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My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: The Shape of Water

This has become an annual tradition the day before the Oscars. In order move away all the subjectivity and negativity that happens when figuring out what should win and what’s going to win, I use the day before the ceremony to get away from all of that stuff and celebrate the films that are nominated for Best Picture.

We take this day to look at them as masterworks of cinema and not as films competing for a trophy. All of that other stuff — the analysis, the opinions — that’s all done with. Today, we take a minute, we stop, and we appreciate the films themselves. I count down my five favorite moments (or elements) of each of them.

When you take away all the awards, all the competition, and all the arbitrary decisions about what film is better than the others, what we’re left with is great cinema. That’s what we’re celebrating.

Our next nominee is The Shape of Water.

5. The love story

Love is love. And this one was sweet. Her going to the lab every day to eat her lunch, bringing him eggs and music and teaching him sign language — this is a better romantic set up than most romance films have today. With humans! There’s something so pure about this that transcends logic.

4. The heist

I love a good heist. Especially here, where the object is to get a fish man out of a government lab. But on top of that, what makes heists work are not only the scenes of planning, and complications that are overcome, either in the planning stages or during the actual heist, but also the different personalities involved. Here, it’s basically a cast of misfits planning a daring heist. The mute, the gay painter, the sympathetic doctor/Russian spy, the friend. It’s great. Everything feels perfect, and you understand why everyone’s doing what they’re doing. It has moments of comedy (like Jenkins trying to lower his age on the fake ID) and real thrills. The scene of them escaping is great. Seeing Stuhlbarg help them out by killing that guy is nice, and you actually get a real sense of uplift once it’s successful in the end. Everyone loves a good heist.

3. The musical number

I loved it. I thought it was bold, and original, and perfect for the moment. Who else would have the balls to put a song and dance number with a fish man in their movie?

2. The direction

Continuing on that note… Guillermo del Toro directs one hell of a movie. He really knocked this one out of the park. Just knowing how little he made it more makes the effort all the more impressive. This looks like a movie of triple its budget. And on top of that — every frame looks perfectly crafted, down to the colors and items within the frame. It’s a beautiful piece of cinema.

1. Cinema

This is really my takeaway. I love any movie that’s a love letter to cinema, which this is. Forget the image itself, and the fact that a movie theater factors into the film, but this movie is a love letter to old cinema, from them watching it on the screen, to the musical number in the center, to the romance at the center of the film. Not only is it a love letter to cinema, meaning the movies, it’s a love letter to cinema, the art form, because this is pure cinema. This is why we go to the movies, and this is why we make movies. There’s something pure and universal about this story. Despite its adult themes, you could edit this down for children and they would understand it perfectly. It’s a fairy tale. It’s a morality tale. It’s pure. And it’s beautiful.

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