Undulous and Evocative Swells: The Shape of Water

I remember the first time I heard Schubert’s Winterreise on NPR, white knuckle driving the snowy commute from home to school. Made more poignant by dancer Bill T Jone’s tale of watching his father’s brutal walk in the bitter cold to make ends meet for his family. (https://www.wabe.org/winter-songs-bill-t-jones-picks-schuberts-winterreise/) The music and memory made me calm.

Much like last night, where I walk-ran from work at 40 degrees to Burns Court Cinema to see The Shape of Water. I could have done stand up comedy last night and had my script prepared, yet the four day run of cold temperatures had frozen any mojo I had mustered. And just like Schubert’s beautiful music soothed, so did the magnificent story telling of Guillermo Del Torro and Vanessa Taylor on a chilly night in Sarasota.

Trust me, it wasn’t ‘just’ the story. This was a family affair, an incredible mixture of acting and music virtuoso. My two tiny complaints I’ll get out of the way right here, in that I can’t say I liked the cinematography. As other reviewers have pointed out, del Torro likes things a little too dark. And speaking of dark, figuratively this time, I really wish the torture scenes were shorter. I know, I know, I can hear screenplay script Gordy Hoffman saying this now, “you have to torture your hero.”

Now what I was amazed at:
the acting: I’ve championed Sally Hawkins forever and see my previous blogs, most recently “Maudie” for which she may have even shown more brilliance. Here she is perfect as the dreamy mute who fantasizes her way into the arms of a sea creature.
Richard Jenkins is also stunning as Sally’s man pal and I had to take a commercial break to research. He was nominated for an Oscar for The Visitor (gorgeous film) and garnered a Golden Globe Award for this film. He has my vote. I also added a library hold on one that I had seen the trailer for called The Hollars for which he also earned praise.
Michael Shannon, well, if you know me, you know I’ve been infatuated with him since Revolutionary Road, was privileged to get to see him in person at a George Eastman House Q&A, and now hope he doesn’t get pigeon holed as the Lurch like villain. He has much more to him than this role, and yet, I can’t say he wasn’t tremendous here.
Octavia Spencer, who I felt sorry for, playing another role of ‘the help’ in the 1950’s, was also so good, that my awe outweighed my shame for how stupid and prejudiced America used to be (though sadly there are obviously still pockets remaining).
The writing and editing spot on, again, except for the violence. The weaving in of water imagery, eggs=birth, implied sex, romance, an homage to cinema past, all beautifully done. Even the nuanced prejudice and male chauvinism added to the film’s verisimilitude making you forget any skepticism about the sea creature. It was almost as if to believe that humans could be so ignorant to each other’s needs then you might as well better believe the creature from the black lagoon could actually exist.

The end of the film literally reminded me of the denouement of a gorgeous piano concerto. Perfection. Watch out Top Ten List, some one’s gotta make way for this water!

Swiss Army Man: Sartre’s Back!

Sartre’s been reincarnated and come back as the film writing and directing duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinhert. Swiss Army Man reminded me a lot of the play No Exit in that I kept thinking, when in the hell are we getting out of the woods? I suggested the film to my mom and her beau for a fun family night, knowing Paul Dano never fails, expecting a quirky more high brow Weekend at Bernie’s…definitely not the outcome.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie’s not horrible and actually won the directing prize and was nominated for the Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Fest. Paul Dano can’t do anything wrong in my eyes. He brings such passion and open spirit to each role that I’m willing to take the ride. The bromance reminded me of The Fisher King, but with unfortunately far less impact than Bridges and Williams.

On the other hand, I’ve been to Gordy Hoffman’s inspirational Blue Cat Screenwriting Workshops and could hear his voice going, “Wait, we’re a minute 9, still in a cave and the corpse is just laying there?” The fundamental problem with movies these days is lack of editing, plain and simple. In writing we’re taught to ‘kill your darlings’, meaning cut, excise, tighten. This film was bloated which actually is the perfect analogy to end on as I picture Daniel Radcliffe’s body washed up on shore.

Swiss Army Men, prepare for darkness. There is no exit.

In Your Dreams: Documentary The Party’s Over

I rarely remember dreams and when I do, often get a kick out noticing how my day’s reality contributed to the fantasy’s creation. So last night’s doozy came after an interesting concoction of a Netflix political documentary created by Philip Seymour Hoffman called The Party’s Over, found on some sites as Last Party 2000 and a short video of Gordy Hoffman’s Blue Cat Screenwriting tips.

But first, the movie:

Our first thought when we hear the word violence is the man vs. man type, so the self-inflicted drug variety often seems incomprehensible. We opine about Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman, ‘But they had young children, they had talent, they had money.’

And so it was very poignant to see Philip Seymour Hoffman interview an African American woman steeped in the important issues of the then present day 2000, chagrin that those same issues weren’t being spoken by either Bush or Gore. Her comments about heroin trafficking being a big business were especially ironic given PSH’s ultimate demise.

What struck me most about this doc is that the concerns of those marginalized were exactly the issues we’re still fretting about, yet apparently not able to change; gun violence (I had forgotten about Rosie O’Donnell and the Million Mom March), campaign finance reform that Gore promised he was going to change, and the need for drug rehabilitation centers numerous enough to take care of the multitudes addicted.
Being a Rochester resident and age equivalent contemporary, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death threw me for a loop. The fact that my son’s major at Suny Geneseo is Musical Theater also played a part in its impact. I realize there are temptations in most professions, but performance art has to be near the top as far as drug availability.

The Party’s Over illuminated Philip Seymour Hoffman’s as a passionately concerned citizen. His epiphany, or perhaps simply a confirmation and why he made the film in the first place, was that the Democrat and Republican conventions contained speeches and ideologies that were eerily similar and hollow.

I can’t help but see PSH as a defeated man, done in by his own addictive behavior. And it’s equally difficult not to see Barrack Obama as equally impotent on a political level, given that he ran on a campaign of hope and yet now even in his elocution seems to be totally disillusioned. If men with so much passion and promise can not overcome addiction and the wealthy selfish stubborn respectively, what is the future of the United States?

I’ll end with my lighthearted dream, proving we can have fantasies and wishes of happy endings and that we must in the end, maintain our optimism for human evolution for our children’s sakes at the very least.

The dream:
Thematically there’s a ‘bad boy’ fixation subtext going on here for me, having always preferred gentlemen who buck the conventional, have a lackadaisical view of fashion and are more passionately introverted than the male norm. In addition, the secret crush I always had on PSH.

So how much fun it was in this nocturnal illusion to be an actress vying for Mr. Hoffman’s romantic attention, against a terminally ill woman, hence ‘winning’ the competition. Boy, do I know how to fix a bias on a dream level, or what? The resolution culminated in my ballsy dinner date request for the following week and my apologizing for the only problem that I’d have to come in costume, “But not an alien costume with antennae at least,” I reassured. In an adorably wrinkled, untucked Oxford shirt (as he wore in The Party’s Over) Mr. Hoffman put his arm around me and replied, “That’d be fine.”

Rent The Party’s Over and you’ll be wanting to slumber to a sweet dream state, too, anywhere instead of our country’s deepening hole fourteen years later!