Producer’s Film Picks for January 2018

The theme for this month – Beauty and the Beast

Image result for the shape of water
Theatrical Release
The Shape of Water (2017)
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (Divergent.) Directed by del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone.) Edited by Sidney Wolinsky (Suddenly Love, Love Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage.) Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer

“The best parts of The Shape of Water, a fantasy fairy tale set in 1962 in a top-secret aerospace research center, are marvelously rhapsodic in ways that recall films like Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast without ever seeming slavish. But del Toro, who co-wrote the script with Taylor, also has his pulpy side, and I often wished while watching this film that he had jettisoned all the cold-war melodrama featuring Shannon, as a big bad government agent, and focused more fully on the relationship between the mute Elisa (Hawkins), a night-shift janitor, and the mysterious merman captured in the Amazon by government operatives in order to harvest his body parts for “research.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“One night, Elisa encounters the facility’s newest acquisition, a scaly gill-man (Jones) captured in the Amazon, where “the natives worshiped him as a god.” While the general and his underlings argue for vivisection (and possibly a weapon against the USSR), and scientist Dr. Hoffstetler (Stuhlbarg) appeals for keeping the amphibian alive for further study, Elisa tentatively bonds with this literal fish out of water. Assisted by her African-American co-worker/best friend Zelda (Spencer), she spirits the creature away from the G-men and into the bathtub at her apartment, where the bond between the two blossoms into something far richer. Elisa’s homosexual neighbor Giles (Jenkins) also assists the ruse, until the inevitable discovery of the abduction occurs and all manner of chaos ensues.” Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

“The creature is dangerous – it devours cats and human fingers. But Elisa is entranced and takes to stealing downstairs whenever she has time to spare, placing hard-boiled eggs on the rim of the tank and waiting for the beast to come and eat his lunch. The Shape of Water isn’t simply a romance, but a B-movie thriller as well – which naturally means the clandestine meetings can’t last. Prowling the corridors, swinging his nightstick, is Shannon’s Strickland, a brutal government goon who styles himself as the monster’s tormentor-in-chief. ‘That thing we keep in there is an affront,’ he barks at the cleaners.” Xan Brooks, The Guardian

“The movie takes its name from Plato’s idea that in its purest form, water takes the shape of an icosahedron, a 20-sided polyhedron, evoking the idea that beauty, and humanity, has many faces. Like most fairy tales — which often involve glorious and beautiful beings who take on disguises to teach craven people a lesson — The Shape of Water is devoted to reminding us that everyone is beautiful, and that it’s those we cravenly consider maimed and strange and frightening who will inherit the earth. Del Toro always renders his films’ social critiques in fantastical and imaginative images, and The Shape of Water is among his best, with a creature that’s both fully reptilian and strangely human, a black-and-white dream dance sequence, and underwater imagery that verges on the balletic. The color palette leans heavily on greens, ranging from muddy to emerald — I suspect partly because green is the color of the sea and partly because it’s the combination of two primary colors, yellow and blue.” Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

Archival films
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Written by Harry Essex (Kansas City Confidential) and Arthur A. Ross (The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock.) Directed by Jack Arnold (The Incredible Shrinking Man, No Name on the Bullet.) Starring Richard Carlson, Julie Adams and Richard Denning.

“It’s a sad note that this internecine crabbing should mar the creation of such a beauty of a monster, but also understandable; who wouldn’t want to receive sole credit for the creation of the Gill Man? It’s so perfect a piece of design that after more than six decades, the movies still haven’t come up with an answer to the descriptor ‘fish-man’ that deviates more than slightly from Patrick and Westmore’s model. Along with H.R. Giger’s venereal alien, it is the greatest of all brand-new monster designs in the movies.

“Almost as impressive as the Gill Man himself is the fact that the move he’s in manages to be worthy of him. Surely, plenty of credit for that can go to Arnold, one of the definitive genre directors in 1950s Hollywood: between this, It Came from Outer Space, and The Incredible Shrinking Man, you’d be hard-pressed to find any filmmaker from his generation with three equally-beloved horror titles on his CV. And in truth, much of what makes Creature from the Black Lagoon stand out from the crowd happens at the level of staging, pacing, and mood.” Tim Brayton,

Colossal (2016)
Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes.) Cinematography by Eric Kress (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark.) Starring Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson and Dan Stevens.
“So get this… Anne Hathaway plays an alcoholic who loses her boyfriend and her apartment and moves back into her old neighborhood, where she gets a job at a bar and rekindles her friendship with an old schoolyard chum, played by Jason Sudeikis. Also, every time she walks across a children’s playground at a specific time of day a giant monster attacks South Korea. When people complain that Hollywood keeps making the same movies over and over and over again, I’m not sure that they’re actually asking for Colossal, but at least now they have it.” William Bibbiani, Crave Online


The Shape of Water is at The Grand Cinema.
Creature from the Black Lagoon will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, January 5 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
Colossal will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, January 12 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, January 17 in the CSL.

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