WILL 2012 be the year of dark knights? Batman, Spider-Man and a myriad of Avengers are all set to vie for our dollars in the year ahead. Escape Hollywood’s monolith of superheroes, though, and a whole other world awaits.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe’s untimely passing, at age 36. Half a century on, says director Nick Curtis, we just can’t get enough.
“Her face and her name are more famous now than her performances,” he says of the blonde bombshell, as played by Michelle Williams in his film, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.
“Was it the soap opera of her life, the drama, the mystery? Or Andy Warhol’s version of her? Or Lady Gaga’s? To this day, her image is all over the world, in some form. She still captivates.”
Williams herself is a big fan (Curtis didn’t know it at the time). In the film, she captures the star’s fragile persona to a tee, visiting drab 1950s Britain to star opposite acting great Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh). An unlikely romance with a runner soon develops, in a priceless slice of forgotten real-life. Williams is tipped for Oscar glory.
Another hot property, Michael Fassbender, is also creating Oscar buzz, for playing a damaged male nymphomaniac, in Steve McQueen’s SHAME. The film has been slapped with an R rating by censors in Australia, for its full-frontal nudity. (“If it was a woman,” McQueen says of his controversial film, “it wouldn’t be a problem.”) Despite this, audiences are expected flock to see “a whole lot of Fassbender”. (He’s also in David Cronenberg’s upcoming A DANGEROUS METHOD, as psychologist Carl Jung.)
Can our local industry hope to compete, after a generally bleak run at the box-office? Fiona Cameron, Chief Operating Officer for Screen Australia, believes so. Among the Aussie films she’s excited about is WISH YOU WERE HERE, starring Joel Edgerton. It’s set to open the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, later this week.
“For anyone who goes off for a year with friends to places like Cambodia, it’s going to feel terribly relevant,” she says of the film, which hails from the team behind ANIMAL KINGDOM, which won at Sundance (and saw its star, Jacki Weaver, nominated for an Oscar). “To come back with minus one is intriguing, to say the least. It’s got mystery, it’s got innuendo.”
The film’s producer, Angie Fielder, is also upbeat. She believes our own flawed heroes – fictional or otherwise – will rise to the challenge in the year ahead. Which may mean less arthouse films. And bigger returns.
“The films in 2012 do have a more mainstream feel to them,” she says. “And we’re quietly confident with our film. We’re thrilled to be taking it to Sundance for its world premiere. It’s what we always wanted. We think we’ve got it right.”
If Hollywood can win hearts and minds with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES in 2012, can a sinister, edgy thriller do likewise for Australia? I’d venture so.
WISH YOU WERE HERE opens this year's Sundance Film Festival, on Thursday, and is in cinemas from April 26.
SHAME and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN are both in cinemas next month.
First published in The Sun-Herald.