The Shape of Water, A Filet or A Flop? (Cross Talk EP 35)


This should be a fairly straightforward post.

I’ve already written a fairly in-depth review on the movie The Shape of Water – and I made my love of the film known pretty clearly there. But too be perfectly honest, Chris doesn’t care for the movie, and I value his opinion a lot, so we decided it would be fun to put together a deep dive episode on the movie and talk about our differing opinions. Which as some of you know, is one of the reasons why I started Cross Talk in the first place.

To discuss movies, music, board games etc. and present topics in a more meaningful way then your average review or criticism video.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great channels out there where the presenters have a degree in film criticism, others where the reviews are purely based on if the movie is enjoyable or not, and still others where the film is dissected and all of the symbolism is put on display. But that’s not how people really talk about movies necessarily.

When you are chatting about a movie like The Shape of Water with your friends, you’ll get lost in incidental details like the way the government facility looked, or the musical score choices, or whether Doug Jones did a better job playing Abe Sapien, the Faun, the Pale Man or  “the Asset.” And if you’re a movie geek like us, you might even start entertain interesting theories about why the movie is a fairy tale, and not an alternate reality where mermen exist.

Or maybe you’ll point out how there are so many more movies that do star-crossed lovers in a better way, with more compelling characterizations. And you’ll get passionate about it. Wondering why an amazing film like Get Out only got attention for it’s screenplay.

And so this is episode thirty five of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

Do you think my theory about Giles having invented the majority of the story is right? Or am I completely off the rails with this one dear readers? Chris has a better appreciation of why I relate to the story so well now, but maybe I’m projecting, and the movie isn’t anything more then what you see on screen.

In that case, maybe the submerged bathroom scene is completely ludicrous.

But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth talking about, we managed to fill a 20 minute space talking about it, and you didn’t even see all of the outtakes we have! Until next time, please like and share the content! And subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t yet. I’ve got a blue review on Jack White coming up tomorrow!


In Love With The Shape Of You (The Shape Of Water review)

Join us for a very special film review on this week’s episode of Watch Culture.

I say this because I’m about to drop some knowledge on why The Shape of Water holds a special place in my heart, so much so that I’ll also be running a deep dive on Cross Talk with Chris later in the month (read: sooner).

The Shape of Water (2017)

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones
Director: Guillermo del Toro
released on blu-ray March 13, 2018
********* 10/10

IMDB: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 74%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer and novelist. His films have a strong fantasy element running through them, often using dark themes and gothic backdrops to convey both subtle and overt messages about human nature. Some of his more mainstream films are Pacific Rim, Blade II and the two Hellboy adaptations, but he also dabbles in spanish language focused stories like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.

Looking back, his most recent film before The Shape of Water was Crimson Peak, a strong indicator and launching point toward fairy tale narratives.

Special thanks to Huggo for the IMDB summary.

1962 Baltimore. Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), found abandoned as a baby with scars on her neck, has been mute all her life, that disability which has largely led to her not having opportunities. Despite being a bright woman, she works a manual labor job as a cleaner at a military research facility where she has long been friends with fellow cleaner, Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer), who often translates her sign language to others at the facility. And she has had no romance in her life, her major emotional support, beyond Zelda, being her aging gay artist neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), the two who live in adjoining apartment units above a movie theater. Like Elisa, Giles is lonely, his homosexuality complicating both his personal and professional life, the latter as a commercial graphic artist. Elisa’s life changes when Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings a new “asset” into the facility, Elisa discovering it being a seeming mixed human/amphibious creature found in the waters of the Amazon. Secretly visiting with the creature, Elisa is immediately drawn to him, and despite he having a violent side as part of his inherent being, the two find a way to communicate with each other and end up forming a bond with each other. Elisa has to decide what to do when she discovers that although the reason for bringing the creature to the facility is to test the possibility of him being sent into space, Colonel Strickland, who has always had antagonistic feelings toward the creature, ultimately wants to kill him, this following the systematic torture he has inflicted on him. Elisa may have to balance her feelings on wanting to be with the creature against what may be the greater benefit to him of being set free back into the wilds of the water. Complicating matters are that the Soviets are also aware of the creature, they having a secret agent who has infiltrated the facility.

Smarter people then I have reviewed this film to death already.

So I won’t pretend to impart the same learnings as them in my review of this film, but I will acknowledge that there is some derivation at work here. As Chris will rightly point out in his own thoughts on our upcoming Deep Dive; this is a story that effectively borrows from other films. The Beauty and the Beast story arc is the bones of this film, it also throws in homages to monster movies (Creature from the Black Lagoon), musicals (Shirley Temple, That Night in Rio) and biblical stories (The Story of Ruth).

