The Shape of Water

I’ll do anything to see anything

It was, I dunno, fine. Which justifies everything. Hey, if it works for Freud and Christianity...
Reported on 17th of January, 2018

There’s no real reason to write about The Shape of Water other than to recount how fucking awesome I was in seeing it. Everyone saw it, the imaginary audience says in my head, but very few got minor frostbite in so doing. If the film was great, such suffering would be justified; if it was terrible, the irony would justify the experience. Instead, it was, I dunno, fine. Which justifies everything. Hey, if it works for Freud and Christianity…


Trapped in Boston for two days because of all the lack of climate change, I was waiting for the hotel to give me my room. Sure, I could have seen Some Guy Who Shot Some Other Guy Square, or the Space Constitution, or visited the tripod marks where Fincher set up ATOS digitizers to render a CGI Harvard for Social Network. But on We’re All Going To Live Forever And Didn’t Do Anything Bad To The Earth Friday, only the trams and the cinemas were open. And so off to the Regal Fenway Stadium 13.

So take the B line then wait for the D line I did. The green line shares between four different trains, but makes up for the massive delays in between waiting for the right train by being horse-cart drawn slow. It’s the kind of slow that caused me to imagine the Lumière brothers setting up their camera in front of the tracks, getting bored while waiting for the train to arrive and giving up the whole affair, which would in turn cause me to have the alternate history going through all the drama I do writing this to read books.

Yes, there’s something worse than me talking about movies, and that’s me talking about books. So count your blessings.

Arriving at the outdoor Fenway platform, I was in full blizzard conditions that no one caused and don’t worry about it. Having packed for Los Angeles I had but my weather inappropriate but fashion very apropos Jeffrey Wests. These are shoes. Look them up. If you have to ask, you probably didn’t get frostbite because you’re not an idiot.

In a foot of snow, and having no idea where the hell anything was, walking was not an option. So I started walking. The parched pilgrim in the desert of white sought his oasis: Bed, Bath & Beyond. Being that shopping had got us into this mess, I was rewarded…by its being closed. I continued not into an entrance to the mall, no, they don’t have that, but down the slippery slide I went into the underground parking lot.

To explain: The Regal Fenway Stadium 13 is a mall not quite like any I’ve seen. There are five distinct large shops, REI, BB&B, Panera bread, Art Store and a cinema. Despite being only twenty feet away from an admittedly rarely serviced tram stop, the only way to access any of these is through is through a parking lot. Not that special.

But each store is actually accessible only through its own parking lot; once inside, nothing is connected and each shop can only be accessed through the parking lots of the other. You imagine a Glendale Galleria, only with cars wandering about aimlessly instead of people. This is our future, but don’t worry, the cars are self-driving and electric and don’t pollute. The things that make electricity pollute plenty, but the cars are fine.

My feet were naturally freezing at this point, but the Regal Fenway Stadium 13 had a solution for that: enormous seats and no one insane enough to go out in this weather. I chose one at the back, and took off my shoes and socks, alternating tucking one beneath my seat and thighs, and lo and behold, didn’t lose any toes. But my shoes are so awesome, why would I take them off?

I guess there was a movie, which tells you how I felt about it. The Shape of Water is certainly more perfectly acceptable than I had any right to expect after Crimson Peak. In the case of the latter, Sr. del Toro, in attempting to make a genre film, he couldn’t help but fill it with artsy nonsense. In attempting to make an art film like TSoW, he can’t help but infuse it with genre goodness. Until the art takes over like ropey oil tentacles. The ropey oil tentacles you would see in a genre film.

The first half is pretty okay. There’s some boobies and inappropriate sex, straight up pulp. Mr. Michael Shannon, always overrated, is finally playing an uncomplicated and nevertheless odd villain, and thus to his strengths. His fingers bitten and rotting, and using the word ‘squawk’, his character demonstrates the axiom that it is the villain that makes the story, so don’t skimp.

