franco’s Best Supporting Actor win from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association that December.

We’re digressing but the point is that A24 made its mark.

The Beginning

A24’s first feature that it financed, produced and released was Moonlight. At the Oscars in 2017, it got eight nominations and won three including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali and Best Adapted Screenplay for Barry Jenkins (who was also the director).

It seemed like a fluke for the three New Yorkers – Daniel Katz, David Fenkel and John Hodges – who according to Sofia Coppola, “… don’t have the personality of movie executives.” (A24 distributed Coppola’s 2013 film, The Bling Ring.)

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Perhaps this was their appeal. The timing was good for A24, who pretty much stepped in when smaller studios like FilmDistrict and Relativity Media had folded. The space was open for a real independent company to jump in and take some risks. “I think they arrived at an opportune time when specialty distributors were closing or becoming more risk-averse, so there were interesting, commercial-adjacent films out there that needed a home,” said filmmaker Chad Hartigan in an interview back in March with The Guardian. His comedy, Morris From America, was picked up by A24 in 2016.

Moonlight also struck while the iron was hot. In 2017 when the Trump administration was dialing back civil rights, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s adapted screenplay of the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue hit a nerve with Academy members.

“The biggest thing that stood out to me — and why I was so ready to make Moonlight — was that I always felt you could feel the filmmakers’ voices in their films,” Jenkins told The Washington Post back in August 2017. “That’s why everyone says, ‘I know what an A24 film is, but no A24 film is like any other.”

Redefining Horror

A new-ish cinematic buzzterm that keeps popping up is “elevated horror.” This subgenre, can’t be talked about without mentioning Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019). 

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A24 is known for making their trailers a little … ambiguous? Part of their marketing scheme, it helps create the aura around the film, drawing viewers in with plots and storylines that might not be as traditionally “scary” as what’s shown in the trailers. Elements like jump scares and gratuitous gore are traded out for suspenseful, anticipatory pauses and intelligent metaphors and symbolism.

Or what of It Comes At Night? The 2017 psychological twister that just feels … stressful. It was marketed as a horror film about two separate families hiding away after society begins crumbling because of some kind of pandemic. Lamba 2021 Icelandic film directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, is about a couple who, after the loss of their daughter, come into possession of a lamb-human hybrid that they adopt as their own. Horror or fantasy?

“A24 has enjoyed the benefit of its broader library; it’s a studio with its hand in just about every genre, and its fervent fans will often give its output a chance regardless of genre. It also probably helps that A24’s horror releases have often been more darkly contemplative and immersive than scary—a quality that has made its films uniquely welcoming to viewers who have usually skipped the horror genre more broadly,” wrote Laura Bradley of Vanity Fair in December 2019.

They’re Not Afraid To Take Risks

Ari Aster’s Beau is Afraid, with a huge budget of $35M, was total flop at the box office this past spring.

This very ambitious, three-plus-hour tragicomedy stars Joaquin Phoenix as an anxious man-boy, plagued by the harsh world around him. It’s all too much for Beau as he needs to get to his mother’s funeral and unfortunately, realizes many of his greatest fears on his way there.

It seems it was all too much too for audiences. Aster told Vanity Fair in October that he was “disappointed” with the audiences’ reactions.

“When you make a film like this, it feels in some ways like you’re just pulling yourself inside out. With this film especially as it came out, I felt very protective of it,” he said. “I always knew the film was going to be polarizing and it’s designed to be divisive.”

The latest heavy buzz around the web bodes well for Aster as it says A24 is keeping him on the payroll for his latest film, Eddington, also starring Joaquin Phoenix. It’s a noir Western that takes place in New Mexico during the pandemic. (A24’s involvement has yet to be confirmed.)

This Month’s New Release

The Grand Prix winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, The Zone of Interest is based on a 2014 novel by British author Martin Amis.

A24 doesn’t have a singular or a signature style. Their films can be risky and/or made to push boundaries. They’re guided by their unique sense of perspective. The Zone of Interest checks these boxes.

It’s based on the life of Auschwitz commandant, Rudolf Höss, and his wife, Hedwig who aim to live their best lives with their five children in a house and garden next to the Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Poland.

The film is also England’s submission to the 96th Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film. German actress Sandra Hüller comes in hot this year with this performance and also as the star of Anatomy of a Fall from the French director Justine Triet. Anatomy of a Fall was the Palme d’Or winner at Cannes this year.

The Zone of Interest opens on December 15.


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