It’s very seldom that audiences take notice of a film distributor. Of course, we’re familiar with the heavy-hitters like Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros. because of the volume of content they crank out and the big-name stars they attach to their properties. But when a logo for an indie company pops up, it’s not uncommon for viewers to tune out until the story kicks in — unless those narratives are consistently bonkers and you can’t help but be curious about its maker.
Since 2013, A24 has carved out a name for itself by accepting the cinematic outcasts as family. In its inaugural year alone, A24 welcomed the works of Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers), Sofia Coppola (The Bling Ring), Roman Coppola (A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III) and James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now). None of the filmmakers followed the standard Hollywood playbook. Each of the creators pushed the boundaries of storytelling in their own unique way.
As of today, the New York-based company has received a total of 25 Academy Award nominations, including wins for Best Picture (Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight), Best Documentary Feature (2015’s Amy), Best Actress (Brie Larson in Room), Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali in Moonlight) and Best Visual Effects (2015’s Ex Machina). And from the looks of it, you can anticipate a few more accolades for 2019 achievements.
Following this year’s releases of Climax, High Life, The Souvenir, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Midsommar, The Farewell and The Death of Dick Long, among others, A24 has five more movies in the cannon to fire off before cinema passes the torch to a new year.
Release: Oct. 25 at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.
Let’s begin A24’s presence in the holiday movie season with one of the strangest entries it has produced yet.
Of the five upcoming films, Robert Eggers’ follow-up to 2016’s The Witch is the only one I’ve seen. The Lighthouse held its regional premiere as one of the secret screenings at Fantastic Fest in Austin last month, and it easily left a lasting impression.
This sledgehammer of eccentricity is powered by a pair of award-worthy performances. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star as 1890s lighthouse keepers who slowly see their sanity slip away in Shining-like fashion. The two men are stuck on an isolated island that’s populated with drunken dances, shameless farts, pecking seagulls and mermaid genitalia. (I’m not kidding about that last part.)
As one writer deemed on Twitter, it’s like imagining a comedy like Step Brothers but directed by Stanley Kubrick. The Lighthouse has the off-the-wall humor, but it’s filtered through the lens of a calculated filmmaker.
Eggers did extensive research to shape a film that feels authentic to its period, but he also pulls from his bag of goodies to incorporate elements of horror. The 1.19:1 aspect ratio and black-and-white presentation (a salute to Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman) contributes to its spooky stew. Just prepare to be occasionally lost and disturbed as its characters.
The Kill Team
Release: Oct. 25 at the Texas Theatre in Dallas/Oak Cliff.
A common thread you will identify with many A24 films is how they focus on human psychology. They center on the decisions we face and how they can often lead to damaging or life-altering conclusions. The upcoming military drama The Kill Team encapsulates this concept wholeheartedly.
Written and directed by award-nominated short-form documentary filmmaker Dan Krauss, The Kill Team follows a young soldier (Nat Wolff) in the United States invasion of Afghanistan. He witnesses other recruits (like Alexander Skarsgard) in his outfit taking the lives of innocent civilians and wrestles with the thought of turning in his increasingly violent platoon.
From the sound of it, this isn’t your Friday night piece of escapism at all. The Kill Team is an exploration of a haunting reality, one that doesn’t try to soften its unveiling of the moral tensions that tear at our psyches. As harsh as it may appear on paper, it’s a fact of life that should be experienced.
Release: TBA, likely around Thanksgiving. Premieres at the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 28.
In what is arguably the best trailer of 2019, Waves is sure to turn on the waterworks as we venture further into the awards race. Trey Edward Shults (Krisha, It Comes at Night) is a filmmaker who is all about getting audiences to feel something they haven’t before, or speak to those who have been through the wringer themselves.
Like many of the filmmakers A24 employs and supports, Shults is not someone who lays down the truth gently. He tends to capture all the nuances of the human experience, whether that’s the beauty of screaming at the top of your lungs while riding a bike down the street or the horror of what’s knocking on the other side of the door.
Set against the landscape of South Florida, Waves paints a tragic but heartwarming portrait of a suburban black family (led by Sterling K. Brown and featuring the talents of Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell and Renee Elise Goldsberry). In the aftermath of loss, the central family navigates love and forgiveness.
Shults’ previous work analyzed the difficulty of going through the grieving process. In fact, Shults’ second film, It Comes at Night, was a cinematic response to a crisis in his family. That personal journey seemingly continues and offers some healing in Waves.
Release: TBA, likely December.
If you caught Gaspar Noé’s hypnotic Climax from earlier this year and enjoyed it, In Fabric cuts from the same malicious cloth. Here’s a horror film that hones not only the idea of beauty is pain but also that fashion is murder.
Following up his 2014 sadomasochistic romance The Duke of Burgundy, director Peter Strickland frames his story around a mysterious red dress. It’s bought by a woman (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) for a date, but it’s fit for terrifying evil and brings about devastating consequences.
If the final product is anything like its unsettling trailer, you can expect Strickland’s sensual film to cover you in hives. While it seems like a simple premise, there’s undoubtedly more mystery and thought-provoking themes worked into its makeup. In Fabric resembles the arthouse horror of Dario Argento’s Suspiria with a pinch of David Lynch for good measure. In other words, it’s going to be messed up.
Release: Dec. 25.
If you bet on any of A24’s films this awards season, Uncut Gems is it. While at first glance, you may question its credibility with funnyman Adam Sandler leading the charge, but word is it’s Sandler’s best performance to date. From the intoxicating trailer, I believe it, too.
Uncut Gems, the new thriller from Good Time‘s Josh and Benny Safdie, has been soaking up the raves since it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. Critics have been calling it “gripping,” “exhilarating” and a film that sees Waterboy becoming a man (according to the New York Post).
Sandler stars as a New York City jeweler who gets involved in a high-stakes bet involving former NBA star Kevin Garnett (playing himself) and a gang of other dangerous characters (including Lakeith Stanfield). Balancing business with family, Sandler’s character must perform a high-wire act to pull off this much-needed win.
Like Good Time before it, after seeing Uncut Gems you might require a shower from its sweaty ride of anxiety-injected madness. While it may not end well for its characters, this film is destined to finish triumphantly for its creators and talent.
For information on A24 releases, visit a24films.com.