I went to three new movies over the weekend, and here are some quick comments about them.
The Shape of Water is very well done, with terrific performances by Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins. It's being positioned a bit as a "horror" movie, but it's not at all, more of a "monster" movie -- though it's not really that either. In fact, though with a dark tone, it's actually fairly charming and wistful. The story is about government testing done on a humanoid sea creature who's been discovered in the Amazon (I think...), and the unlikely relationship between the creature and a mute cleaning service woman, played by Hawkins. The response at the Writers Guild screening was very good, as have been the reviews. And I did enjoy it, especially how it was all done, quite-wonderfully directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro. But -- halfway through, I realized I was watching a moodier version of Splash. And at that point, it stopped being so "fresh" to me. Without going into details, so as not to give anything away, I'll just say that A LOT of plot points overlap. I'm not saying it was an intentional steal, just that in so many ways it's the same. (After the screening, waiting around for the next movie, I heard some people discussing it, saying that it was "a cross between Creature from the Black Lagoon and... and..." -- and they couldn't think precisely what else. At which point I called over, "Splash." There was a pause, and then their faces all lit up -- "YES!!!" Here's the trailer.
The movie that I was waiting around to see after the above screening (it was a double-feature day...) was Phantom Thread, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, a filmmaker whose work I generally like very much. (His There Will Be Blood was my favorite movie of the year a few years back.) Phantom Thread is an odd work, definitely not for everyone, but I loved it. It's about an idiosyncratic fashion designer in 1950s London and his relationship with a young woman he takes into his home. There isn't really much of a plot -- which is why I suspect some won't care for it -- but is more a character study of the two people, as we follow their path during this specific time in their lives. It's done with great intelligence and care, but what leaps out most is the tremendous performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. It's a vibrant, meticulous characterization he creates, made all the more remarkable because of how self-controlled the designer is -- to the point of getting so bothered at breakfast when someone is crunching their toast too loudly that he says it breaks his concentration and risks ruining his day. This is the trailer. It gives more a sense of "foreboding" than really exists in the movie. There's some of that, but the overriding sensibility of the film is not sturm-und-drung, but a quiet tension.
And then on Sunday I saw Star Wars: Episode VIII -- The Last Jedi. I will give away absolutely no details. I'll just say that I quite enjoyed it, but didn't remotely looooooove it like some reviews and fan. (Though the most hardcore fans seem to be picking it apart -- some things with reason, some not but then they're hardcore fanboys.) My sense is that what the people who did love it so much are responding to is that the film harkens back to the style and storytelling of the first two movies in the series, which I think people have the most affection for. I shall say no more. What I'll add tangentially is that it's written by Rian Johnson, who I believe has been put in charge of developing the new Star Wars trilogy to follow once this original nine-parter finishes -- and if that's the case then, for whatever flaws exist in The Last Jedi, (and they do exist), the new trilogy is in good hands for most people. And that brings us to the trailer --
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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