by Brad Nelson 4/5/18
This is a fanciful film, the skeleton of which could be described as a mix of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Beauty and the Beast. This film is from Guillermo del Toro, noted for (to my mind) the awful Pan’s Labyrinth. But you see much of his better effort, Hellboy, in this, including the same fish-like creature, Abe Sapien. Stylistically they are nearly identical.
The reason The Shape of Water won the Oscar for best picture is clear: This is a rather dense piece of liberal porn. It’s got hatred of the American military in it, portrayals of Bad White Men, a knock at nostalgic America, beastiality, gratuitous nudity (this otherwise could have been a PG rated film), masturbation, the shtick of women-and-people-of-color-are-always-kinder, and I think there’s even a shot at the oil companies.
And, of course, you have the big South American endangered-species fish man who is a victim of American capitalism (and of the space race) and who can be celebrated as the object of “diversity,” I guess. After all, the main character, Elisa Esposito (did I mention “the kind hispanic?), falls in love with the fish-man.
There is a kind homosexual in this (who runs into the bigoted white man). Religion is mocked, of course (except for the idea of this fish-man being a kind of natural god). There’s even a good Russian agent (and some bad ones too). There are so many leftist/liberal visual talking-points that without them, there wouldn’t be much of a movie. Oh, and the main character is a deaf mute. Isn’t that special watching her sign throughout the film?
Still, for the first 30 minutes as the mystery unfolds, it’s fun to watch. And throughout the movie, it’s visually interesting. If you’re a liberal, you’ll simply love this piece of liberal porn whose only purpose is to play to your prejudices and ingrained predilections. Fair enough, I like a good John Wayne western myself with guns, cacti, big skies, horses, and guys in black hats getting theirs.
But there’s also something very childish or child-like about this whole production. Had it been aimed at a PG audience, I think it would have been a better film. But this looks more like a production of and for adult children.
Even so, I don’t mind a good fantasy or fanciful film. The liberal talking points, while sometimes annoying, don’t necessarily bring this film down. What brings it down is when the film stops developing anything about 45 minutes into it. From then on it’s an endless portrayal of Bad Richard Strickland (played with Snidely Whiplash superficiality by Michael Shannon). I called this movie “liberal porn” but it might or precisely be called “PETA porn” the way Strickland is so cruel to animals (thus another liberal cinematic porn bullet point).
Whatever interest the story has early-on cannot be propelled and extended by visual stylishness alone. The story quickly becomes tedious, little better than a bad Mission Impossible episode. But I should state that most of the reviews I’ve read don’t pick up on what clearly seems to be the essence of the film: liberal meat on the skeleton of a rather run-of-the-mill plot. Liberal ornaments are hung all over this which is surely why this visually stylish, but barren, movie won the Oscar.
For instance, here’s a typical “logical” objection to the movie that misses the point entirely:
Are we supposed to believe that the best friend wouldn’t have freaked out about the coitus?
Of course the wise and friendly female black friend of the wise and friendly female hispanic is going to give nothing but praise for the idea of beastiality. Not in the least did this particular scene bother me as an illogical plot point. It made perfect sense within the ideological liberal framework of the film.
Other objections are sustained, such as why the rather stupid plot point of needing the canal to fill before the catch-and-release of the fish-man. Why not just let him swim off into the ocean? That never made any sense and still does not. But by this time, such points are the equivalent of quibbling that the words “life boat” are misspelled on one of the craft on the deck of the Titanic.
I’m not saying to avoid this one. Most people are curious regarding films that win the Best Picture Oscar. But only here, outside The Daily Drama, can you learn why this film won in the first place.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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