The Oscars don’t usually favour sci-fi movies. Of course, like any genre movie, they tend to dominate in Best Visual Effects or Best Makeup and Hairstyling, but they have yet to win any total awards for the whole film. On average, one sci-fi movie gets nominated for Best Picture in any given year. Before 2018, only one genre movie had ever won Best Picture this century: Return of the King. Of course, all of that changed with the release of Guillermo Del Toro’s sci-fi fantasy film, The Shape of Water, which received 13 nominations at the Oscars.
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Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water tells a fantastical tale of a mysterious amphibian man who winds up in a secret military laboratory and a woman that falls in love with him. The woman is Eliza Esposito, a mute cleaning lady at the military facility. Sally Hawkins plays her, and Doug Jones plays the captured fish-man in a captivating and powerful silent performance.
Possibly not a coincidence, Jones played a similar-looking fish-man in Del Toro’s Hellboy movies, Abe Sapien. He also played the monster with eyes in its hands in Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, so either Del Toro enjoys working with him or acts well in prosthetics. Or both.
After Eliza and the Amphibian Man develop a relationship, Eliza eventually helps him escape from the facility, and the villainous Colonel Richard Strickland (played by Michael Shannon), who initially captured the creature and wants to experiment on it, is hot on their tails.
The beauty of the Oscar-winning sci-fi movie is in its simplicity. Although it’s a science fiction movie, it’s a love story about two mute set apart from society who somehow fall in love and share a beautiful moment.
In 2018, the sci-fi film swept the Academy Awards and won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. While it’s hard to believe that such a strange movie won so many Oscars, with Guillermo Del Toro at the helm, it seems a bit more believable.
During his acceptance speech, Del Toro spoke about how he was so grateful that back in 2014, people had given his “mad pitch” a chance. “They believed that a fairy tale about an amphibian god and mute woman done in the style of Douglas Sirk, and a musical, and a thriller was a sure bet.” Of course, many fans needed convincing about a sure bet, but fans met the movie with love
Critics loved the movie more than audience members, but it has a 92% critics score and a 72% audience score, clearly putting it in the top calibre of sci-fi movies. Critics claim that the film represents Del Toro at his visually distinctive best, matched by “an emotionally absorbing story” brought to life by the silent protagonists.
It just shows that there is a place in Hollywood and the Oscars for stranger sci-fi titles. Hopefully, the success of such a genre movie can encourage both production studios and directors and filmmakers to give some new and odd ideas a chance.
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What do you think about The Shape of Water?