The film production company A24, known for Oscar winners such as “Ladybird,” “Florida Project” and “Moonlight,” has gained a massive fanbase that could potentially rival Disney and Marvel. I will go see any movie if the A24 logo flashes across the screen — if it’s an A24 movie, I won’t be able to shut up about it.
The studio’s movie production is so memorable due to their use of sound, authentic script, and ability to create an immersive snapshot into someone’s life that is bound to relate to the audience and change perspectives. I consider A24’s standout movies for 2018 all perfect examples of what A24 is all about. Read below three movies that exemplify A24’s technique and style of realism.
This movie follows eighth-grader Kayla, who was awarded “Most Quiet” in the yearbook, and her journey through the awkwardness of eighth grade. I winced for one hour and 34 minutes — I related all too well to Kayla’s awkward Snapchat poses and inability to talk to boys.
The movie shines as a glimpse of the constant “ahh cringe” that is eighth grade, from Kayla googling how to perform an act I could not mention in a school paper to signing off her vlogs that only garner a few views with “Gucci!” A24 aims for the audience to see themselves on the screen, and “Eighth Grade” director, Bo Burnham, accomplishes this through the lifelike script. A24 doesn’t have big movie executives trying to guess if teens would use the heart eyes emoji or the star eyes emoji when texting their crush, they get to know their subject enough to know teens would do neither.
The movie is almost a psychological thriller because of how it incorporates aspects of horror into the strongest scenes in the movie. It used low, nearly inaudible bass to make you feel uneasy, slow pans and walking to build suspense and music that makes your heart pound simultaneously with Kayla’s as she sent and Instagram DM to her crush that made me cower into my sweatshirt.
The great thing about this movie is there isn’t a climax to the story or a big moment but instead several small, anxiety-filled, personal moments that create a hauntingly accurate depiction of junior high.
“Eighth Grade” is the movie that sparked my love for A24 and the way the studio tells stories — there’s a reason my friends and I talked about this movie for an hour and half on the corner outside the AMC exit when it was over. It’s a must-see and the perfect archetype of the way A24 portrays coming of age stories.
This isn’t the typical 90s movie that you usually would picture, unless you are picturing the lower income skating world in Los Angeles. The movie focuses on 13-year-old Stevie and his older skater friends who help him find escape through drugs, alcohol and skating. The movie isn’t corny with the nostalgia or the skating because that’s not the point — the point is to show a deeply moving snapshot of the intense, impoverished skater culture of the 1990s.
The camera used to shoot the movie gave it a rough texture, making it a square 4:3 aspect ratio as opposed to widescreen. The script doesn’t hold back — one of the characters is named F—s—, and consequently immerses the viewer into the skating culture without falling into the “indie” movie trap of aimless dialogue and what director Jonah Hill calls “nostalgia porn.”
Two of the main characters are professional skaters in real life and Hill found the actor that plays Stevie at a skatepark, skating right along 18 year-olds like he does in the movie. A big media company wouldn’t have allowed for so many no-name, no-experience actors to star, but A24 strives for authenticity.
I even Instagram DM’d Hill about the end of this movie. This snapshot falls short with an abrupt, unfinished ending that left me baffled in the theater, waiting for the rest of the story. I don’t consider this a spoiler — you can’t predict the ending because there is no ending.
The movie, however, while ultra-personal, is unsentimental and you have to look into the subtleties to find sentimentality. I crave sentimentality and was dying for the movie to be a few seconds longer, just to see some full circle moment — but I realize the cliche of there isn’t always a happy ending is true. Every A24 movie ending has made me want to scream because of the frustrating lack of a true ending — which is purposeful.
Mid90s and Stevie’s bright blue eyes are not easily forgotten and a must-watch for even those outside of the niche 90s skater world.
A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN
To break away from the coming of age ‘indie’ films A24 is more well known for, I decided to watch “A Prayer Before Dawn.” It tells the true story of English boxer and drug addict Billy Moore and his time in Thailand’s most notorious prison on drug charges. But this isn’t your typical boxing movie. And it’s not your typical prison movie.
From Billy being forced to watch a gang rape to being threatened with an AIDS-infested syringe of blood, this movie unwillingly shoves you into the disturbing scenes of, unfortunately,on — an immersive experience that you unfortunately won’t forget.
The audience feels the dislocation Billy experiences in the Thai prison with the disorienting sounds of the inmates, a purposefully shaky camera and minimal subtitles, making the viewer as confused as Billy in the same situation.
However, despite how the movie transported me, it lacks the universal appeal. Considering Billy has no ambition besides the will to survive and rarely speaks, the audience has trouble empathizing with him. This movie isn’t a biopic, more of a peek into his time in prison, but I wish I had a little more background information on Billy so I could feel his pain in prison instead of shuddering at it.
If you can stomach the brutal violence and constant blood shed, “A Prayer Before Dawn” is a movie that will leave you wanting counseling for the stress you were subsequently put through.
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