The Shape of Water reviews

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Uri » Tue Mar 06, 2018 7:00 am

Reza wrote:
Sabin wrote:Watched this again post-Oscars (and needed to take my mind off some things...)

In some screenwriting courses I’ve taken, we’ve learned of “The Pinch.” It’s rough 45 mins into a 120 movie (adjust accordingly for whatever length), and it’s described as a new plot point that carries through the ending of the film. It makes perfect sense that The Shape of Water’s “Pinch” is Sally Hawkins having to free The Fish Man. And I just think it’s the most ruinous decision in the movie. It should be the midpoint. The first half of the second act of the film should be letting us watch them fall in love. I’d happily lose entire scenes in this film if it meant getting that “Falling in love” montage broken up into something more substantive than she feeds him eggs. Considering that The Fish Man has less personality than any Guillermo Del Toro creation, it’s not a lot to go on.

I know Del Toro can’t be thinking that maybe the audience won’t pay attention to a mute girl and a Fish Man falling in love. It must be that he desperately wants this to be an ensemble piece of rolling subplots of marginalized people. Well...clearly enough people in the Academy fell for it. Me? I’m annoyed that The Shape of Water isn’t my favorite film of the year.


It's over. Let it go and thank your lucky stars Get Out or Lady Bird didn't win instead :)


I'm in no shape or form 3BOM greatest fan and I think GO is too minor, but I'd rather have any one of them as the winner over TSoW - at least both of them aimed for something more than just being liked.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Reza » Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:23 am

Sabin wrote:Watched this again post-Oscars (and needed to take my mind off some things...)

In some screenwriting courses I’ve taken, we’ve learned of “The Pinch.” It’s rough 45 mins into a 120 movie (adjust accordingly for whatever length), and it’s described as a new plot point that carries through the ending of the film. It makes perfect sense that The Shape of Water’s “Pinch” is Sally Hawkins having to free The Fish Man. And I just think it’s the most ruinous decision in the movie. It should be the midpoint. The first half of the second act of the film should be letting us watch them fall in love. I’d happily lose entire scenes in this film if it meant getting that “Falling in love” montage broken up into something more substantive than she feeds him eggs. Considering that The Fish Man has less personality than any Guillermo Del Toro creation, it’s not a lot to go on.

I know Del Toro can’t be thinking that maybe the audience won’t pay attention to a mute girl and a Fish Man falling in love. It must be that he desperately wants this to be an ensemble piece of rolling subplots of marginalized people. Well...clearly enough people in the Academy fell for it. Me? I’m annoyed that The Shape of Water isn’t my favorite film of the year.


It's over. Let it go and thank your lucky stars Get Out or Lady Bird didn't win instead :)

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Mar 06, 2018 2:50 am

Watched this again post-Oscars (and needed to take my mind off some things...)

In some screenwriting courses I’ve taken, we’ve learned of “The Pinch.” It’s rough 45 mins into a 120 movie (adjust accordingly for whatever length), and it’s described as a new plot point that carries through the ending of the film. It makes perfect sense that The Shape of Water’s “Pinch” is Sally Hawkins having to free The Fish Man. And I just think it’s the most ruinous decision in the movie. It should be the midpoint. The first half of the second act of the film should be letting us watch them fall in love. I’d happily lose entire scenes in this film if it meant getting that “Falling in love” montage broken up into something more substantive than she feeds him eggs. Considering that The Fish Man has less personality than any Guillermo Del Toro creation, it’s not a lot to go on.

I know Del Toro can’t be thinking that maybe the audience won’t pay attention to a mute girl and a Fish Man falling in love. It must be that he desperately wants this to be an ensemble piece of rolling subplots of marginalized people. Well...clearly enough people in the Academy fell for it. Me? I’m annoyed that The Shape of Water isn’t my favorite film of the year.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Uri » Fri Feb 09, 2018 8:56 am

In the cycle of every series of films which has a heroic figure in its center, from James Bond to Batman, from Superman to Harry Potter, there seems to be this moment when the Broccolis of each franchise decide it’s time to bring onboard a visionary auteur to direct the new installment – “rethink” is an often-used term. And often this film is about the protagonist having some kind of identity crisis, or a super hero losing his power. In a strange way, TSoW felt to me like the On-Her-Majesty’s-Service chapter of an ongoing epos about this amphibian man, where the twist is that it’s being told from the point of view of a damsel in distress, who turn on the table, and turn out to be the one who save the hero (and gets her own super power in return). It has a lot to do with the fact that there’s something rather familiar, almost comfortably generic, about the originality and the visuality of this film. It also has a lot to do with the way the creature is designed.

