With 13 nominations, The Shape of Water is up there with some of the biggest if not the best films of all time. Only three movies have more nominations, a total of 14 each: All About Eve, Titanic and La La Land. If I had to rank these three against Guillermo’s masterpiece I would allow that All About Eve is better but The Shape of Water is way better than Titanic or especially La La Land. Getting nominated does not necessarily mean winning. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won all 11 categories it was nominated for and only two other films have won 11 awards: Ben-Hur and Titanic. However La La Land and All About Eve only managed to win 6 awards despite being nominated for 14 each. So it really comes down the competition and this year The Shape of Water is up against some excellent films. Nonetheless The Shape of Water is maybe the most interesting film of the year. The story is unusual and superbly presented. It is worth all the nominations and I would have given one more. While Richard Jenkins gets a nod for Supporting Actor I can’t understand why Michael Shannon does not get a nod for his role as the villain. He is just super evil and creepy. So I will not spoil this movie for you who have not seen it yet but I will say its a love story, a sci-fi story, a fantasy story and a fairy tale so it will appeal to many. The acting is amazing, the script is great, it was filmed in Toronto, what more can I say. Guillermo del Toro has an imagination that defies definition as demonstrated by his earlier Pan’s Labyrinth that won him 3 Oscars for Cinematography, Art Direction and Makeup. He will do better this time around.
Coming of age is a fairly common theme for directors and film makers and I often avoid films when the review starts out “This moving, funny, insightful, profound (whatever the descriptor) coming of age film…” Fortunately I did not read the reviews of Lady Bird before going to see it. Otherwise I would have missed a well crafted coming of age story. There see… I found another way to describe one of these. At any rate Saoirse Ronan, who plays the young woman and Laurie Metcalf who plays her mother are very much worthy of their nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. They battle each other as Lady Bird fights to realize her dream of escaping boring stupid Sacramento and head to where the action is – New England and Ivy League College. Her mother supports the family working as a nurse while her father is unemployed. So you get all the usual stuff, fumbling through first sexual relationships, rebellion against social pressure to follow a certain path, parents who provide love and hope but also strings that need cutting. While the themes are not new the acting more than overcomes the usual prejudices I have against this kind of movie. Worth its five major OSCAR nominations and winning Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. Golden Globes is right to have a Musical or Comedy Best Film award and I suppose Lady Bird was lucky to be nominated in this category but I would hesitate to call it a Comedy other than that it has a relatively uplifting ending. Still a deserving film and well worth your time to see it.
Molly’s Game is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and in my opinion should win. Based on a true story it is a smart rapid-fire script delivered in style by Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain as the leads. Given the high quality of films last year this one got left off the Best Picture list but certainly was worth consideration. It tells the story of Molly Bloom whose career as a world class Olympic skier is dashed by injury. While her father’s coaching drove her to Olympic quality she was not without ambition herself and with her skiing career in ruins she moved on. Through a series of lucky breaks she ends up running one of most exclusive high stakes poker games in the world attracting movie stars, millionaires, sports stars and, initially unknown to her, the Russian mob. The latter leads to her downfall and arrest by the FBI. Idris Elba is the lawyer who takes her case and we move from the game to the courts. Sorkin who is debuting as a director with this film is one of my favourite screenplay writers if not my favourite, Credits include movies like A Few Good Men, A Social Network and Moneyball and TV series like West Wing and The Newsroom. Fast, smart, witty scripts that make you sit up and pay attention are his thing. Try to see this movie for a great entertaining time.
Postscript: Kevin Costner plays Molly’s father in a small but important role. At the show I attended I heard several people comment how much they liked his performance. Its true. He is very good.
The Florida Project is an important film to see in these days of Trump and the GOP attempt to funnel wealth to the richest one percent. It is a dramatic film shot in a cinema verité documentary style we are observers of the lives of Americans living in marginal circumstances in a motel in Orlando. The film follows the children primarily who are all around age 6 or 7 as they pursue their lives around the desperation of their parents and other adults. Dafoe is nominated for Best Supporting Actor and he certainly deserves it. He plays the manager of the motel who must collect rent, maintain the building and suffer the abuse of his tenants, neighboring businesses and pressure from the owner of the motel. Despite the pressures on him he has sympathy for his tenants, the kids and watches out as best he can to ensure they manage in their circumstances. The kids, particularly the young lead Brooklyn Prince who plays Moonee the leader of the kids, are all totally believable and put in great performances.
I found the movie very hard to watch mostly because it is so true to the hard life of its characters. As I watched I could only think of the current circumstances of many Americans for whom the politics in Washington and the rantings of Trump are completely irrelevant to their lives. Clearly they do not vote so one cannot even blame them for supporting Trump and his nonsense. They are kept down and do not have the resources to rise up against the injustice of their society. Trying to think of some way to summarize my feelings at the end of the movie I found the summary on Rotten Tomatoes perfect: The Florida Project offers a colorfully empathetic look at an underrepresented part of the population that proves absorbing even as it raises sobering questions about modern America. So yes that pretty much sums it up.
Sean Baker deserves some comment. I did not know about him until I saw this movie but he has produced some excellent and well reviewed films previously that share a critical look at aspects of American life particularly that of the poor and immigrant populations. Look him up and try to see some of them including Tangerine and Takeout.