A24 Needs to Get Their Act Together (and so does the Academy)

By Christian DiMartino

I rewatched Trey Edward Schults’ Waves again a few weeks ago, and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to. It’s a breathtaking, heartbreaking and even shocking little film that’ll melt your eyes with its visuals even as its bringing tears to them. I left the theatre for this film really liking it, but with somewhat indifference. Yet it stuck with me for hours and hours, and I grew to love it. Even after a second viewing, I still sat on it, and now I love it even more. It’s gorgeously filmed, audacious, brilliantly written, directed, and acted. The kind of film that the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences would normally flock to…

And it was nominated for nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. No acting, no screenplay, not even a nomination for cinematography, which is not only beautiful, but also unique in terms of the way that the camera flows and swirls and twirls. It’s a beaut. But nope, not enough for Academy recognition, or any recognition for that matter.

The film is a part of A24 productions, arguably the best studio making movies today. A24 isn’t focused on tentpoles and sequels and all that; they make the movies they want to make: bold, creative pieces of work, and, more importantly, the stuff that I want to see. Last year alone, A24 cooked up masterworks such as The FarewellMidsommarUncut Gems, WavesThe Last Black Man in San Francisco, and The Lighthouse. Those weren’t their only movies- most are typically really good- but those were the best. And… altogether, the studio received one Oscar nomination. One. Nomination. Among all of those movies,  one measly nomination (Best Cinematography for The Lighthouse). Which means, as I see it, one of two things:

  1. The Academy didn’t deem the writing, directing, acting, cinematography, or anything involved in any of their films worthy of recognition.
  2. The Academy, quite simply, didn’t actually see any of these films.

Now, that isn’t to say that the Academy has never recognized these films- Lady Bird and Room were both nominated for Best Picture, and Moonlight happened to win it. Yet I noticed that something was off during the 2019 Academy Award season. Now, keep in mind that my opinion isn’t the all-seeing truth or anything. In my eyes though, there weren’t any performances better that year than Ethan Hawke’s in First Reformed, and Toni Collette’s in Hereditary, both A24 productions. 2018 was the worst year for movies I have seen in a long time, and both of these performances (and movies, for that matter) should’ve been a shoo-in.

Nooooope.

In their eyes, Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, and Green Book (which I like more than most) were deemed better. First Reformed, at least, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. But that means that they saw it, loved the script… and nothing else was worthy, and the aforementioned were better. Last year’s Academy Awards, along with this year’s, got me thinking: A24 clearly isn’t campaigning.

As you might know, the Academy doesn’t really choose the quality; they choose which movie hosted a better lunch (not kidding, that is how the Rex Harrison Doctor Dolittle nabbed a Best Picture nomination). A better lunch, the biggest campaign, etc. Basically, you really gotta sell it. A24, I imagine, isn’t really selling it. None of their films have large budgets, thus, they might not have a very large budget for a campaign. Which is a real shame because all of these movies that I love keep getting robbed over stuff that nobody will talk about ever again. Adam Sandler, for example, I would have given an Oscar to this year for Uncut Gems. It sounds insane, but the guy really hit a home run. We should all be fortunate that A24 is willing to fund these movies, while other studios aren’t. I think it’s a shame that Sandler and the dearly snubbed didn’t get their recognition, but they have recognition in the hearts of real admirers of film.

I call A24 out for not trying, yet why do they have to? The Academy, year after year, chooses the quote-on-quote “best movies.” Yet they’re not even watching every movie? Or they’re hardly giving a movie a chance because it didn’t make any money? Since when has that been an issue? Was The Hurt Locker a giant blockbuster? Nope, and it won the Best Picture Oscar over the 2nd highest grossing movie ever made, Avatar. So why is a movie like Blade Runner 2049 written off because it wasn’t a financial hit? It shouldn’t be about such a thing- it should be about what is honestly, truly, the best of the best.

So I call out A24 for not campaigning enough, yet they appear to be the only studio that isn’t concerned with corporate greed, and for that I hope they never change. I do believe it’s time for the Academy to actually, you know, pick the best movies again though. Last year was an excellent year for film, and the nominees for Best Picture were solid… but everything else was a little too bland and predictable, as if they only saw about 20 movies and they decided to share the love between them. If you’re actually put in charge of watching the best movies and choosing them, maybe you should actually, oh, I don’t know, watch all of them.

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