When I first read what this film was about, before I saw any images from it, I had this intriguing vision that this creature is actually not seen, but its presence would be suggested by, well, the shape of the water which surrounded it, so I was disappointed to learn it’s your usual man in a full body, washboard stomach, no genitalia latex suit. And as far as latex suits go, it’s nicely imagined and executed one, tiny lights and see-through membranes and all. And of course, he’s safely gender-distinctive – Zelda’s reaction once she found out he has a functioning phallus tacked in down there was amusing. Not to mention there was no way en erotic tension between him and Giles could be possible. He could be sexually fluid (pun intended), you know. So yes, I would have liked for the creature to be a more developed and less predictable creation. He was merely serviceable in the context of the film.

p.s. I liked TSoW, I wasn’t blown away by it.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Uri » Fri Feb 09, 2018 8:56 am

The Original BJ wrote:There's a scene early in the film where Hawkins exits her apartment, and in the background, you can see a building on fire. There's no reason that detail HAD to be there -- but it gives the environment a simultaneously dangerous/beautiful backdrop, a dichotomy that informs the themes of the rest of the movie. The film is full of great visual touches like this, that don't seem narratively necessary, but which add so much to the transporting quality of the film.


But it did have to be there - Elisa and Giles have a discussion about the chocolate factory (of course they live right next to one) being burnt down, right before she's leaving to go to work. It was an omen things are not going to stay the way they were.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:57 am

"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Okri » Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:54 pm

You know how BJ reacts to "critically acclaimed" comic book/blockbuster filmmaking? That's how I respond to del Toro films. His place in pop arcana means a certain type of cinephile will lavish everything he does with exorbitant praise. And I tend to leave his films thinking "that's it?" So I kept my expectations in check despite the hosannahs and I'm glad I did, because those opening ten minutes had me wanting to bolt the theatre (as soon as she sat down next to the man with balloons and cake I had noped the fuck out). Thankfully, the film brought me back, but never to anything less than mildly entertained. For every strength del Toro demonstrates there's a commensurate weakness. I'm surprised at how badly he whiffed the emotional climax (the dance sequence) - I could actually feel my heart begin to soar before it deflated - and this is where his cinephilia is practically a detriment.

Loved Hawkins, liked Jenkins and Stuhlbarg (the latter really has emerged as one of our finer character actors), thought Shannon and Spencer were predictably okay (though Shannon's line of "You were speaking Russian, BOB!!!!" had me giggling).

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:23 am

'The Shape of Water' is about ten minutes too long, clunkily-plotted in the second half, meandering, at times unclear about what it is...but also totally lovely. Visually, it's the most beautiful thing that Guillermo Del Toro has ever done.

There's much to admire but first, this is a work of shameless cinephilia. I mean, for God's sake, it's not enough that Sally Hawkins is mute but she also has to live above a movie theater? At its best, Guillermo Del Toro succeeds in telling a story that feels entirely like its own thing, and not a mishmash of 'Amelie' and 'Beauty and the Beast,' or (even when shades of both are visible) it thrives. However, I was frequently pulled out of the film because it wasn't quite clear what story he was telling. Sally Hawkins rescues the Amphibious Man and circles on the calendar that the 10th is the day when they can release him (which is a plot necessity, but whatever) and the plot drives home the point that this is a wild creature and it needs to be in the wild. Moments later, the romance angle is pressed within the context of the heroine's journey towards personal fulfillment. This film is endlessly indebted to 'Amelie' especially in its insistence that its mute heroine is also a sexual being. But there's something creepy about really, truly driving home the point that this is a wild creature that needs to be free...and then they fuck. And keep fucking.

And that's Guillermo Del Toro for you. When I think of the auteur, I don't think of his incredible creatures. I think of a storytelling so enthusiastic that he can't keep his story straight. It is endearing though. All the characters in 'The Shape of Water' are figures largely marginalized by society. It's hard to fault a filmmaker for loving them all a bit too much, but he really does a disservice to the film by giving them too much dialogue, busying up a sufficiently busy plot, and sledgehammering home a point that's evident from a mile away where a glance will do. Ultimately, the only times I really felt transported was in the moments of silence, production design accompanied by the Alexandre Desplat or when the extraordinary Sally Hawkins was dominating the frame. If 'The Shape of Water' never quite carried me away, I was charmed by its kindness and amused by its weirdness.
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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:37 am

Mister Tee wrote:But I’m not dismissive of Del Toro’s work here at all -- it would never have crossed my mind to cite the deficient Crimson Peak, even just say “well, this is better than that”.


