A love-letter to A24

A24, the american film distribution, production and finance company, was formed back in 2013, and started off their list of theatrical releases with Roman Coppola’s, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlie Swan III. Since then they’ve produced and distributed a handful of movies, among them; Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.


(This article was originally posted on october 5. 2014, but for reasons unknown, disappeared from our archive. Here’s the backup)

Released on Video on Demand (VOD) late last week, they’re also credited as distributors of Gillian Robespierre’s brilliant, Obvious Child. In their “films” library, we can also point to Kevin Smith’s Tusk, David Michôd’s The Rover, and Steven Knight’s Locke – of released movies. Before we continue to explain why they deserve to be credited as one of, if not the, best distribution company today, I’d like to point to some of their upcoming releases. J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, and Atom Egoyan’s The Captive.

I would implore you to check out their website to get a better look at how much talent they’ve backed and supported since they began just last year. We first took note of their name when we re-watched Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring earlier this year, two of our favorite movies from 2013, and was surprised to see their vignette in a couple of our most anticipated movies of 2014 as well. Now we’ve finally seen Obvious Child, and feel like it’s time to spread the word, and hopefully get a discussion going as to how and why they have had such an impact on the industry in just one year.

(Full disclosure: We have not seen every movie from A24, so here is the list we’re basing our opinion on; A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlie Swan III, Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring, The Spectacular Now, Enemy, Under the Skin, Locke, The Rover and Obvious Child.)

Movies

The first indication as to why A24 is worth a look, is their list of movies – either distributed or produced. We’ve picked four of them, both to introduce new people to these fantastic movies, but also to exemplify the diversity and similarities within their catalogue.

Spring Breakers

While Spring Breakers received mixed reviews – it currently holds a 65% critic rating at Rotten Tomatoes – it seemed to be divided into a love it or hate it mixture, and we are definitely in the latter camp. Written and directed by Harmony Korine, this neon-stylised teen-party odyssey, is titled perfectly as, Spring Breakers.

There is nothing new to be said to invite a new audience to this movie, as it became a huge talking point late last year. Some people loved it with all of their heart – so much so that it’s possible to spot on plenty a best of the year lists – while the other party hated it, not having a single word of positivity be anything other than idiocy. So, we’ll leave you with our review of the movie, as well as these words of wisdom; You’ll either love it with a fiery passion, or hate it. Not too much to loose.

Enemy

Denis Villeneuve broke through internationally with his 2013 movie, Prisoners. It holds a strong 82% at Rotten Tomatoes, and is listed as the third best movie of the year on our list. Only a few months later, audiences could get a look at his new movie at different film festivals. It starred Jake Gyllenhaal in two different roles, in the surreal hyper-stylised psychological thriller, Enemy.

We follow Adam Bell, a seemingly depressed history professor, who spots his exact lookalike in a movie recommended to him by a colleague. He sets out to meet and talk to this actor, Anthony Clair, and before he knows it, becomes intertwined in a web of lies, deceits and a seemingly inescapable darkness. It is without a doubt one of the best movies of the year…

Under the Skin

Despite the danger of sounding like a broken record, this is one of the most interesting and thought provoking movies of the year. Writer and director, Jonathan Glazer’s last movie came out in 2003, and it’s been a long wait for this difficult-to-explain, alien-seductress movie about humanity.

Scarlett Johansson is placed as the movies main character, an alien whom drives around in Scotland to seduce men and invite them into a dark and horrid void, where she leaves them to die – and or be turned into goo for one reason or another. We compared the opening sequence to that of Stanley Kubrick’s work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, so if that doesn’t tell you enough of this movies overall qualities, not much will.

Obvious Child

As I said earlier, this movie finally hit VOD late last week, and gave us the opportunity to watch it. It’s been described as an abortion comedy, and while it’s about abortion and is utterly hilarious at times, this description doesn’t do it justice at all.

