A24: The best movie studio you’ve never heard of

Indie studio quickly establishes reputation for high-quality, entertaining films

Winter break is just around the corner, and there is no better time to stay home and watch some movies. Maybe you’re tired of the Christmas reruns, in which case you should consider trying something new.

An understated movie studio, A24, has become one of the most successful film companies in the last couple of years, and almost any of their moves are worth a watch.

A24 is an independent film studio, and since its start in 2012, it has produced and distributed an astonishing number of successful movies. One of these movies, Moonlight, even won Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars.

So how has an independent film company become a rival of studios owned by large corporations like Warner Bros, Paramount and 20th Century Fox?

The studio’s movies have no distinct “style,” but they all push boundaries and take risks that other companies aren’t willing to take.

Beware that many of their movies can be emotionally disturbing, but always with a purpose. The quality, range and emotional impact of A24 can be seen in these three diverse films.

The Farewell

This 2019 comedy-drama, directed by Lulu Wang, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was immediately acquired by A24. The film follows Billi (Nora Lum), a Chinese-American immigrant who travels back to her family’s hometown in China when she learns that her Nai Nai (grandmother) only has weeks to live.

The family decides that it would be best if they didn’t tell Nai Nai about her diagnosis, creating a moral dilemma for Billi between breaking being honest with her Nai Nai and respecting a family tradition.

Despite any real action, the film still manages to hold the audience’s attention through gripping interactions between the family members. For instance, one of Billi’s family members stages a fake wedding to eliminate any suspicion when the whole family travels back home abruptly.

The humor is scattered throughout, but works to contrast the melancholy mood of the characters. Nora Lum expresses her character’s immigrant difficulties and culture-identity issues perfectly in her performance.

The Witch

This 2015 horror film directed by Robert Eggers uses beautiful scenery and even more beautiful screenplay to create a uniquely mesmerizing experience.

It takes place in 17th century New England, with a family being kicked out of a town for dissenting from the Puritan Church. Their cottage is surrounded by a forest, and the plot begins when the youngest child disappears in the trees. The story quickly descends into chaos, and the daughter is blamed for witchcraft.

The historical accuracy and details couldn’t be any more on point, and it illustrates well how much of 17th-century life was clouded with myth.
The daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), mixes innocence and naivety with mysteriousness, resulting in a dark final product that is up for the audience’s interpretation.

This slow-burner is just as disturbing as it is captivating, and its unpredictability creates a feeling of helplessness that will leave anyone feeling uneasy.

Eighth Grade

A 2018 comedy-drama directed by Bo Burnham, this lifelike representation of the last year of middle school encapsulates its nervousness and awkwardness through the eyes of Kayla (Elsie Fisher).

Each situation is seen with her perspective, which works to brilliantly emphasize how an eighth-grader would feel in those situations.

Kayla begins the movie quiet and nervous among her peers who all seem to “have it together.” As she navigates through typical eighth grade scenarios, such as hanging out at the mall, birthday parties and school, her buoyant dad tries to make the best of each one. Although, his help and reassurance are often rejected in typical preteen fashion.

Any viewer who doesn’t have sore cheeks from cringing by the time the credits roll around either never experienced eighth grade or is too old to remember it.

Aside from the comedic moments, Burnham highlights an often overlooked time of life. Even without much plot sophistication, a day in the life of a 13-year-old has never been more engaging.

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