Post the name of the latest movie you've seen and your rating out of 10.
Sunshine Boys (t0073766) - 7/10 - loved Burns, hated Matthau.
Jane got a gun (2015) - 7/10, entertaining, but I guess it would have been better if they had avoided all the problems during production.
The Penalty (1920) - 8/10, Always a good idea to see a Lon Chaney movie, he was great.
The Flying Ace (1926) - 7/10, barely the second 1926 film I have seen, one of the years I have neglected the most.
The Post (2017) - 7/10. Steven Spielberg has become something of a court painter for American history. He used to be more exciting. Oh, and this may be a controversial statement, but Meryl Streep is quite a decent actress.
The Shape of Water (2017) - 5/10. This piece somehow inspired a whole blog. (Mild spoilers ahead):
Take old formulas that worked in 50s B-movies, add a progressive message and expensive production values and you get this. Not even the monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) was as onesidedly evil as the villain Strickland played by Michael Shannon. Good villains always have a fascinating touch to them, something ambiguous, a superficial charm or at least a point that makes sense in a twisted logic. Not this one. Strickland is just there for you as an embodiment of all evils so you can feel better about yourself.
There are two kinds of monsters which often overlap: 1. a creature that is otherworldy and looks frightening; 2. an antagonist, an absolutely evil villain with no redeeming qualities. Creature from the Black Lagoon has one monster that is both a frightening creature and the absolute villain. The Shape of Water has a creature that is frightening at first, but the villain-monster is someone else: Strickland. Maybe Frankenstein (1931) is still one of the supreme horror movies because it doesn't need such a villain-monster, an easy target for our hate, to get its point across. We see how the simple townspeople are deluded by fear and anger over the dead girl into attacking the misunderstood creation.
In Frankenstein, we see the mechanisms that make people escalate in this thirst for revenge. In The Shape of Water, we may get the idea that at one point in history, some people just decided to be evil. Evil like the facial expressions Michael Shannon can put on.
To create humor or tension, this movie always takes the dullest standard approach (sinister guys visit good guy - good guy grabs knife and hides it behind the back - sinister guys talk a bit and leave the house - whew!). The homages get as original as Richard Jenkins pointing out that he really likes Bette Davis. Or there is a fancy movie theater below his apartment that screens an old bible movie. It's as if the movie were saying, "we all love classic cinema, don't we? So please don't be too hard on me. Believe in my qualities without checking them".
I'd rather go back and watch the real deal - Bette Davis always has more bite than anything in this movie. (a little exception: Octavia Spencer has fun with her role as a chatty cleaning lady with an inert husband).
Then there is an allegory: supposedly, the mute woman falling in love with a water creature stands for love that conquers prejudices, or interracial love. But in this case, the prejudice is not a prejudice (not entirely anyway): how can a creature that is actually not human and is dangerous to a point symbolize someone with, say, a darker skin color?
The romance is a reverse Little Mermaid story. Instead of a mermaid who becomes mute to get on land and be with prince charming, it's a mute woman who migrates to the sea to be with a water creature. I don't think it's polarizing to say that the love relationship is not quite the best aspect of The Little Mermaid. There's hardly a foundation for this love. Should it be enough that the couple in The Shape of Water are both outsiders of sorts? Should we believe in this love because, oh, it's a fairy tale and it's such a magic experience, so stop expecting just about anything from this movie?
Green is another symbol, fine. If you want, it stands for Hope, Life, and Progress. But the whole movie is soaked in green. Isn't that somewhat dull? At least it would be possible to use the color to convey different ideas. When Strickland buys a greenish car, that would be an opportunity to show that he also thinks he represents Hope, Life, Progress, only in a more sinister way (he thinks progress means militaristic strength and economic success). But no, Strickland must be convinced that the car's color is called teal to buy it. So again and again, we get the point that yes, Strickland is absolutely evil and he rejects anything that's good in any way possible.
The Shape of Water is a throwback to 1950s classics, but it resembles those movies we have long forgotten because they are so derivative, and so little thought-provoking and ambiguous. Guillermo del Toro is nostalgic for the classics, but the thing about nostalgia is, it often takes something that is forever fresh and challenging and makes it musty and boring.
Ultimately, isn’t this movie so popular because people love to hate the societal backwardness of the 1950s (an easy target – of course we know now what was wrong then) but are all too fine with seeing a movie that is backward in storytelling and aesthetics?