THE ATLANTIC: "How This Year's Oscar Contenders Are Tackling Trump"
September 20, 2017, 06:52 PM
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Movies usually take at least two years to go from conception to completion, even with all the money in the world behind them. For example, the sequel to the August 2014 surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy arrived in theaters in May 2017, 33 months after the original.

So, it’s obvious that all the Oscar-bait movies currently debuting on the festival circus were conceived of no earlier than November 9, 2016. Or at least that’s the impression we are supposed to get …

From The Atlantic:

How This Year’s Oscar Contenders Are Tackling Trump

Some of the biggest hits—and one notable flop—at the Toronto International Film Festival played as blunt allegories for the current political moment.


When introducing his new movie The Shape of Water at the Toronto International Film Festival last week, the director Guillermo del Toro was clear about the message he wanted to convey. The Shape of Water is a romantic, grown-up fairytale, where a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) working at a secret government facility in 1962 falls in love with a sea creature (Doug Jones) that’s being held there against its will. It’s a story of empathy triumphing over prejudice, one where the facility’s villainous supervisor (Michael Shannon) is largely driven by hatred of what he doesn’t understand.

… When discussing The Shape of Water, del Toro (who is Mexican) has been equally upfront about how its sea creature is a stand-in for “the other,” or the outsider, in any kind of political situation. As this year’s Oscar race kicks off, del Toro’s movie is resonating—it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It’s also part of a larger trend in political and allegorical mainstream filmmaking, where directors are plainly and loudly tackling the Trump administration, some with more grace than others.

… This year, a sizable chunk of the festival’s biggest hits have a few key things in common—they’re coming out in the first full year of the Trump administration, they’re deeply topical despite many of them being period pieces covering unfortunate historical events, and they have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

… But The Shape of Water is more directly applicable to the current debate raging over the White House’s hardline immigration policies and the emergence of the alt-right. Del Toro hasn’t shied away from that interpretation, saying of Shannon’s villain, “He doesn’t see anyone because his arrogance is so big. … It speaks about the issue we have today that choosing fear over love is a disaster.” When asked about the current political climate, he said, “It’s like a cancer. We have a tumor now. That doesn’t mean the cancer started with that tumor. It was gestating for so long.”

In dramatizing America’s idealized past in The Shape of Water, del Toro tries to get at the root of problems in the present. The film takes place in the ’60s, when the country is a forward-looking superpower, but the story is set largely within a darker underbelly. “If you were white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant, it was a great time to be alive,” del Toro said of that decade. “If you were not, if you were anything else, it was not.”

Guillermo del Toro knows because he is a famous Person of Color, as you can tell from these photos of him with Peter Jackson, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Shannon. Del Toro’s dad owned an automobile manufacturing company in Mexico, which means that Guillermo knows all about racism and oppression. Del Toro’s dad was kidnapped in Guadalajara and held for ransom for $1 million for 72 days, until Guillermo’s friend James Cameron paid it.

Who here can’t identify with having James Cameron pay your industrialist dad’s ransom? It’s practically a rite of passage.

Del Toro may look like a Hobbit, but his ancestry comes from the extreme northern border region of The Shire, so that makes him The Other.

Del Toro hasn’t lived in his native Mexico since his father’s kidnapping, but that just makes him more aware of how racist you are for having doubts about not welcoming so many Mexicans to America.

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