But where the brilliance comes in is in altering the arcs of these stories. The beast doesn’t transform to be loved, the creature from the black lagoon doesn’t die AND gets the girl, the mute girl and her two minority friends save the day, and love of the arts is celebrated.

That said, even if you don’t know these things, this film challenges the notion of fearing the other – it fights fear with love, and I think it smartly uses Giles (an artist), as a narrator of this ideal, in a time when those ideas couldn’t even exist in popular culture. Giles is a closeted homosexual, someone who dreams and imagines how things could be, and I have a theory that a lot of the film actually happens in his mind.

Pros: It carefully crafts all of it’s themes and ultimately tells a universal story of acceptance, love, and celebrating what is, rather then what should be. del Toro is at his personal best, and he poses some great questions.

Cons: While beautiful to behold, and universally clear in the truths it wants to share, to fully appreciate the story, you might actually need to love all of the things it references – the subtle historical shifts at play. And if you want character nuance, the characterizations could be frustrating to watch.

Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes

Points of Interest: Guillermo del Toro wrote lengthy backstories for each of the major characters, giving them each the option to use the information or ignore it. Some opted to take the direction, while some, like Richard Jenkins, refused it. The poem at the end of film has been paraphrased from works by Persian poet Rumi and his predecessor Hakim Sanai.

I really do see why Chris struggles with this film. And believe it or not, I’m not picking apart his thesis before he’s had a chance to defend himself, but rather I want to show you that his perspective is key in understanding my own theory.

The derivative themes, the abstracted characterizations, and the reliance on style as a vehicle for the underlying substance are important. If we consider that the whole story is told from the perspective of an artist character (Richard Jenkins) who has had to hide so much of himself in a time and space of persecution and judgment, then I think the story takes on new meaning. Not to mention the fact that his chosen form of expression, painting, is being supplanted by photography in advertising. Giles loves musicals, lives above a theatre that shows biblical films, and draws the creature he does not understand lovingly. He wants to see a fairy tale realized because his own story did not come through as he wished.

Additionally, he is the most detailed of the characters, which is often how we see ourselves, as opposed to how we simplify others in our own life stories.

theories Summarized

I think The Shape of Water is an amazing film, and to be honest, I haven’t even given you the full expression of my thoughts on it yet, but I believe that the upcoming Cross Talk deep dive episode will reveal even more about it. A fairy tale for adults is an amazing thing to behold, indeed.

If you want another fairy tale for adults, then you should check out this video review of 2010’s Scott Pilgrim VS the World, an anti-thesis to rom-coms told from the perspective of a video game geek. It’s a blast to watch, and whether you grew up between the 1980s to 1990s or not, the nostalgia callbacks are insightful.

So please let me know what you thought of our review, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already. There are even more theories coming up next week, y’all come back now.


The Unredeemable Hate (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri review)

You’ve heard that love conquers all, and that all you need is love. But in a real world, love is not the obvious emotional outpouring, hate is far more common. But I have this interesting theory.

In a time when instant gratification runs rampant, a film that interlaces three character arcs, can accomplish a larger thematic goal.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones
Director: Martin McDonagh
released on blu-ray February 27, 2018
********* 10/10

IMDB: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: *****/*****

Martin McDonagh is a playwright, writer and director. He has dual citizenship in England and Ireland, having spent most of his childhood in London, and is widely regarded as an Irish playwright legend. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is his third turn in the directors chair, but In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are both amazing films too.

While he has written far more plays then films, McDonagh has admitted that he has always felt connected to film, that it’s something he appreciates on a personal level. And I think that comes through with Three Billboards.

Special thanks to Fox Searchlight Pictures and their IMDB account for the summary.

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

This might just be the greatest performance of Frances McDormand’s career.

The plot is entirely driven by anger – McDormand’s Mildred Hayes is empowered by righteous anger to seek justice against the police for her daughter’s rape and murder, but it never really gets any easier for her. Harrelson’s Chief Willoughby commits suicide to spare his family the pain of watching him succumb to cancer, using violence to demonstrate compassion and love. Rockwell’s second-in-command Officer Dixon then enacts his grief through violence against a billboard salesmen, losing his job in the process, and spiralling towards the bottom of the barrel.

The friendship that Willoughby shows Mildred, despite the public believing they hate each other, is the first major act of love we see.

The second major act of love also comes from Willoughby, this time post-humously, in the form of a letter encouraging Dixon to use love rather then hate to become a detective.