What if I qualify by saying, well, this is SUBSTANTIALLY better than that. :D

I saw the film a second time and have some additional thoughts:

What you say about Del Toro's work as a director is spot-on. There's a scene early in the film where Hawkins exits her apartment, and in the background, you can see a building on fire. There's no reason that detail HAD to be there -- but it gives the environment a simultaneously dangerous/beautiful backdrop, a dichotomy that informs the themes of the rest of the movie. The film is full of great visual touches like this, that don't seem narratively necessary, but which add so much to the transporting quality of the film.

The opening shot gains quite a bit in meaning once you know the end of the film -- I like the fact that at first it seems completely out of time, but reveals its context much further on.

I said this before, but the creature is an amazing creation. At first I thought it had to be CGI-infused, but I've since learned it was a latex suit. I can't believe that was done practically.

Yes, I was referring to Hawkins's speech when Jenkins translates as her most clip-worthy moment. She's just so moving in that monologue, and it gets at the heart of what makes the romance between this woman and a sea creature work. And I like what Mister Tee says about how Elisa is such a strong character for someone who is probably perceived by many as weak -- it's genuinely startling how much impact the "Fuck you" scene has, just because you don't anticipate this sweet, small mute woman as having such bravado in her.

Mister Tee, I think we will just have to disagree on whether or not Shannon's character has enough shadings, because I still find him a completely one-note villain. (I mean, in addition to everything else, he ALSO has to have abusive sex with his wife?) I also still am not crazy about the Russia subplot, which is actually kind of vague -- everyone wants the sea creature because he will provide secrets that will help them win the space race? Not sure I see the through-line there, but...sure!

It's interesting how Elisa doesn't encounter much resistance to her love affair with the sea creature from her compatriots, but given the way they're characterized, you buy it. Giles, of course, is desperate to be in his own socially forbidden love affair, and Zelda is in such a problematic relationship of her own that she seems thoroughly supportive of Elisa as long as she's happy.

The moment when Elisa is trying to have a serious conversation with the creature and he's just slobbering up food is quite poignant, and a nice acknowledgment of the fact that being in an inter-species relationship is going to be a lot more complicated for Elisa than she probably thought.

I wonder if once the smaller critics' groups start handing out awards, Michael Stuhlbarg will pick up some of those "you were in every movie this year"-type supporting prizes, given his prominent roles in Call Me By Your Name, The Post, and this film.

"He ate Pandora" is one of the more casually delivered laugh-out-loud lines of the year.

Mister Tee, you aren't getting soft -- a lot of movies this year are good!

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:47 pm

Perhaps I’m turning into a bit of a softy, but I just adored this movie. Bought into it from the opening moments, and stayed riveted the full two hours. I think this movie casts a gorgeous, view-the-world-differently spell, one I was blissfully happy to stay under throughout. The friend I was with said it even took him a few minutes to re-orient himself to the real world when we left the theatre, so powerful was the alternate one in which del Toro had placed us.

I GUESS THERE MIGHT BE SPOILERS, THOUGH I WON’T AIM FOR ANY

The film struck me as something Spielberg might have made in his early heyday -- only minus the limited-to-childhood point-of-view. However gloriously entertaining they were, ET and other Spielberg efforts of the time very much took place in a hermetically-sealed world, where adult problems seemed light-years away; this was the reason Spielberg had difficulty being take seriously by many critics. He was probably incapable of portraying ET in a human relationship with anyone but a pre-adolescent in a sunny Southern California suburb. del Toro, by contrast, places his creature in a world of violence, cruel politics and torture-- and into a relationship with a grown, clearly sexual woman. In The Shape of Water, the grown-up world doesn’t seem so far off -- even though its issues are consistently filtered through fantasy/fairytale elements that please the senses (and make it all go down easy), the realities of life are out there and ready to intrude at any moment.

In that sense, I’m a bit surprised BJ had such issues with the story/screenplay. I wouldn’t argue the film’s script is the year’s best – Three Billboards and Lady Bird are, for me, clearly the class of those I’ve seen so far. But I’m not dismissive of Del Toro’s work here at all -- it would never have crossed my mind to cite the deficient Crimson Peak, even just say “well, this is better than that”. I think the script here is precisely what this particular film requires. It occurred to me the film has something like spiritual kinship with Far from Heaven – another movie that’s more a directorial triumph but not a screenwriting shortfall. Both films’ stories clearly mimic a Cold war era genre (women’s weeper, monster sci-fi), heighten it with deep, richly colored cinematography and lush romantic music, then blend into the narrative real-world issues from the time that went unacknowledged in the original films -- in this case, bullying/sexual harassment, rabid anti-Communism, casual racism, and, throughout, toxic masculinity…something that could hardly seem more timely at this moment.

