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Guillermo Del Toro (#110 of 21)

Toronto Film Review Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

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Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is an ingenious crafter of dioramas, of which The Shape of Water, a Cold War-era drama tinged with elements of the paranormal, is no exception. Yet where Crimson Peak’s clutter of dilapidated, rotting luxury felt like the jumping-off point for the Mexican filmmaker’s imagination to run amok, here del Toro appears restrained by the concrete and steel of an underground research facility. The setting yields an inherent coldness that the film must work to overcome, and for the first time in his career, del Toro visibly struggles to reconcile his premise with its execution.

The film’s protagonist, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), is a mute woman who works as a cleaner in a classified government laboratory. Del Toro establishes her loneliness via montages of her daily routine that show her boiling eggs, swabbing floors, and, in the most obvious giveaway of her emotional state, vigorously masturbating each morning inside a bathtub. Limited in communication to signing with her co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), Eliza largely keeps to herself, rarely making eye contact with superiors and expressing herself only in private.

Box Office Rap Crimson Peak and Two Brands of Horror Nostalgia

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Box Office Rap: Crimson Peak and Two Brands of Horror Nostalgia

Universal Pictures

Box Office Rap: Crimson Peak and Two Brands of Horror Nostalgia

Of the nearly 200 R-rated films to open with over $20 million at the domestic box office, almost a quarter are horror films. A quick rundown of the list reveals that nearly all the entries from the Resident Evil, Underworld, Saw, Paranormal Activity, and Scream franchises are accounted for. Reboots and remakes abound too, with found-footage and home-invasion films like The Purge, The Devil Inside, and The Strangers all screaming their way to the bank. The titans, however, have books as their sources or build on the preceding mythology of a popular franchise. There’s Prometheus, which promised—and lied!—a reboot to match the tension of Alien. Hannibal cashed in on years of audiences waiting to see Anthony Hopkins once again torment Clarice Starling. And The Passion of the Christ, the ultimate torture-porn film, let bloodthirsty masses watch their savior be ripped to shreds.

Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

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Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions
Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

One of the casual disappointments of the ways we often regard art of all forms is born of that feeling of exclusion that’s often projected and even more often felt. There’s a sense that you have to be educated formally to understand art and to discuss it seriously, and that you might have to be a member of an intangible club of lofty intellectuals in order to be empowered to express a thought about a book or a film or a song that you hope to be taken seriously by others. This is a tragedy, because all great art is an act of democracy that can be felt by everyone. Yes, your background will affect your responses to art, of course, and why wouldn’t it? Your background, which is to say the texture of your life (your childhood, friends, lovers past and present, jobs, education), informs your responses to everything.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions is a passionate and engaging read, particularly for fans of del Toro’s films, and, most particularly, for monster aficionados of all ages, shapes, and stripes, but it’s most valuable for the way it expresses the filmmaker’s voracious appetite for knowledge. This is an erudite man, and he wears his references lightly, sensually: He invites you into the realms of his obsessions, which include symbolist painters such as Arnold Bocklin, Odilon Redon, and Carlos Schwabe, and writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Arthur Machen, and Stephen King. All of these artists figure prominently in Cabinet of Curiosities, and so do a variety of other painters, composers, and even biologists. You may have a hell of a reading list after even casually thumbing through this volume.

Ranking Guillermo del Toro’s Films: From Worst to Best

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Ranking Guillermo del Toro’s Films: From Worst to Best
Ranking Guillermo del Toro’s Films: From Worst to Best

Given how often his name has been attached to projects, particularly over the last 10 years, Guillermo del Toro could easily be mistaken for a tirelessly prolific director, whose near-annual output of darkly fantastical visions seems to make him the genre fanatic’s Woody Allen. But while del Toro has amassed roughly 30 film credits since making his 1985 debut with the horror short Doña Lupe, he’s only been at the helm of eight features. Other works, like The Orphanage, Kung Fu Panda 2, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which he famously came very close to directing, have seen him serve as everything from writer and executive producer to voice actor and creative consultant. With Pacific Rim, the latest (and most massively budgeted) of that limited del Toro line, hitting theaters on Friday, we’re looking back at the director’s body of work, which reflects a man as interested in the social, political, and existential as the bloody, the slimy, the fleshy, and the scaly. R. Kurt Osenlund

Back There Again: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Back There Again: <em>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</em>
Back There Again: <em>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</em>

Once the distinct, familiar sense of wonder took hold, I felt a sharp pang of guilt watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, part one of Peter Jackson’s long-gestating Lord of the Rings prequel. Here’s a movie that so many, myself included, regarded with great prejudice, sizing it up as a cute jaunt that had to be seen along with the other year-end contenders, yet reeked of folly, diminished stakes, and outright opportunism, its attachment to a trilogy making excess seem like one more strike against it. But, then, as Jackson’s camera began scanning New Zealand’s topography, with majestic Howard Shore accompaniment, this arrogant miscalculator (and ardent Rings fan) sat humbled and corrected. Jackson may not boast a sterling track record post-Return of the King, and The Hobbit may have suffered a heap of development hell, passing from Jackson to (eventual co-writer) Guillermo del Toro like a certain burdensome bauble, but shame on all who doubt the enduring, enveloping power of Jackson’s Middle-earth, an immersive and comprehensive filmic world if ever there was one. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey brought me right back to a place I didn’t realize I was missing, a widescreen realm that seems to exist to widen the eyes.