If you’ve seen the drama Manchester by the Sea, you will understand why Michelle Williams is such a strong contender for her first Academy Award. A certain scene on a town street where Williams’ character encounters her ex-husband (played by Casey Affleck) is a brief but brilliant depiction of two heartbroken people, lost souls whose lives will never be the same apart as they were together. Williams really isn’t in the film all that much, but that key moment lingers.
Williams’ current supporting actress nod, for Manchester, is her fourth Academy Award nomination, so it’s not quite right to call her “underrated;” but she continues to provide small revelations with each chance she takes in her roles. Could you have imagined Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe? Maybe not, until you saw the acting chameleon as the eternal sexpot in My Week with Marilyn. Then, she was Glinda the Good Witch (!) in Oz the Great and Powerful.
And Williams as Janis Joplin? Could happen … Williams is linked to a biopic about the star-crossed rocker that is currently in pre-production. She’s come a long way since Dawson’s Creek.
Williams has gained numerous honors for her work as the protagonist’s spouse in Manchester by the Sea – among them, the New York Film Critics Circle award for best supporting actress. However, that award was actually given to Williams for two performances, the other as part of an ensemble in the indie drama Certain Women, which will make its Genesee County debut February 3-5 at the FIA.
Williams portrays half of a married couple in Montana whose attempt to build a new home results in marital stress. Her story is one of three intersecting vignettes of small-town life in a quiet, understated film by writer-director Kelly Reichardt (who helmed Williams’ earlier Wendy and Lucy). The standout cast also includes Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, James LeGros and Jared Harris. Even more so than Manchester by the Sea, this is a graceful film that is best enjoyed through its smaller moments.
February’s schedule in the FIA’s Friends of Modern Art film series moves from the aforementioned wide open spaces of Montana to farmlands of early 20th century Scotland, the streets of modern-day Paris – and the nascent punk rock scene of Detroit, circa 1968.
The Scottish setting suits Sunset Song, in which the classic novel about a young woman who endures rural hardships is brought to life by English director, Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea). It’s set to show at the FIA February 17-19. It will be followed February 24-26 by a French crime drama, Dheepan, in which a freedom fighter in Sri Lanka flees to Paris after stealing an identity and acquiring a fake family to claim asylum.
Providing local color to the movie series is Gimme Danger, showing at the FIA February 16, 18 and 19. Director Jim Jarmusch, long expert in scripted “small” films (Broken Flowers, Dead Man), this time offers a documentary about Detroit proto-punker Iggy Pop and his rise to prominence with his band, The Stooges.
Also in the documentary realm is Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, a special February 9 presentation at the FIA by the local nonprofit, Communities First. It tells the stories of the African-American athletes who were part of the national contingent in the 1936 Olympic Games in Hitler’s Berlin. We all know about Jesse Owens from that group, but this film fills in the blanks about others.
For show times (including upcoming info on the museum’s yet-to-be-determined February 10-12 selection) and more info on FIA movies, visit flintarts.org or call 810.234.1695.