Home Culture ‘The Shape of Water’ Makes a Splash at Oscars

‘The Shape of Water’ Makes a Splash at Oscars

by AFP

Angela Weiss—AFP

Awards season capped with Academy Awards for Three Billboards, Get Out and Call Me By Your Name

Fantasy romance The Shape of Water took home the best picture Oscar on Sunday, capping an awards season that has seen the film lavished with acclaim and glittering trophies.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War-era story of love between a mute cleaning woman and a mystery merman-like creature being held in a top secret government laboratory in Baltimore has dominated Hollywood’s annual prize-giving season.

The quirky love story challenges viewers to cheer for an unorthodox couple, embracing the themes of tolerance and acceptance. “I want to tell you, everyone that is dreaming of using fantasy to tell the stories about the things that are real in the world today—you can do it,” said Del Toro, who also took home the best director prize.

Del Toro also earned a Golden Globe and Directors Guild Award this season for helming the movie, which won four Oscars overall on Sunday—the other two were for best original score and best production design.

In the movie, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who has been unable to talk since her throat was slashed as a baby, recruits her gay neighbor (Richard Jenkins) and colleague (Octavia Spencer) on a mission to break out the lab’s amphibian prisoner, whose days are numbered. Michael Shannon rounds out the cast in a scenery-chewing turn as the sadistic government employee responsible for the magical creature, which is also in the sights of Russian double agents who have infiltrated the facility.

The Shape of Water finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best—and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance,” reads the critical consensus on reviews collation website Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a 92 percent approval rating.

For Del Toro, the most gratifying reaction always comes from the fans, he told AFP at a recent luncheon for the Oscars nominees in Beverly Hills. “The most beautiful thing which I’d heard, in different ways, was that the movie has healed someone emotionally or has given someone emotional ointment for the soul,” he said. “It’s a moment in which you are being told over and over again by ideologists that you should fear the other and that the other is your enemy that is the cause of your problems. In reality, the answer is the other is the solution to your problems. The other is all you have. The other is the path, and the movie says ‘embrace the other.’”

The film comes at a time when Hollywood is becoming increasingly outspoken at awards ceremonies on issues like immigration, government foreign policy, gender equality and sexual assault. At first glance a magical-realist fairy tale, The Shape of Water is perhaps the most overtly political of all the best picture nominees, in its clarion call for solidarity.

Although its middle-aged, male director might not tick the diversity boxes, it has a female co-writer, Vanessa Taylor, and lead, Hawkins, as well as black and gay characters—not to mention the creature itself. “It’s impossible not to see [the politics] this season, or actually the last few seasons,” Del Toro told AFP. “To me, it is encouraging that these are the moments in which we come to the forefront somewhat in the cultural landscape. And it’s a time to speak about what we can do better.”

The Shape of Water has repaid the trust of Fox Searchlight’s executives, who have seen their production budget outlay of around $19.5 million reap $126.4 million worldwide so far, according to Box Office Mojo.

Del Toro recalled at a recent writers’ discussion in Beverly Hills that it was easy to win over the studio brass with his pitch, which essentially went through the film from start to finish using set drawings and a model of the creature. “I knew it was a movie at the end of the pitch, when we were all teary-eyed, and I thought, ‘We’ve got a movie,’” he said. “But when it got to the point of the musical number and the [sex], I pitched rapidly.”

A complete list of this year’s winners follows:

Best supporting actor

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best makeup and hair

Darkest Hour

Best costume design

Phantom Thread

Best documentary


Best sound editing


Best sound mixing


Best production design

The Shape of Water

Best foreign language film

A Fantastic Woman

Best supporting actress

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Best animated short

Dear Basketball

Best animated film


Best visual effects

Blade Runner 2049

Best editing


Best documentary short

Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Best live action short

The Silent Child

Best adapted screenplay

Call Me by Your Name

Best original screenplay

Get Out

Best cinematography

Blade Runner 2049

Best score

The Shape of Water

Best song

Remember Me, Coco

Best director

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best actor

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Best actress

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best picture

The Shape of Water

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