During the Oscar ceremony of the year 2010, one best-picture nominated film shocked many, James Cameron’s Avatar. Although the movie isn’t atrocious or anywhere near bad, the simple fact that a film who only exudes form and lacked content was nominated to, in a way, become a staple for that whole year’s production of movies produced discontent in the public. The simple fact was that; Avatar was a beautiful movie with a distinct style that enchanted filmgoers. However, simply being visually striking isn’t enough for a film to be such highly praised. The film’s lack of content and narrative, in addition to its heavy run time was hard to look past. As the film lost, we felt like The Academy was reasserting the values we thought they had lost. It reminded us that films had to first and foremost have good content, impressive character development and a decent plot. However, with this year’s win for best picture, it feels like said values are once again, lost.
To be clear, “The Shape of Water” is far from being a bad movie, the storyline is incredibly unique, featuring an unlikely mute female protagonist and her love affair for a mysterious sea creature with human characteristics. While the movie does reinforce Del Toro’s auteur style, which includes intricate fantastic creatures contained in artificial worlds, the film, in my opinion, lacks a deeper level. The movie tells a very straightforward love story, no matter how unconventional it may be, and offer no further depth or meaning to it. The classical formula for storytelling is used and applied to create a banal film featuring the typical sporting characters and antagonists and a very expected plot, which renders it quite generic and forgettable. The simple version of the film goes: the protagonist sees the creature, falls in love with it, tries to save it with the help from her friends, the “bad guys” do their best to stop them, but fails. The film, while weak on plot and narrative, does contain great visuals and good cinematography works. However, similar to the film Avatar, I don’t think it deserved the win for best picture. “The Shape of Water” is a magical fairytale story that is definitely creative and original, but is easily below many of the fellow best picture nominees. Some of the other reasons why Del Toro took home the Oscar are because the director was on the good side of many of the voters, who appreciated how Del Toro took time and energy to discuss about his movie. During award seasons, most filmmakers don’t divulge much of their availabilities to promote their films and the fact that he did made his work more favorable compared to others. Finally, one of the other main reason this film won is because it remained impartial when it comes to our society’s political scene. The story is a passive one immersing the viewer into a fictitious and fantastic world, uninspired from our reality. Therefore, there are no political critiques like there are in “Get Out,” nor are there social critiques about women empowerment like there are in “Lady Bird,” for example. Handing the Best Picture Oscar to a superficial film like “The Shape of Water” saves some controversy in the media and is a safe option, while endorsing a filmmaker who, in a sense, has seniority and likability in the eyes of the voters.
All in all, “The Shape of Water” is a charming movie featuring some of Del Toro’s lovely signature style. But with that in mind, it is a mindless movie, whose lack of reflexivity renders the viewer passive and allows them to get lost in a fantasy world and escape their reality. With that in mind, shouldn’t voters remain impartial and vote for the film that best explored the medium of cinema, both in content and in form?
Written By: K. Welles