Sunday, March 4, 2018


Oscar Watch 2018, part 2 brings my five favourite films of the season.

The Shape of Water

Oh my, this is the most beautiful and the most stunning film. It is without a shadow of a doubt my favourite film of the season, and possibly (yeah it's super early) my film of the year.

I first came across Guillermo del Toro with the stunning Pan's Labyrinth, that fairy scene at the end of the bed is without a doubt, the most beautiful and amazing thing I think I have seen on screen. He also wrote and directed the Hellboy films, which I also love. He has this kinda fucked up vision, beauty and some bastardisation within that leaves you breathless and sometimes appalled, but always wanting more.

The Shape of Water takes it up a notch and then some. This is a whimsical, romantic film, set in the 50s. Elisa (the magnificent Sally Hawkins) is mute and works in a factory with her friend Zelda (the always lovely Octavia Spencer). The factory is always up to some kind of experiment and when a secret is delivered, Elisa cannot help but want to know more. 

The secret is a fish/man, discovered somewhere exotic, and is being used for tests. Elisa is kind to the beast, and begins to communicate with him. It's a slow build, beautifully constructed. We also get to know Elisa's neighbour, Giles (Richard Jenkins, never better) who is a gay man in his later years and just struggling with life. The three leads, Elisa, Zelda, and Giles, are decent people, layered and yet flawed, and work well together. 

Michael Shannon plays Richard the evil man who will use the Fishman to get what he wants. The back story here is cold war, experimentation, secretive 50s stuff!  So Elisa, Zelda, and Giles with the help of Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) a kindly scientist within the factory, decide to break the Fishman out and hide him until they can release him back into the wild.

And this is where the movie takes off, I won't divulge anymore, but suffice to say Elisa has fallen in love with Fishman.

The script and story are so very polished, the cinematography stunning, the set design whimsical and romantic and lush and gorgeous. The soundtrack is key. The acting outstanding, even the Fishman is so realistic you get the fantasy element. The supporting cast are actors I have always admired and will watch anything they do, but Sally Hawkins, who is an absolute star, she steals the show without saying a single word. It is truly a remarkable performance.

In any other year this should sweep every category. But this is an exceptional year, with great films and great performances. Also the Academy doesn't show much love for fantasy, which this is. I do think Del Toro will get Best Director, and there is momentum towards Best Picture, which I would love, but I cannot see that happening. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This movie packs a punch and then some. A grieving mother (Frances McDormand) wants action from local police regarding her daughter's rape and murder. She puts up three billboards asking for said action. Loads of angst ensues.

We meet so many flawed and layered characters along the way. The supporting cast are so amazing in this. Woody Harrelson, Caleb Jones, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, and Sam Rockwell. Oh my, Sam Rockwell's character has more twists and turns of character than I have ever seen in a movie. He holds his own with McDormand and then some. He will win Best Supporting Actor.

And Frances, dear dear Frances, no fucks given ever anyway, but this role, this role is something else!!! What a remarkable role model, what a remarkable women, this role means so much in this political, feminist climate. I bawled through most of this movie, even when it wasn't sad, I just cried because I loved that character so much, unlovable as she actually was.

This is indeed a dramatic movie, with heavy heavy issues and scenes, and yet it is hilariously funny, darkly so. This is an outstanding movie, and should win Best Film and acting categories for Sam and Frances.

Get Out

I saw Get Out on video months ago! And I still think about it. It is difficult to talk about because spoilers and that commences early on in the film. You need to see the film. But basically it is about a young black man who is dating a white woman, and she takes him home to meet her parents. Not long after they arrive home you (the viewer) realise something is up, but you cannot put your finger on it. You go through a few bizarre scenarios (or at least I did) and things start to unravel and you realise things are worse than you even imagined.

They have called this a horror film, which is wrong. Horror is Amityville Horror and films like that, films I would never sit through. This film is real, but the reality of the film and consequences of some of the characters actions are horrific and scary and awful - cause it feels like this is something that could actually happen!

And I feel like I have said too much.

It is an important film, it will make you feel uncomfortable, but it is also entertaining, so very well written, filmed, and acted. It is truly worth seeing. Probably my second favourite film of the season.

Lady Bird

My love for Greta Gerwig is large and strong, and I just adored her directorial debut. There is something I relate to in the characters she portrays on the big screen, especially her delightful Frances Ha. I see a lot of me in her, awkward, honest, not quite understood, real, singled minded etc.

Lady Bird is based on her own life growing up, and you get a lot of the above! Saoirse Ronan plays the title character and nails it. She is as you would imagine Greta to be at 17.  Lady Bird has aspirations bigger than Sacramento, where she lives with her family. Those aspirations simultaneously lead her astray and ground her. 

Lady Bird is about knowing and yet now knowing where you need to be, the struggles of a 17 year old who is a little left of centre, her loves, friends, art and trying to love your family but needing space from them too.

The always brilliant Tracy Lett and Laurie Metcalfe play her parents and lend a great authenticity to the film. Metcalfe, in particular, could well be the star of the film with her equally strongminded and stoic portrayal of Lady Bird's mother.

So lovingly filmed, beautifully acted, funny, dramatic, strange, and pure solid. I also loved the soundtrack. Undeniably early 90s but not in a dated way. I do not think this will win much at the Oscars, which is a shame. This is a great film, just the competition this year is superb!

Phantom Thread

This is a divine period film about a designer, Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis in his final film role) living with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville) in 1950s London. He is precise in his work and in the way he lives his life. One day he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps) who is he enchanted with and she becomes his muse and eventually his lover.

Alma questions everything, including his manner and way things are done, she is a disruptive force that he initially resists, which causes angst on both parts. Things take a turn from there and many twists and turns are placed in this seemingly innocuous plot.

This is a Paul Thomas Anderson film after all, and things were not going to stay simple for long. An interesting script, and a scrumptious feast for the eyes, this is a very different but great film. The acting is superb, the costumes to die for. Again, this will probably not fair well, but may get up in Costume Design, but that is the competition this year.

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