The Guillermo del Toro film is getting much critical acclaim as award season approaches, and deservedly so.
Minor Spoiler Summary:
Set in the 1960's, a mute custodian, Elisa, works at a government lab, which has recently received an amphibious/human-like creature called 'The Asset,' which was taken from a secret location in the Amazon. The evil Colonel who captured the Asset, tortures it, and attempts to convince a general to have it killed so they can autopsy it for research purposes. Elisa must find a way to sneak the creature out of the facility, and eventually set it free.
It's a beautiful story about a lonely person who finds companionship in the strangest of ways. The characters are well written, and well cast. Del Toro doesn't pull punches in creating a terrifically mean antagonist. And as always, his setting is beautifully crafted.
The Shape of Water works best in small moments, as we see how isolated Elisa is from much of the world, and how much simple interaction with the Asset means to her. It works wonderfully when we see Elisa willing to risk what little she has to save the Asset. And it brings a tear to the eye when she tries to explain to her hard-to-convince friends how important this mission is to her.
There are some areas that trip the film up a minor bit. The free flowing camera movement is far overused. The film runs long, as, like so many recent movies, it tries to cram in two Act 2's &3's into one film. And it does push the boundaries of believability a bit too far at times. I thought the ending was especially problematic.
However, The Shape of Water is clearly one of the best movies of the year, and will go down as a classic love tale. This is the type of film that could only come from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. It will make you laugh, cry, and cheer, in truly creative ways. It's especially impressive given its modest $20M budget.
Del Toro is one of the best creative minds of our day. Don't miss out on his latest work. Catch The Shape of Water in the theatre, if you can.
Typically, I rave when storytellers try something different. When they stick to the basic three-act paradigm, with flawed characters growing through an arc while fighting through their obstacles, it all tends to be stale, unless it's somehow taken from a fresh angle.
Three Billboards smashes the basic rules. Often it's done in satisfying ways. However, as a whole, it's a hot mess, where the sum is not greater than the value of the often creative pieces.
The story is of a divorcee, whose daughter was raped and murdered. She decides to rent three billboards outside of her rural house to put controversial messages, bashing the local Sheriff for not solving the murder. That's the setup. After that, it's complete chaos for two hours.
Three Billboards excels in moments. The characters are well developed. But not a one of them is likable, except in short moments. In fact, much of the time, you'll dislike every character on the screen. They're just not slightly flawed, they're assault-people-who-disagree-with-them flawed. And they don't evolve much past that ugliness.
Yet, seeing them act like savages does have its moments. In fact, it's charming at times. Though by the end, you'd wish that there would have been more complete arcs. For me, you can create wonderfully flawed characters that you can easily fall for, but if they don't arc, it's just a trip that doesn't seem to go anywhere satisfying. That is the ultimate flaw in Three Billboards. (Along with an absurd coincidence in a key moment that is just horribly lazy writing).
That being said, if you're looking for unique moments, and like watching heavily flawed characters, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO is for you. You have to look past the typical Hollywood stereotyping of flyover land as a place where everyone is a racist, bumbling idiot. You have to not expect satisfying character arcs. You must not be in need of a typical three-act structure. But, if you're into moments that disturb, often very interesting ways, give the movie a shot. You just might like (parts of) it.
2017 was a mixed bag. I did get a decent amount of writing done, but as always, not enough. I played a bunch of chess, and studied a lot of chess in the first half of the year, but should have studied more. I found out I'll be losing my day job in early 2018, so that was a bummer.
Videogame-wise, 2017 was a clunker. Just think back to the best games of the year in previous years: 2013 Bioshock Infinite, 2014 Titanfall, 2015 The Witcher 3, 2016 Titanfall 2. There wasn't a game released in 2017 that came close to any of these classics. But we do get to look forward to Red Dead 2, maybe in early 2018, so I guess that makes up for it.
My favorite movie of 2017 was Blade Runner 2049. I was so glad that they nailed that sequel. Easily, the best sci-fi movie in many years.
Favorite TV show? Well that's easy. Game of Thrones Season 7 is just about as good as TV gets.
Goals for 2018?
Well, I gotta find a decent day job. That'll be of primary importance. I'm hoping to pivot out of what I've been doing for such a long time, and get into something a little new and a little more exciting.
I've got a couple of writing projects I'm working on that I want to make significant progress on. I'd like to get a little better at chess. Get in a little better shape. That sort of stuff.
It seems like every year looks like it's going to be a year of transition, but never lives up to that expectation. For good or bad, 2018 will be that transition year for me. I'm excited to see where it leads.