We have been trained to anticipate the Oscar season starting around September, when the trio of film festivals held in Venice, Telluride and Toronto unveil a full state of awards contenders to which audiences can dive. And while that's still accurate, the number of films that contend for year-end accolades extend all the way back to the early part of the year, which is why you see movies like Get Out and Dunkirk maintaining momentum and competing for a Best Picture Oscar against movies that storm theaters at the end of the year.

Surveying worthy contenders from the early half of this year means putting Paul Schrader's First Reformed on your radar -- excellent timing as the drama/thriller is available to purchase exclusively on iTunes beginning today! To celebrate, A24 shared with CinemaBlend this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Schrader's writing process, and Ethan Hawke's preparation to play the part. Give this a watch:

As is made clear in this exclusive clip, First Reformed falls in line with Paul Schrader's body of work, where he writes about conflicted characters in movies like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Light Sleeper and Affliction (to name just a few). This is the first that happens to cast its harsh light on a man of the cloth... even though it gives Ethan Hawke the ability to wrestle with some incredible personal material.

Critics responded in kind. The movie's blessed (no pun intended) with a 94% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with Hawke receiving heaps of praise for his riveting and multi-layered performance as a priest grappling with his faith when confronted with contemporary tragedies and past digressions.

Watch the full trailer for First Reformed, to see if it's your cup of tea (or chalice of wine, given the circumstances):

First Reformed continues an outstanding year for A24, which to this moment includes Bo Burnham's spectacular coming-of-age dramedy Eighth Grade, the terrifying Hereditary, and the devastating Lean On Pete. The entertainment company has proven its ability to carry films over the finish line when it comes to awards consideration, having succeeded in years past with winning features like Lady Bird and The Florida Project, while also drumming up serious support for gambles such as The Disaster Artist, Good Time and A Ghost Story.

Hopefully now that Paul Schrader's First Reformed is making its way to home video and streaming portals, more people will witness the drama's quiet strengths, and absorb the powerful performance by both the director and his leading man... a combination that could be divine come Oscar season.

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