Writer/director Guillermo del Toro’s newest film “The Shape of Water” is a beautifully crafted modern fable, a tale of misfits struggling to find their place, to find acceptance and ultimately, love.
There are two “monsters” in the film, the unnamed creature captured in the Amazon rivers referred to as “the Asset”, a Creature From the Black Lagoon looking amphibious being, played by Doug Jones, and the real monster, Richard Strickland, a government agent played by Michael Shannon. “The Asset” may have gills and webbed hands but it is Strickland who is the real, slimy monster.
To help push the US in the Space Race, the government has sent Strickland to capture the being reputed to be in the Amazon that is revered as a god. He abducts, abuses and experiments on “The Asset” in a secret government facility. Strickland is also abusive to his staff, including two women that clean the facility. Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, and Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer. Elisa is mute, and is keenly aware of the challenges of not fitting in. Her coworker Zelda translates her sign language and watches out for her. When they are ordered by Strickland to clean up a copious amount of blood and a nearly destroyed laboratory they meet “The Asset”.
Del Toro elegantly depicts the deepening relationship between “The Asset” and Elisa. Although they are different species, they are both misunderstood misfits. Depicting interspecies love is not easy, but Jones plays “The Asset” with such grace and nuance that you do not feel the revulsion you might expect from a love scene between the two. Indeed, he creates a world for them that is beautiful and mesmerizing.
Richard Jenkins brilliantly plays Elisa’s best friend and neighbor, Giles, a gay artist working in the increasing cut-throat marketing field. Like Elisa, Zelda and “The Asset”, he is an outsider just looking for kindness. When Strickland’s boss pulls the plug on the experiments with “The Asset”, ordering him terminated, Elisa goes to Giles for help breaking “The Asset” from the facility and setting him free in the canals.
“The Shape of Water” is set in the sixties and there are a number of popular ballads of the period but these are eclipsed by Alexandre Desplat (“The Theory of Everything” and “The King’s Speech”). This Oscar-winning composer has created a score of beauty within a movie that depicts harsh realities in a period defined by a struggle for acceptance.
“The Shape of Water” contrasts other-worldly beauty with brutality, much like del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”. He takes the proverbial fight between good and evil and elevates it to an elegant fantasy that leaves you believing in the power of kindness and the hope of love. ... See MoreSee Less
“Darkest Hour” may be Gary Oldman’s finest hour. Oldman turns in a stunning performance as Winston Churchill as Prime Minister when England is on the knife’s edge of falling to the Germans in World War II. His Oscar-worthy portrayal is absolutely convincing and totally captivating. He breathes life into the historical figure, imbuing it with Churchill’s quirks and razor sharp wit.
I found it refreshing to see a movie that is carried by the acting and the power of the story, rather than just special effects. Set against a backdrop of Hitler’s campaign for European dominance and an equally vicious campaign in Parliament to oust Churchill as the newly appointed Prime Minister, "Darkest Hour” shows us a world leader with all odds against him and everything at stake.
Lily James portrays Elizabeth Layton, his secretary who types Churchill’s fiery speeches and represents the England he is desperately trying to save. Kristen Scott Thomas plays Clementine Churchill, his long-suffering wife. Both deliver powerful performances that stand on their own merit and are not overshadowed by Oldman’s tour de force.
The music by Dario Marinelli sweeps through the movie, first setting the stage with a driving momentum of optimism before underscoring scenes of anguish and fearful reality, painting the human emotions and terrible grandeur of the war.
Written by Athony McCarten (“The Theory of Everything”) and directed by Joe Wright (“Atonement” and “Pride and Prejudice”) “Darkest Hour” deserves to be an Oscar contender. The movie represents two hours of your time incredibly well spent. ... See MoreSee Less
This week on The Score with Edmund Stone: a look at some of the impressive film scores to emerge in the past year, including Wonder Woman, Darkest Hour, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Beauty and the Beast, Despicable Me 3, Justice League and Thor: Ragnorak. Tune in to All Classical Portland this Saturday, December 16th at 2pm. www.allclassical.org/... See MoreSee Less
This week on The Score with Edmund Stone: Great Openings and Closings. Some of the best music plays while you’re watching the credits. This week we'll hear great opening and closing music from films including The Magnificent Seven, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Batman and more. Tune in to All Classical Portland this Saturday, December 9th at 2pm. www.allclassical.org/... See MoreSee Less
This week on The Score with Edmund Stone: movies about those who serve and protect, including Serpico, The Untouchables, Bullitt, The Bone Collector, Die Hard, Dirty Harry, LA Confidential, Fargo, Lethal Weapon and The Naked Gun. Tune in to All Classical Portland this Saturday, December 2nd at at 2pm. www.allclassical.org/... See MoreSee Less