Double Exposure: One Subject, Two Films

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The cultural zeitgeist can be a strange thing indeed. A few years ago, it brought us a pair of competing Truman Capote films, 2005’s widely lauded Capote and 2006’s unfairly overlooked Infamous. Then there was poor Baz Luhrmann, who wanted to make an Alexander the Great film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the early ’00s, only to have his project canceled to avoid overlap with Oliver Stone’s Alexander (2004). And it seems that the next few years will bring another raft of competing films on the same topic, from adaptations of counterculture classics to dueling Marilyn Monroe biopics. After the jump, we compare five such pairs to predict which will win each category.

Marilyn Monroe

Blonde Starring – Naomi Watts Directed by – Andrew Dominik (The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford) The plot – The Joyce Carol Oates’ novel of the same name this adaptation is based on doesn’t say isn’t about Marilyn. But come on. Who else would it be about?

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My Week With Marilyn Starring – Michelle Williams Directed by – Simon Curtis (British TV) The plot – The film follows Monroe’s time shooting The Prince And The Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, during which he sort of, um, psychologically abused her.

Which will dominate? This is a tough one: Watts and Williams are both top-notch actresses, and each resembles Monroe in an entirely different way. Although My Week is still casting about for an actor to play Olivier (after Ralph Fiennes dropped out), we’re still curious to see what transpired, in real life, between the two screen legends. And we’re betting we’re not the only ones.

The Brontës

Wuthering Heights (Emily) Starring – Kaya Scoledario (from Clash of the Titans) Directed by – Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) The plot – Girl meets monster. They fall in love. He makes everyone’s life miserable.

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Jane Eyre (Charlotte) Starring – Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) Directed by – Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) The plot – Girl meets monster. They fall in love. Eventually, reader, she marries him.

Which will dominate? Both of these appealing adaptations are helmed by promising indie directors. And after Inglourious Basterds, we’ll watch anything Fassbender’s a part of. Still, considering Wuthering Heights‘ recent, Twilight-inspired popularity boom, we imagine it will do better at the box office, if not with the critics.

Mid-century counterculture books

On the Road Starring – Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Riley, and Garrett Hedlund Directed by – Walter Salles The plot – Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady — er, “Sal Paradise” and “Dean Moriarty” — go on a wacky, homoerotic hipster (in the ’50s sense) road trip. They go to bed with lots of ladies, indulge in ample debauchery, and, most importantly, talk about a lot of deep stuff.

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Starring – There’s been no official word yet, but apparently Jack Black and Woody Harrelson have both been considered to star as Ken Kesey. Directed by – Gus van Sant The plot – Tom Wolfe gawks as Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters fight the law and make LSD-fueled mischief with the Grateful Dead.

Who will dominate? Considering the casting possibilities for Kool-Aid, this may be a battle of funny dudes vs. sexy young things. Since On the Road holds a more sacred place in the hearts of America’s disaffected youth, and we’re pretty sure Kristen Stewart occupies that same space, our money is on that one. Of course, Gus van Sant is the unknown quantity: When he’s on (Milk; My Own Private Idaho), he’s really on. When he’s off (Psycho; Elephant), it’s not pretty.

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway & Fuentes Starring – Anthony Hopkins, Annette Bening, and Andy Garcia Directed by – Andy Garcia The plot – The film tackles Hemingway’s years in Cuba, where he developed a fishing-based friendship with Gregorio Fuentes, fell in love (too bad he was already married…), and wrote The Old Man and the Sea.

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Papa Hemingway Starring – TBD Directed by – TBD The plot – We haven’t heard many details about Kirk Ellis’ adaptation of A.E. Hotchner’s memoir of his own friendship with Hemingway. But we have been warned that this, too, will feature lots of fishing.

Who will dominate? It seems unfair to judge Papa before we have more details. But at this point, Garcia’s cast is looking pretty hard to beat.

Martin Luther King

Selma Starring – David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland), Hugh Jackman Directed by – Lee Daniels The plot – The action centers around MLK’s historic 1965 civil rights demonstrations in Selma, Alabama.

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(Title TK) Starring – TBD Directed by – TBD The plot – There may not be a big-name actor or director attached to this biopic, which will cover MLK’s entire life, but don’t count it out yet. Producer Steven Spielberg is the driving force behind the project, and Ronald Harwood (The Pianist) is writing the screenplay.

Who will dominate? This will largely depend on who Spielberg taps to direct and star. But we imagine that Daniels, of Precious fame, will make a strong showing regardless.