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One Movie Punch

Dec 3, 2018

Hi everyone! 

Welcome back to the podcast. This will be the second of two episodes today as we’re working to get caught up from the fire. I’ll be continuing my story from the wildfire evacuation in a minute, but if you haven’t heard the earlier segments, hit pause, then go back to my review for “Outlaw King” (Episode #314) for the first segment, then listen every episode after that for another installment. Let me know you’re listening by sharing this episode with #WelcomeBackOMP.

Last segment, I was taking care of business, and wondering if restarting the podcast was going to be worth it. It wasn’t the top priority at the moment, though, not with the house needing to be put back in order, and to get my body back in order as well. I woke up in a sweat, with a slight fever, and that put some things back into perspective. I watched a few television shows, then needed to do something else, besides being ill. And the first thing to do was to unpack everything, because I wasn’t going to sit around waiting to flee anymore. The authorities had said that there was no more danger to our area, from fire anyway, and I needed to clear my head, so I started catching up on my daily journal, and starting to come up with an idea to relaunch the podcast. You’ve been listening to it before every review, and it was the start of a lot of reconsideration for the podcast.

More on the story from the fire tomorrow.

Today’s movie is “The Shape of Water” (2017), the Fox Searchlight Pictures drama directed by Guillermo del Toro and written in collaboration with Vanessa Taylor. The film follows Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute custodian at a top secret research facility, who develops a relationship with an amphibian man (Doug Jones), whose held in captivity. The film was nominated for thirteen Oscars, winning four for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design. 

Spoilers ahead.

My spouse asked me what I thought about “The Shape of Water”, finally seeing it after winning four Oscars, and the first thought I had was how happy I was to see the film without the words “Grinding Nemo” being the first thing I thought about. Folks were relentless about the sexual aspects of the film, which were really just one part of the larger relationship between Elisa and the amphibian man, even if it was the most discussed. I didn’t really hear about the amazing set design, the great supporting performances, the incredible direction, the wonderful green and blue and brown tones saturating the film, or any of the other parts of it. The second thought was that while I still believe that “Get Out” was the best film of 2017, I also understand why this film, along with “La La Land”, captured the Academy’s fascination, both being homages to the industry, then and now. And I also wish I had seen it in the theaters, just to hear everyone’s reactions to Elisa’s daily routine. 

“The Shape of Water” somehow ends up being an example of every classic film from the 1960s, a simultaneous monster, romance, espionage, noir, heist, escape, and fantasy film, with every single line between those genres blurred beyond recognition, and injecting a healthy dose of what was once considered taboo in film-making from the time. Water, as you would expect, saturates the film, used for transitions, backgrounds, practical effects, and any other way water can be used. As Bruce Lee once said, water takes on the form of whatever contains it. When water enters a cup, it becomes the cup, and if there’s nothing containing it, will always seek out the lowest relative position from itself, thanks to gravity. And before our modern understandings of science, water was considered a foundational element by itself. Del Toro shapes the water, bringing together all the elements, and crafting something with his distinct style and juxtapositions. It’s beautiful, from start to finish, despite, or maybe because of, its darker elements.

It also touches on a classic theme from monster films, asking who is the real monster, and in this case, asking if humans are really that different from other animals, or if our cruelty is part of what makes us human. It is as visually beautiful as it is thematically beautiful. Creature design and all the other practical effects were excellent. Sets, costumes, vehicles and props were all period perfect. It has very little downtime, and unfolds surprise after surprise with great pacing and tone, making its two hour running time feel like far less, and manages to tell a complete story even with the ambiguous ending. After gushing all of that to my spouse, she gave me this blank look in her eyes, and then asked what it was about again. And I laughed, because there’s really no way to explain it better than I tried. I told her to just watch it, and enjoy it, because it is truly an exquisite film from an exquisite director.

“The Shape of Water” (2017) is a masterpiece homage to classic movie making, melding every popular genre film into one story, based elementally around water and thematically around humans and monsters. Del Toro has created something incredible, with an engaging cast and an army of special and practical effects artists. Fans of classic movies, or really any movie in general, should definitely check out this film.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (CERTIFIED FRESH)

Metacritic: 87 (MUST SEE)

One Movie Punch: 10/10

“The Shape of Water” (2017) is rated R and is currently streaming on HBO.