By way of example of genre, the film transforms the commie agent (Mr. Michael Stuhlbarg) into a reluctant hero. This is a brilliant twist and believable in context. Mr. Stuhlbarg’s conflicted scientist would do this. Sr. del Toro is working within the box, and it adds some nice moving parts to the heist.

But its Mr. Stuhlbarg’s character that causes the whole thing to fall apart. A drawn out and seemingly unnecessary scene in retrospect has him hiding a knife from his NKV handlers, who are there at his apartment possibly to kill him. Fine. But having made clear his suspicion, Mr. Stuhlbarg shows up to his next meeting with same toughies like a character in Crimson Peak, saying ‘Big monster? Is that you?’ and so on.

Like Sr. del Toro, I did it so people would think better of me. Art is stupid; love live art.

When he winds up getting shot, you’re disappointed, but it’s failure was less of quality, than of simply not seeming to remember how a satisfying story with smart characters can be. Instead it’s there to allow the story to get to its climax, and characters must do stuff to make that happen.

Thus follows villains being hit over the head and left alone for the inevitable wake up and heroes having powers suddenly that they could have used in act one and the poster moment as the last shot. Fine. I would have liked it more without the expectation.

THoW, certainly overpraised, could have been a fun surprise as a film that appeared in the multiplexes. In the way that Great Wall or Star Wars: Rogue One was, I might have liked it if it came out in January. Instead we’re supposed to have an opinion about it, which makes me want to, and thus to want to tell you that I don’t.

But possibly more important than mine own expectations are those of Sr. del Toro himself. He had a particular image in mind, not of the characters, not of the story, not even of the environment, but what kind of Film It Was Going To Be. It’s a valuable lesson, and one we can all heed: don’t think about what film might be to someone, but what it might be.

That being said…

In my defense…well, I guess in my offense really, I decided to be a good boy and to the Fine Arts Museum Saturday. It’s supposed be good, or something. Having seen the various installations, I concluded – correctly – that modern art is for people who are afraid to admit they like movies, television or books. Or have pleasure of any kind.

There was some installation from some schmuck who ‘interested in bodies in transformation’ or some nonsense. There was the a leg brace about female idolatry, no doubt there to communicate that those who understand it are smarter than those who don’t. Which you could save time by just putting it on the sign.

Problem was, David Cronenberg was a friend of mine and so on. The props in Dead Ringers, The Shape of Water and yep, even Saw are more imaginative, evocative and certainly more resonant than anything the hollow elite community can muster. Movies are the œuvres of our soul, and those untold and unsung artisans out there rendering polygons and shaping polyfoam are like the true artists in the 17th C. sections of the museum: anonymous and magnificent.

So kudos to Sr. del Toro and everyone who worked on this film. There’s some real imagination here. If he stops trying to be an artist, he may someday make something really beautiful.

The Take

Total Profits!
Mr. Richard Jenkins and Ms. Sally Hawkins can really do anything and be watchable.
Genre pluses:
Ms. Hawkins being deaf.
Maids cleaning a top-secret facility
Mr. Jenkins being gay.
There’s a monster.
Total Profits
It falls apart not knowing where it belongs. The musical sequence is a serious misstep for a specific reason: musical sequences are there largely to express emotions that can’t be expressed otherwise. Unfortunately, we already know what Ms. Hawkins is feeling, and by not showing it we feel it for her. Weirdly, Behind the Candelabra got this.
We get that they’re gills. You gave it away in the poster. That’s fine. But treat it like it was a surprise.
Other stupid stuff. There’s something to be said for a movie with a lot of pluses and a lot of minuses. Hence the brilliant rating system you see before you. Who rates the raters?
Total Losses


Thoughts on The Shape of Water

  1. Julia Caston says:

    scott!!! did you make it to california?
    if so? …….. where are you?

Annoyed? Prove it!

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.