I see the characters in The Shape of Water as not cliches, but archetypes from the movies of the era – archetypes who are then fleshed out with individual quirks that make them more than quick summaries would suggest. Shannon’s Strickland is a hard-ass, tunnel-vision bureaucrat, but his desperate need to convince himself his life has amounted to more than he deep down suspects is weirdly touching. Similarly, Spencer’s sassy sidekick Zelda is a familiar role (one she’s made a career of), but her relationship with her husband – conveyed along the way in throwaway dialogue, then ultimately in a confrontation – gives her fuller dimension. Jenkins’ Giles is a character who might not have appeared in a movie of the era (certainly not specifically identified as gay), but he’s more than “platonic best friend” – he has very specific traits, like an inability to fight hard enough for his job, simple vanity over losing his hair, and an off-center, self-deprecating sense of humor. As for Hawkins’ Elisa – she’s the film’s most original character. She’s handicapped in a way that she tells us makes her feel conspicuous, but at the same time she’s not reticent – in her first encounter with the creature, she boldly puts her hand to the glass, and moves ahead quickly from there. She’s headstrong, not one to be talked out of something once she’s set her mind to it -- things that run counter to the poor-waif persona suggested by her outward appearance. Above all, she’s unafraid – and thus a perfect heroine for this time and place.

Orchestrating all these characters, and the tight thriller plot, is del Toro, the film’s biggest star. I’d say no other film this year shows as clear a director’s hand as this – every image, every acting moment, every musical cue seems perfectly chosen to achieve del Toro’s vision. His is a generous but also clear-eyed view – giving the audience rapturous moments it wants (like the “You’ll Never Know” interlude, and the finale), but not shrinking from those more horrifying (like Shannon’s digital issues, or Stuhlbarg’s final fate). And have I mentioned the film is just a sensual feast? Green has never looked so gorgeous as it does in this film – whether in the drab workplace, the movie palace, or Elisa’s apartment. I wouldn’t have thought any film this year could approach Blade Runner for visual appeal, but Shape of Water challenges it for both cinematography and design. del Toro makes us see his world as a thing of beauty, even when the things in it are harsh.

He’s aided in this by an excellent cast, full of wonderful actors. Sally Hawkins is of course the best. Playing a mute has long been an actor’s feast, but Hawkins brings something special to it: a glow that projects innocence, but an innocence tempered with practicality and self-possession. I wonder if I’m thinking of the same moment BJ is, what he suggests will be her awards clip. If I am, I’ll suggest that the moment feels as potent as it does because del Toro has her tell Jenkins to translate, eliminating the subtitles from the screen for once, so she conveys everything through an unimpeded look at her face and hands. It’s the high point of a thoroughly fine performance. (I’ve now seen Hawkins, Ronan and McDormand’s performances, and can honestly say, if any of the three win this year’s best actress prize, I can’t complain.) Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer play roles that are right in their wheelhouses, but they still manage to find new colors at times. (If Spencer’s nominated for this – a solid possibility – she will be far more deserving than last year.) Michael Stuhlbarg does a nice job of masking his intentions throughout, as his loyalties/plans keep shifting. But my favorite of the supporting cast is Richard Jenkins, who has one of the best roles of his life. It’s the sort of role that often gets Oscar nominations, and I hope the glut in the category doesn’t keep him out.

I think the film has a decent chance of leading this year’s nominations. Film/actress/director seem highly likely, with multiple below-the-line nominations (cinematography, production design, score) also assured. Screenplay is questionable only because of the depth of the field; I’m guessing the film will take a forward position in the overall race, and place on that basis. Spencer, Jenkins and Shannon all have at least a shot. And sound/editing/sound editing are possible. As far as wins…it’s way too early to say, but the film is definitely in the hunt.

