I feel like many were surprised at The Shape of Water winning best picture. I, for one, was not shocked at all as it was the safest, most artistic choice and I think, a clear favorite from the time that the nominations were announced.
Although there was some strong competition, nothing could really challenge this gorgeous film about the human spirit that was an adult fairy tale that we haven’t seen since one of Guillermo Del Toro’s last work, Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s easy to see why this won as it has a memorable story with a deeper message that doesn’t deal with one particular race or group of people.
Sally Hakwins’ character falls in love with a fish, someone that is not like us. She reaches across a divide and finds a connection. Meanwhile, the villain of the film, Michael Shannon is supposed to be the good guy from the outside world. He is the epitome of American Excellence, yet he lacks an empathetic quality that makes him one of the most genuinely unlikable characters we saw on the screen this year.
Finally, the Shape of Water uses old Hollywood references to remind people of the nostalgic feeling of what going to the movies was all about. This sense of escapism that hides us from everyday pain and worry.
So, what was the competition? In any other year, it would be a harsh battle, but based on the events that occurred leading up to the Oscars, it paved a way for The Shape of Water to sneak in.
Get Out: a movie made by a black comic who most of the voters refused to take seriously. It dealt with strong messages of race and felt a little too controversial this year for others.
Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri: a film that had overt racism and too felt out of place.
Lady Bird: a film about a young woman growing up in Sacramento. While it had some of the better performances of the year, I think the feelings of nostalgia and better cinematography made it a little too easy for voters to select the Shape of Water.
Other movies that didn’t get any recognition: I imagine that the rest of the films split the vote evenly and made it difficult for one to stand out.