By Jackson Murphy
When movie studios are evaluated at the end of 2015, Universal (“Jurassic World”, “Furious 7”, “Minions”) and Disney (“Avengers”, “Inside Out”, “Star Wars”) will clearly receive top honors for having the biggest box office success. But, when it comes to Quality Films over the course of the year, the award will likely go small, independent A24.
You may not have heard of the name, and you may not have seen many of their films, but this studio has broken through in 2015 and is about to break through in a major way this Awards Season and into 2016. Prior to this year, A24 was best known as the distributor of “Spring Breakers” (starring James Franco and Vanessa Hudgens), the Shailene Woodley high school drama “The Spectacular Now”, the outstanding Tom Hardy indie “Locke” and the solid crime drama “A Most Violent Year”, which earned Jessica Chastain a Golden Globe nomination in 2014.
The studio’s 2015 roster is very impressive: “While We’re Young”, a mid-life crisis comedy with Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, was not widely seen this spring, but it received mostly positive reviews. “Ex Machina”, from writer/director Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”), is a bold sci-fi thriller starring Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson and one of this year’s “it-girls”, Alicia Vikander. Critical praise and theater expansion helped it become the studio’s highest-grossing release to date in the US ($25.4 million). “Amy” is a frontrunner for Best Documentary Feature honors. This powerful look at late singer Amy Winehouse is genuinely sad and consistently fascinating. “Mississippi Grind”, a low-budget gambling drama that debuted on DirecTV Cinema before heading to theaters, features two top-notch performances from stars Ben Mendohlson and Ryan Reynolds.
And A24 is also behind two of the absolute best films of the year: “The End of the Tour” is a pitch-perfect, two-man drama with Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel at their finest. Segel’s Supporting Actor buzz is well-deserved. And then there’s “Room”, the heart-pounding and heartbreaking story of a woman held captive in a backyard shed for seven years, the last five with her young son. Brie Larson is a lock for multiple Best Actress nominations, and nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay deserves to be included in Supporting Actor discussions as well.
Included on the A24’s early 2016 lineup is the horror film “The Witch”, that’s already generating buzz. Hollywood is filled with a lot of independent studios – some make it, while most struggle to survive. In just four years, A24 has proven, that not only do they belong, but that they’re an important player in the industry.
Jackson Murphy (a.k.a. Lights-Camera-Jackson) has been a film critic/entertainment reporter on TV and radio since the age of 7 1/2. He currently appears weekly on WFLY radio (Albany, NY) and his reviews appear in The Record (Troy, NY) newspaper.
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