CineSavant Column

Tuesday March 6, 2018


(From Sunday afternoon:) Helicopters and blimps are circling in the clear skies over Hollywood as I write this — just yesterday we were in the middle of a rainstorm. And the Oscars will of course have been given out by the time this is posted — and I’m not all that familiar with what has and hasn’t been nominated. I ain’t called Savant for nothin’, you know.

Joe Baltake’s The Passionate Moviegoer has two interesting articles up, one on Jack Smight’s The Traveling Executioner and another on an actress I don’t know well enough, Carmen Phillips. My own review on Executioner is back at the old DVD Savant page.

I’m actually very interested in a Disney release right now. Curmudgeon that I am, I wasn’t in any hurry to see the animated musical Coco last Xmas, but when we were in Arequipa in Peru, I got talked into it with the knowledge that it would be a Spanish-language version, and Disney is well-known for excellently scripted and recorded foreign language versions. We saw it at Arequipa’s Cinépolis Theater, a multiplex with digital projection every bit as good as what can be found here. We liked it so much that I have it on order now — the Blu-ray carries the Español track as well, so it will be win-win. Actually, I have to admit that the movie made me feel great — I watched it with no subtitles and understood practically all of it, even many of the language-specific jokes. Filmmakers — the audience is vain, so always flatter it!

Contributing reviewer Charlie Largent is eyeing a German Mario Bava disc box announced now, but not scheduled until September, a 3-title Koch Media Mario Bava Horror collection, with Die Stunde wenn Dracula kommt, Lisa und der Teufel, Die Drei Geschichter der Furcht, Baron Blood and Die Toten Augen Des Dr. Dracula. I’d forgotten that Black Sunday was given a ‘Dracula’ title in Germany. My broken German indicates that Camillo Mastrocinque’s Ein Engel für den Teufel is in there as a ‘bonusfilm,’ adding to the confusion. I’ll let you look up the Deutsche titles on IMDB, to reference back to the ones we’re more familiar with.

(Oscars Follow-up.) Congrats to Guillermo Del Toro — The Shape of Water became my favorite film of the past few years as soon as I saw it last November. I’ve avoided writing about it I think because I was afraid it wouldn’t be appreciated, but the nod happily went its way. The L.A. Times knuckleheads kept calling it a Science-Fiction film, saying that this is the first Sci-Fi film to get best picture when 2001, Close Encounters, etc. did not. It’s not a Sci-Fi film at all but a plain, out and out fantastic monster movie, plain and simple. The monster isn’t scientific but an Amazonian GOD, which puts the movie into the category of ‘modern fairy tale.’ Although the show owes much to all kind of movies, the operative models are the French Beauty and the Beast, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid and Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Sally Hawkins’ magic performance puts the whole thing over. My only disappointment of these Oscars is that she was all but ignored. Is she not glamorous enough? Is she a Hollywood outsider, insufficiently enthusiastic about the political issues in this year’s race? Maybe she’s just not the kind of actor that engages a squad of publicity people. Oh, well, this means it’s time to see Happy-Go-Lucky again.

I don’t think I’ll try to really write about The Shape of Water until it’s out on disc. My advice to friends that didn’t see it was to wait until optimal conditions came around. Here’s the little blurb I wrote about it last Fall:

“The second picture is the one I’ve been waiting for, for months — Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. I love Del Toro’s nigh-perfect Spanish language horror fantasies but this is his masterpiece to date, a fusion of great monster picture ideas that transcends every category of judgment. It sounds like it might be derivative, but it’s not — every time I was reminded of an older movie, it was clear that Del Toro had done something better with the borrowed ideas. The obvious parallels are Universal’s The Creature and the lesser-known Russian The Amphibian Man, but everything here is so new in so many ways that the result is breathtaking.

The movie has wide, wide audience appeal — expect an E.T. -like groundswell of approval, for a film not appropriate for little kids. When was the last time we could say that a monster movie was a powerful emotional experience? Think Starman without so much obvious bathos. Sally Hawkins has my vote for Best Actress of the year. She goes above and beyond a ‘mime’ performance, playing opposite another superb mime performance by the great Doug Jones.

Saying any more would be a serious disservice — I’m so glad I turned off the teaser last summer and didn’t read any reviews. The show opens in just a few days. I’m happy to see Mr. Del Toro hitting one so far out of the park — we were fascinated and thrilled. The Shape of Water is going to go down as one of the great ones.” (11.25.17)

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson