• Some of the backlash articles are at best remarkably prudish – and I say this as a prude – declaring basically that no one should be making a movie about a fish person having sex with a human (as if such interspecies relationships haven’t been a staple of SF and fantasy stories for a very long time). Or that Oscar winner shouldn’t have teh sex (and I think that ship sailed a long time ago).

    But I think a few are part of a bigger narrative that is hiding its racism (or maybe embracing it). It goes with the comments the conservatives are making about “there are no movie stars any more.” By which I think they mean that there are not enough white men in these films (as if Gary Oldman didn’t win, as if there aren’t a dozen white Chrises making very popular films). Shape of Water is all wrong for this crowd, since the white man is the bad guy, since it’s supportive of minorities of all sorts, and since it’s director isn’t even American! It’s easy to then hide your hatreds in the other narratives. Assuming you want to hide your hate.

    I’ve seen a fair number of well reasoned negative reviews here and at Avocado, and a number by critics I trust. To many, this is a very flawed film from a director who some love and some find to be too much in love with his ideas and his vision and not enough with cogent storytelling. I think it likely that in 30 years, this one will enter the great muddle of average Oscar winners. Whether over those 30 years, the self-serving narratives fall by the wayside is anyone’s guess.

    • Balthazar Bee

      CBC radio aired an interview with…I can’t remember her title, but she was suggesting that the premise of the film was somewhat offensive because a non-verbal character’s non-verbal-ness is what allowed her to make a connection to another “othered” character. This makes the character a prop to further the story, or something (like every other character in every other narrative ever made, no?).

      I love CBC radio, but their constant insecurity about their own level of woke-ness can be a bit exhausting.

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    • Babalugats

      To be fair, people have been making the “no more movie stars” argument forever. Sunset Boulevard makes fun of that.

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  • BurgundySuit

    Year of the Month Update (from an idea by Elizabeth Lerner)!

    Here’s some things you can write up for March:

    And here’s our schedule so far:
    NO DATE: Wallflower: The Royal Tenenbaums
    NO DATE: Wallflower: Strange Little Girls
    NO DATE: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: Millenium Actress
    NO DATE: Gillianren: Atlantis – the Lost Empire
    NO DATE: Son of Griff: The Man Who Wasn’t There
    NO DATE: The Narrator: Reveal

    March 9th: The Narrator: Reveal
    March 12th: Joseph Finn: Not Another Teen Movie!
    March 15th: Conor Malcolm Crockford: Heist
    March 20th: ZoeZ: The Others
    March 21st: Clytie: Fast Food Nation
    March 22nd: John Bruni: Southern Rock Opera
    March 23rd: Ice Cream Planet: Mulholland Dr.
    March 24th: Balthazar Bee: Jason X
    March 25th: Ruck Cohlchez: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    March 27th: ZoeZ: The Birthday of the World and Other Stories
    March 29th: BurgundySuit: Chartbusting!
    March 30th: Miller: Monkeybone

    • I claimed a day and already used it!

      • BurgundySuit

        Oh wow, I still haven’t fixed that? My bad.

  • At this point, I’ve mostly just resigned myself to be happy if a movie I enjoy wins Best Picture, whether or not it actually deserved to win relative to other movies that year.

    • Babalugats

      It’s always surprising to look over that all time Best Picture list, and realise how few classics are on it. And how many mediocre if not outright bad films have won. The Shape of the Water wasn’t my favorite film of the year, but it’s certainly more deserving than The Greatest Show on Earth, or Tom Jones, or Driving Miss Daisy, or like half the other winners.

      • I like Driving Miss Daisy and haven’t seen Tom Jones, but we agree on The Greatest Show on Earth, which is a bore.

        • Babalugats

          Do you like it more than The Shape of the Water?

          I think the gap between The Shape of the Water and whatever I would have voted for is a lot smaller than the gap between Driving Miss Daisy and Do The Right Thing. If there isn’t a monumental classic released in a year, than there’s no reason to get upset about a pretty good movie winning.

          Though between you defending Daisy and @pico79:disqus sticking up for Tom Jones it’s hard to find a suitable punching bag. Everybody agrees that The Greatest Show on Earth sucks, right? Or is this whole art thing totally subjective?

          • CineGain

            It’s safe to assume we all agree on dissing the after-school special known as Crash?

          • Yes, Crash succkkkksssss.

          • The Ploughman

            All in favor of driving Crash – possessed of evil, overrated spirits – away from our town and into the wilderness, raise your pitchfork and say “aye.”

          • Oh yeah, the gap between Do the Right Thing and Driving Miss Daisy is way larger than the gap between the best movie of 2017 (Phantom Thread, I’d say) and Shape of Water (maybe the 4th or 5th best movie of 2017, I’d also say).

            I do think The Greatest Show on Earth sucks, although I don’t think it’s quite as bad as its reputation (I don’t think it’s the worst BP winner, e.g.), so maybe you’re onto something with this subjectivity business.

  • The strangest criticism I’ve seen is that it was a “safe” movie. It’s about an interspecies sexual relationship – that isn’t safe! “Safe” would’ve been Darkest Hour – everyone loves Churchill and WW2, right?* Dunkirk maybe, but that’s a part of British lore, not the US. I do think Get Out is the more daring choice, and The Shape of Water is safer than it (one places its racism 50y ago, the other today). But the Academy could’ve gone much much safer.

    *Oh dear no, but it’s the Academy, so one last chance to celebrate the Greatest Gen?

    • Jake Gittes

      I’d argue it’s extremely safe in how it positions and treats its characters – the heroes as oppressed outsiders who are all pure and innocent, the villain as a white male authority figure who’s practically the worst person in the world and was probably born scowling – if you’re a left-leaning viewer inclined to side with the protagonists from the start and willing to accept the romance (not that hard, in my view, in the context the movie creates), there’s nothing remotely complicated or challenging about it. But it’s all relative I suppose.

      • This is fair. It’s maybe one-sided in its argument, though I’d say 1) aren’t most fairy tales?, and 2) the other side sucks. But I imagine if you’re on the other side, then my side sucks.

        This is why I said it’s safer than Get Out – it puts the racial aspect in the past, where people can say, “Boy, we’ve improved since then, huh?” instead of the here and now (cf Driving Mrs Daisyvs Do the Right Thing).

    • DJ JD

      I’m with Jake on this one. Honestly, Forbidden Love has become a fascinatingly safe trope of late. Can you imagine the reaction that Every Day trailer would’ve elicited 20 or 30 years ago?

      • ZoeZ

        I’m going to derail into a mini-rant, but: as a book, Every Day embodies a kind of faux-risk-taking, ostensibly celebrating difference without actually allowing it to mean anything, full of People Who Believe Different Things are Bad tropes, dependent upon lecturing a girl about why she should be sexually attracted to someone, and then allowing for a bonding opportunity because Everyone is Fine Except for Fat People Who Are the Worst. Also, the science fictional aspects are ridiculously flimsy and poorly thought-out.

        This has been “ZoeZ’s Hate Corner.”

        • DJ JD

          I’m glad you did! I had the worst NOPE moment to that trailer when I saw it, but I’ve had a tough time unpacking just what I was reacting to ever since. Your post helped me a lot on that front.

          (Also, when the backstory is that thin, about a subject like this, I tend to assume there’s either a Great Big Point being made and/or we’re deep into one or more of the author’s personal fetishes.)

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I may, or may not, resent the fact that the book is really similar to a novella idea I had.

          • ZoeZ

            I fully believe you would have done it better.

      • Babalugats

        That’s such a terrifying premise for such a positive emotional score. Somebody get that script to Jonathan Glazer!

        • DJ JD

          See, that’s what I thought too! I couldn’t tell if I was having an old-man “back in my day” moment or if I was just that creeped out by what seemed like a horrifying idea being sold as super sweet and romantic or what. (I do like ZoeZ’s point about the girl being told to be attracted to, well, everyone, because it was Really The Same Person, too.)

          • ZoeZ

            Yeah, in the book she gets lectured when she doesn’t want to kiss A when A is in a girl’s body, because, “It’s still me.”

            But don’t worry! When A wakes up in the body of an overweight boy, there’s a lot of dwelling on how disgusting and slothful the body is, and A says they can understand how Rhiannon isn’t attracted to them then because the fatness is a sign of having given up and been lazy, so that body isn’t projecting A.

            Also, I’ve read books where the narrator’s gender is never apparent and I’ve read books where the narrator’s gender is definitively nonbinary; this can be done well and convincingly. A, however, never reads as anything other than male, which makes some of this stuff extra-grating.

          • DJ JD

            Wow. That reads as downright hypocritical to me when the whole premise is a barely-dressed-up setup to have this girl kiss and love practically everyone. I mean, I just disliked the trailer

          • Babalugats

            So this is yet another, “better when Futurama did it” movie? Do they get royalties off these? If there’s five more will we get another season?

  • Babalugats

    The Oscar backlash has become so predictable, that I’ve stopped rooting for movies I like, to win. There are so few winners that have avoided it. Moonlight has (La La Land kind of took the backlash bullet for it), 12 Years A Slave, No Country For Old Men (even if a lot of people mistakenly believe There Will Be Blood should have won), but not many others.

    I do think there are legitimate reasons for the backlash; an Oscar win brings in a wider audience that includes a lot of people disinclined to like the film, and I think we all frame our opinions by what we perceive the larger cultural context to be. But there’s also a lot of people who work backwards to fit the film into whatever their complaints about Oscar voters are. And it’s pretty insufferable. The worst thing about the Oscars has always been the people complaining about them.

    • jroberts548

      An enterprising thinkpiece writer could write his backlash articles now and then just find and replace.

      • Back in the 1990s, Steve Erickson said there was only one principle as a movie reviewer: anything that isn’t underrated is overrated, and anything that’s overrated becomes underrated after a period of time. (“For a while I was underrated and overrated at the same time.”)

    • pico

      I do think there are legitimate reasons for the backlash; an Oscar win brings in a wider audience that includes a lot of people disinclined to like the film, and I think we all frame our opinions by what we perceive the larger cultural context to be.

      This is a really good observation.

    • Irish Eyes Of A Gnu Generation

      I’m comin’ for you, The Sound of Music. You’ve had it too easy for too long. The hills are alive with the sound of my wicked burns.

  • NYGdan94

    I’d argue it’s extremely safe in how it positions and treats its characters – the heroes as oppressed outsiders who are all pure and innocent, the villain as a white male authority figure who’s practically the worst person in the world and was probably born scowling – if you’re a left-leaning viewer inclined to side with the protagonists from the start and willing to accept the romance (not that hard, in my view, in the context the movie creates), there’s nothing remotely complicated or challenging about it

  • Drunk Napoleon

    I’m only just reaching the point of accepting The Backlash at this point, but holy Christ, the process of success/backlash/counter backlash is exhausting. Is it just me, or is the process actually getting faster? Like, not just in the sense that the Internet has sped up all communication, but in that you have both the media encouraging it with thinkpieces, and audiences seeming to take it for granted and just getting straight into it?

    • It’s not just you. The timing goes something like this:
      1-2 weeks before release: Why You Should Be Interested in X
      1-7 days before release: Audiences Are Really Interested in X! Let’s Find Out Why!
      1 day before-3 days after release: We Review X. It’s Pretty Good.
      3-7 days after release: Audiences Love X!
      7-10 days after release: You Shouldn’t Love X As Much As You Do, Here’s Why
      2 weeks after release: Did You Like X? Feel Stupid Now? You Should.
      3-4 weeks after release: It’s Time to Reconsider X
      1-2 months after release: A Look Back: Why Was X So Controversial?

      • Babalugats

        For stuff that premieres at festivals, the whole process plays out before the movie even gets released.

        • Glorbes

          It was pretty wild to go on this rollercoaster with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in real time during Ye Olde dissolve days. The public library I borrow all my movies from has like three copies of it.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        “You keep using this phrase, ‘feel stupid now? you should’, and… I love it!”

        Anyway, the fact that even pop culture criticism can be industrialised is very disturbing.

        • DJ JD

          I’ll try to behave, but I have this long rant about how our larger “internet economy” (whatever that is) is just built on attention, nothing more. It can be good attention or bad attention or any attention at all, just so you’re talking about it. I really view @disqus_wallflower:disqus ‘s excellent breakdown of the viewer pendulum as playing into the movie marketers’ hands, because even if we all say we hate it, we’re talking about it and that’s enough. It doesn’t take much squinting to see an awful lot of the internet as being written by a bunch of unusually articulate three-year-olds.

          I don’t think this is a new mechanism in human interactions by any stretch, but I do think the mechanism is getting reprioritized and escalated in some unsettling ways in our current larger milieu.

          • Way back in the day (like the days of network television, print, and movies in theaters), someone noted that advertising isn’t about getting you to like the product, it’s about getting you to remember it–something embodied in the metric of the “Q score,” which is based on recognizability rather than approval. What were seeing now is a world where everything is a form of advertising; the articles we’re talking about aren’t analyses, but ads for clicks, basically trailers for themselves. (How may online headlines are versions of “SEE! We Destroy X with One Scorching Take!”?)

            Advertising being what it is, every one of these so-called arguments has to forget everything about the past except the preceding article in the sequence, and doesn’t expect to be remembered past the next. It’s not a new thing, but it’s gone farther than anyone imagined it would; Guy Debord was the only one crazy enough to see this shit back in ’68 with The Society of the Spectacle and I don’t want to say that’s why he killed himself.

          • DJ JD

            Ugh, yeah, the “best” ads – and likely the future of the medium, at least for the aural media – are the ones that just do nothing but repeat the same piece of information again and again and again. It kills me. I hate those so much, but I do actually come away from the experience remembering “Summit Place Kia” after I hear it roughly thirty times in a row on the radio. I try to fight back by boycotting any product that I remember for a bad/offensive/whatever ad campaign, but I know full well it’s a losing battle.

        • When the backlash is at maximum, the tone of the articles is “we Internet Cool People ALWAYS knew X sucked and now we’ll explain to you, our less-cool-than-ourselves-but-still-cooler-than-those-who-don’t-read-us readers, why you were wrong to think X didn’t suck.”

      • Aristophanes

        Don’t forget that there is targeted advertising for every stage!

  • The Ploughman

    The Shape of Water > Paw Patrol

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Never let anyone say you’re not willing to court controversy!

    • Irish Eyes Of A Gnu Generation

      The Shape of Water = Bubble Guppies

      • The Ploughman

        We will appreciate the prescience of this comment someday when our kids grow up and demand a gritty remake ala Power Rangers.

    • I just assume that’s true.