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Is “The Shape of Water” really that good?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists tell me it was the best motion picture of the year. But I’m not sure I believe them.

The film also won for best production design and director, Guillermo del Toro, also won for best director.

This is the same del Toro who directed the unbearably mediocre films, “Crimson Peak” and “Pacific Rim” before “Shape of Water.”

Though to be fair, he also directed “Blade 2,” which is the best techno-punk superhero movie about an African American vampire hunter ever made. Granted, there are only about three movies in that genre and they’re all part of the “Blade” franchise.

In “Shape of Water,” Sally Hawkins plays a lonely mute janitor at a Cold War-era government installation. She then falls in love with a creature contained therein that is half fish, half man. 

I thought the movie was OK.

Hawkins was really good in it. The rest of the cast was OK. It’s a fairly pulpy and fairly obvious story that asks, “Are humans the real monsters?”

As with all of del Toro’s films, the answer to that question is “yes.”

To del Toro, humans are always the real monsters. Captain Vidal, the abusive military man step-father in “Pan’s Labyrinth” was the monster, not the titular maze-owning goat monster, Pan. In “Mimic,” it’s not the mutant cockroaches humanity should fear, but the evil scientists who accidentally created them. And in “The Shape of Water,” we’re to understand that the Amazonian fish monster is a peaceful soul while the Cold War-era military man is the one who’s actually dangerous – despite the fact that only one of these characters eats someone’s pet cat.

But that’s fine. I grew up watching “The Smurfs” and “Edward Scissorhands” so humans  being engulfed by their inherent ugliness while unique, eccentric “monsters” display their own brand of damaged humanity seems reasonable enough to me. It should be a lesson learned by anyone who has ever watched an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” “The Walking Dead” or pretty much any of the old Universal monster movies.

Speaking of which, how did “The Shape of Water” get nominated for best original screenplay? It’s clearly based on “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” but I digress.

I was rooting for “Lady Bird” to win all the Oscars. Of course, it ended up winning none.

The titular “Lady Bird” – a Central California high school student with no relation to the former First Lady – is an outsider in her own right. I mean, she doesn’t have gills or scales, but she does listen to the ska band Reel Big Fish while struggling to find her place in life.

I could relate to Lady Bird in a way that I just couldn’t relate to any of the characters in any of the other films nominated for best picture. This is perhaps odd because “The Post” – a film about struggling, jaded journalists – was also nominated.

Parker Bowman

Parker Bowman

And while I related to Lady Bird’s sense of suburban ennui, maybe other people see themselves not as an attention-starved teen striving for the parentless freedoms that lay just on the other side of 18 and just outside the San Joaquin Valley, but as something less than human, not because they are less than human, but because that’s the lot they’ve been assigned by the guy with the big stick and the self-appointed authority to make those kinds of judgments.  

Or maybe fans of “The Shape of Water” identified with the woman who found herself in love with such a creature, rather than the creature itself.

What do you think? What was the best movie this year? Send me an email at and let me know.

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Parker Bowman is a staff reporter for the Hanford Sentinel, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ Parker_THS or send an email to

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