Trivia: If Hawkins should win best actress, she will be the second such winner to have Alice Faye’s “You’ll Never Know” play on her film’s soundtrack. Surely most people here can quickly name the other.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:52 pm

I found The Shape of Water to be a thoroughly transporting experience visually, and exciting in the way its sensibility -- even compared to del Toro's other films -- makes it feel like such a fresh, weird thing. But I still don't think del Toro's storytelling is quite on a par with his images and sounds. I think the disparity gap here is significantly smaller than in something like Crimson Peak -- which looked GREAT but was a mess of a script -- but I still find his overall conceit here a bit on the thin side, and his plotting fairly simple.

While using fable as a storytelling device can often allow audiences to impose many different interpretations on a narrative -- as I'm sure many will do here -- I also think it can have the opposite effect, which is to essentially make a story's subtext feel a bit on the nose. And that may be a weakness for me in this case -- our heroes are a working-class disabled woman, a working-class black woman, a working-class gay man, and an imprisoned "alien." Our villain is a rich, white government dude with fascist impulses who repeatedly demeans women. I'm not sure we're even in allegory territory here, and while I'm certainly happy to cheer for a story about marginalized people standing up to The Man, I can't say I thought the movie explored that territory in any way beyond the superficial. (Oh, and the Russian subplot is straight out of Cold War Moviemaking 101.) Furthermore, I could have used some more complications in the narrative -- especially in the latter half, there's a lot of characters showing up right when they need to, to accomplish exactly what they need to do, in a manner that makes for fairly linear storytelling.

All of that said, I still think there's plenty that's special about the movie. In terms of visual splendor, it's a knockout -- the production design gives us a gorgeously realized portrait of 1960's America, but with a kind of only-in-the-movies lushness that fits perfectly with the film's fantastical sensibilities. The shots are beautifully lit and composed, obviously relying on monster movie iconography, but blending that with a lyrical romanticism that makes the film feel far more human than a lot of genre efforts. Alexandre Desplat is probably winning Original Score, for the swooning, old-fashioned whimsy of his musical themes. And the creature itself is a great creation -- strange and ugly, but also masculine and strapping, in a way that makes you understand why Hawkins would fall for him.

I also liked a lot about the film's tone. It's far more sexual than I had anticipated, more realistically brutal in its violence, decidedly R-rated in its language. I think the fact that we haven't seen too many mainstream fantasy films that feel this adult is a big part of why so many critics have responded to it. Well that, and a clear love for movies -- in addition to the obvious monster movie inspirations, Hawkins lives above a movie theater, and we even get an old-movie fantasy sequence (which I won't spoil, but which is memorably realized and woven perfectly into the narrative moment.)

Hawkins is the obvious standout of the cast, carrying the movie without saying a word, using nothing but her facial expressions to convey the passion, frustration, mundanity, and sense of humor that characterize her life. And it's clear which monologue will be an awards show clip favorite. The rest of the players are solid, in fairly typical character actor-type roles. Spencer is doing her best Thelma Ritter, but who would you rather see that from these days? I found Jenkins the strongest of the supporting guys, simply because his character felt like something I hadn't quite seen before. Whereas Shannon's character felt a lot more predictable -- and of course, casting Shannon as a creepy villain is basically redundant at this point.

I wish some of the movie's ideas were more complex, but on the whole this is a beautifully crafted fantasy that I think audiences will enjoy this holiday.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 09, 2017 1:46 pm

Winner of the Golden Lion at Venice.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Okri » Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:27 am

Sonic Youth wrote:
danfrank wrote:
Sonic Youth wrote:This gives me mixed feelings. I'd love to see Sally Hawkins win an Oscar, but not necessarily for a wordless role.


I had the same thought, but I'll have to see it before I judge. The reviews for her are pretty rapturous.


I agree. I guess I meant to say that this may overall be the general (American) audiences' first exposure to Hawkins, and they won't even get to see her line deliveries.


Blue Jasmine didn't do that poorly and while I didn't see it, she was in the Godzilla remake a couple years ago.

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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Sep 01, 2017 6:29 am

danfrank wrote:
Sonic Youth wrote:This gives me mixed feelings. I'd love to see Sally Hawkins win an Oscar, but not necessarily for a wordless role.


I had the same thought, but I'll have to see it before I judge. The reviews for her are pretty rapturous.


I agree. I guess I meant to say that this may overall be the general (American) audiences' first exposure to Hawkins, and they won't even get to see her line deliveries.
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Re: The Shape of Water reviews

Postby danfrank » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:23 pm

Sonic Youth wrote:This gives me mixed feelings. I'd love to see Sally Hawkins win an Oscar, but not necessarily for a wordless role.


I had the same thought, but I'll have to see it before I judge. The reviews for her are pretty rapturous.


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