The third comes from Red Welby, the ad man that Dixon had beat within an inch of life in his grief-fueled act of brutality. Welby forgives Dixon and offers him a glass of water when Dixon is recovering from burns; burns Dixon got after Mildred lit the police station on fire in her continuous attack on the police.

The final act of love comes from Dixon himself. He overhears a man bragging to a friend about a women he had raped, a woman who was dying from being lit on fire. He then gets into a brawl with the rapist, scratches the man to get his DNA, and hopes to reveal the man as the Hayes murderer.

When Dixon tells Mildred it wasn’t the guy, she forgives him and appreciates the very-delayed attention from the police, even if Dixon is no longer an officer. But the pair decide to seek justice against the rapist anyway, ending the film as they take a road trip.

Pros: It balances the humour ever so carefully with the drama, and each of the three leads do their part to see the story to it’s unobvious, but completely realistic ending.

ConsOn your first pass it might seem like female aggression is totally acceptable or that racism can be redeemed. Upon subsequent viewings, the layers come through.

Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes

Points of Interest: Frances McDormand won an Academy Award for Best Actress for this film. Woody Harrelson described the movie as Super Troopers meets Seven Psychopaths.

While the narrative of the film is amazing to witness, and gets even better upon subsequent viewings, what I find even more impressive about this film is that it features elements of westerns and intelligent comedy about life in a small town. These are a people in a constant of re-evaluation.

theories Summarized

This drama happens in a fictional town, but the real social issues presented can forgive any fantasy elements being presented. In short Three Billboards is an amazing film and well worth the attention. You should totally watch it.

And if that story didn’t whet your whistle, Mike and I made a really cool video review about the film Nightcrawler. One of my favourite Jake Gyllenhaal movies, and an interesting peek into the world of stringers and documenting violent crime.

So please let me know what you thought of our review, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already. With so many more theories coming up in April, you’d have to be a fool not to check out even more great timotheories content.


The Dude (The Disaster Artist review)

To quote from The Big Lebowski, one of my comedy dramas of all-time –

Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles.

In 2003, Tommy Wiseau WAS the dude in Los Angeles. And that’s a true story.

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Cast: Dave Franco, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson
Director: James Franco
released on blu-ray March 13, 2018
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: ****/*****

James Franco is an American actor, filmmaker, and instructor. Comfortable behind the scenes as he is on camera, Franco has been involved in a lot of interesting projects in his career, most notably Milk, The Little Prince, This Is The End, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, and 127 Hours.

The Disaster Artist is the first critical and commercial success Franco has achieved in the role of director.

Special thanks to IMDB user Kenneth Chisholm ( for the synopsis.

In the 1990s, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is an aspiring actor, who meets the strange Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in an acting class. Together, Tommy inspires Greg to overcome his nervousness in acting so well that Greg agrees to come to Los Angeles with his odd new friend to pursue their dreams. However, their dreams seem to prove hopeless, especially for Tommy whose mysteriously strange accent and personality repels nearly all around him. Out of an inadvertent suggestion from Greg, Tommy is inspired to instead create his own movie, The Room (2003). What follows is a bizarre struggle to create that film, guided by Tommy, a man who has plenty of money, but not a trace of filmmaking education, experience, talent or even common sense. Along the way, Greg’s friendship with Tommy is put to the test as this project takes shape that would produce a film that ultimately becomes a bizarre accomplishment of a cult classic nature that no one, including Tommy, can see coming.

This is a movie about a movie that was made against all odds… Except for all of the mysterious money that Tommy Wiseau had on hand that allowed him the means to see his shitty movie to the finish line. And no, this movie never answers the questions of Wiseaus heritage, where he got his money from, or how come Greg Sestero was so drawn in by Wiseau and his aspirations.

At a high concept level, it’s pretty easy to see why James Franco aspired to make this film, he relates to the focus of his subject on a personal level, having lived on the edge of art and commercial success for so long. And little brother Dave dotes upon James to gain attention.

Pros: James Franco carries the films strength throughout; his portrayal of Wiseau spot-on. And to top it off, there is clearly a deep appreciation for the story of The Room at the centre of this film, which is emulated through the familial bond of the two Franco brothers.

ConsWhile it is clear that there is love for The Room when watching the movie, what is not demonstrated, is true affection for Wiseau, the author that inspired all of this to happen. He is never truly elevated and the stakes are not presented in a way to produce real drama.

