Academy Awards 2018: “The Shape of Water” would be a worthy Best Picture

March 3, 2018

Academy Awards 2018: “The Shape of Water” would be a worthy Best Picture

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is an unlikely candidate to be nominated for a leading 13 Oscars. The nods the film got include in the categories of Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actress for the divine Sally Hawkins, and Supporting Actor and Actress for the magnificent Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer.

That’s a lot of recognition for a genre-defying film that manages to be both touching and thrilling as it delves into one of the most contradictory times in American history: the Cold War.

This is no ordinary spy movie though. In fact, despite its setting and the fact that there ARE spies in it, it’s not a spy movie at all. Directed by the Mexican auteur best known for the Spanish Civil War fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth,” as well as the “Hellboy” films, “The Shape of Water” is part fantasy, part thriller, part tragedy and many parts romance.

Set outside Washington, D.C. in a top-secret lab, the movie focuses not on scientists and the spies who lurk around them, but on a mute, lonely cleaning lady (Hawkins). Her life is boring and small until one day a mysterious cargo shows up at the lab. Following a bloody accident in the lab, Elisa (Hawkins) learns more about “The Asset.” She believes he has feelings and can understand and communicate with humans. The ignored, mute woman feels a kinship with him. What follows is the most unusual love story to perhaps ever grace the silver screen. At its heart, “The Shape of Water” is a fairy-tale romance, a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” in postwar America. Filmed in dreamy, watery blue and green and silver hues, with lots of bright, popping retro billboards and midcentury modern clothes and furniture, del Toro and cinematographer Dan Laustsen create a magical, heightened reality.

Despite its multiple nominations, this category-defying and wholly unique film is not the kind of hard-to-pin down movie the Academy usually recognizes. The fact it earned so many nods is testament to its power and beauty. It might be a hard sell for Best Picture in an era of issue-driven films, but the themes it deals with are universal: love, loss and being an outsider in a hard world. – Laura DeMarco