Jenny Slate plays a stand-up comedian, who – to keep it short – can be compared to a less straight-faced, Sarah Silverman on stage. She can talk and joke about most anything, which includes the sex life with her boyfriend. Said boyfriend disapproves, and leaves her. Drunken on self-pity and more, she takes to the stage to perform a somewhat awkward show about her ex, the holocaust and more. That is also the night were she meets, Max, played by The Office’s, Jake Lacy. Sex ensues, then pregnancy, and followed by a few dates with two possible outcomes. It’s an honest movie, and because so many people can’t handle the truth, it becomes categorised as an abortion comedy.

Directors

Perhaps more interesting to talk about, is the list of directors you can find connected to A24.

Harmony Korine

Harmony Korine started his career as most everyone does; working in different departments on a few film shoots, but he managed to something very few people do. He forced his name in to film history in 1995 – at age 21 – with the screenplay for Larry Clark’s, Kids.

Since then his name has always been associated with controversy and trashy cinematic aesthetics, from his brilliantly overlooked directorial debut, Gummo to the not-as-brilliant Trash Humpers. With Spring Breakers he continued his legacy of contemporary teen-culture, with no moral compass or adulterated judgement. This is also the aspect of his work most people seem to criticise, but it is is also one of his greatest attributes as a director and writer. He can tell a story, in which you despise, hate or look down upon the characters, but he does so to slap us in the face with a harsh reality. There is no black and white side in morality, as most wants to believe – “I’m a good person. I finished High School, and never took any drugs” -, but rather a grey sone where everyone has their own faults and merits. He does this in a way few other directors could, even if they dared.

While Gummo and quite a few of his short films have a distinct audiovisual style, none of them seem to be plagiarising the other – always striving to to something new and different. The dreamlike quality of Spring Breakers can easily be associated with the floating carefree feel of Kids, but at their core, they’re completely different.

Sofia Coppola

I like to start with the Coppola family three every time I write or talk about Sofia and her movies, but as the years have passed, I don’t think its necessary any longer. She has stepped out from the shadow of her father, Francis Ford Coppola, and her name is as equally recognisable alone, as it is alongside references to Apocalypse Now and The Godfather. 

Take a quick look at her filmography; Somewhere, The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and her most recent, under the A24 brand, The Bling Ring. She’s a difficult one to pin down, which has a lot to do with the forementioned movies, but equally so because she’s a diversive director. Either you love her, or you hate her.

She often plays with young adult characters with a different definition of the word maturity. They can perhaps resite Proust, but call their mothers to fill in their tax forms – somewhat in the same vain as Lena Dunhams characters. I find it intruging – a certain unique look at the modern trancendance from youthhood – while many call it pretentius and dangerous.

Denis Villeneuve

Villeneuve has a long and strong catalogue of movies, but his name was perhaps hidden within his own country of Canada and among a certain group of cinephiles until his 2013 movie, Prisoners. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Paul Dano and Melissa Leo in an intense crime-thriller about two children who goes missing, Prisoners became a movie many – me included – compared to David Fincher’s brilliant, Zodiac. However good the movie is, it was with this years Enemy (distributed by A24) he really came into his own as a director.

While I’ve yet to see all of his movies, there is little doubt both Prisoners and Enemy are positioned among his best works, which means a lot standing next to Incendies and Polytechnique.  Villeneuve is currently in post-production with Sicario – set to release in 2015 – with Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal and Benecio Del Toro in the cast. Story of Your Life is another movie he is working on (pre-production), but the only information we have about this so far is that Amy Adams will star as Dr. Louise Banks – who we presume is the linguistic expert referred to in the synopsis as the person who has to determine whether or not the aliens who landed on earth comes in piece or not.

The main reason A24 is worth applauding when talking about Villeneuve is how Enemy got made. It was the movie he wanted to make, but couldn’t get funded. So he wrote and directed Prisoners, not only because it’s an intriguing story, but to collaborate with Gyllenhaal before the big finale of Enemy. Then A24 stepped up and made it happen.

____________________

In the interest of time, we’ll not go in-depth on every single director working with A24, but with just the few mentioned above, I believe a point has been made. While Villeneuve, (both) Coppolas, Korine and Robespierre make widely different movies, they all have two things in common; Passion and originality – and this might be what A24 is looking for.

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Per Morten Mjolkeraaen

Uses words from time to time. Equally inspired and confused by metamodernism.

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