Runtime: 1 hour 44 minutes

Points of Interest: Greg Sistero noted in the book, upon which the film is based, that Wiseau would only allow James Franco or Johnny Depp to portray him. This is the first time that James and Dave Franco have appeared on screen together in a feature length film. There was talk of having Dave appear in This Is The End, but he would have died which was too sad, and James was considered for a part in 21 Jump Street, that never came to light.

As is the case in The Room, the comedy of The Disaster Artist comes out of the tragedies of something that is meant to be dramatic. The absurdity of making films, starring in films, and attempting to get a production under control. It’s obvious why so many stars feature in cameos on this film, they see it as an important piece of history and a strong demonstration of what NOT to do when making a film.

It reminds me of Ed Wood, another triumph of will from someone with no desire to earn their stripes.

theories Summarized

Franco was the perfect choice to play Tommy Wiseau, and I’m glad to see him finally share screen-time with his brother. And I also find it fascinating that Sestero and Wiseau do share a resemblance. But while this is an entertaining film, about a so-bad-it’s-good film. It reminds me of an even more important theory, life is too short to eat bad  food / drink bad wine / insert appropriate example here.

But on the positive side. We have a video review of Whiplash to share, finally. It’ll make your neck crane, in a good way. Like The Disaster Artist, or like the The Room, I guess. If you liked La La Land, then this movie is for you. If you like drama, then this movie is for you. If you like J.K. Simmons, you know what I was going to type.

So please let me know what you thought of my review, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already. I anticipate that our content will continue to grow much like the Marvel cinematic universe. A well considered theory on my part.


Sheru (Lion review)

Imagine a scenario where you grew up with a loving family, and you were headed into a stable career with the love of good partner.

But then you remembered you were lost, and in fact, adopted.


Lion (2016)

Cast: Sunny Pawar, Abhishek Bharate, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, Divian Ladwa, Rooney Mara
Director: Garth Davis
re-released on blu-ray April 11, 2017
********* 9/10

IMDB: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Audience Score 92%
The Guardian: ****/*****


Garth Davis is an Australian director, best known for directing television before his feature film debut with Lion. It was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, but unfortunately didn’t take anything home. Which is odd, because it’s a really good movie.

Spanning a period of over twenty five years, we learn the true story of Saroo Brierley, an Indian boy who became lost in Calcutta, lived on the streets briefly, and was taken to an orphange before being adopted by an Australian family. At once immersive and incredible, Lion is the movie I wish I’d seen in theatres instead of John Wick Chapter 2.

Just saying.

Special thanks to Claudio Carvalho, for the plot summary below.

In 1986, in Khandwa, India, the 5 year-old boy Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives a very poor but happy life with his mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose), his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) and his younger sister Shekila (Khushi Solanki). Kamla works carrying stones during the night shift and Guddu also works in the night in the Central Station. One night, Saroo insists on going with Guddu to his work, who does not resist. Guddu leaves Saroo sleeping on a bank in the station and asks him to stay there until he returns. However the boy wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to seek out his brother in a train. He sleeps again and he wakes up in Calcutta, West Bengal, and 1,600 km east of Khandwa. Saroo does not speak Bengali, only Hindi, and lives on the street of the big city. One day, a young man brings Saroo to the police station and he is sent of an institution for children. In 1987, Saroo is adopted by the Australian family of John (David Wenham) and Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) and moves to Hobart, Tasmania. He is raised with love by his foster parents and one day, he goes to an Indian party promoted by his Indian mates from the university with his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). As he tells the story of his childhood it triggers the feeling of missing his family and awakens a search within him…

I kept hearing this movie compared to an odyssey, and while I wondered how it could possibly achieve that status, after I was done with Lion I wondered if it could be called anything less. This is a true story of an Indian boy who was able to locate his family decades later through the use of Google Maps. Combining elements of drama, thriller, and mystery to weave this biopic, first-time director Davis is able to draw us into Saroo’s journey and hold our attention easily.

Pros: Both Saroo the child and Saroo the adult are portrayed deftly and with charisma. And you never feel like you’re watching a ham-fisted nostalgia spectacle, the drama is real.

Cons: While it isn’t ham-fisted, there isn’t much there in the way to details to consider or implications to uncover. The relationship with brother Mantosh is sidelined too.

Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes

Points of Interest: Over 80,000 Indian children go missing each year.  #LionHeart foundation was launched by this films production companies to provide financial support to the over 11 million children who live on the streets of India.

That GPS and digital technology were able to bring Saroo back to his family is an incredible thing, and it should be celebrated as an effort of persistence that he made sense of his incredible childhood misadventure. A story of a lifetime with an excellent supporting cast, led by the talented Sunny Pawar, Lion has the heart of one.

theories Summarized

Should you go see this movie? No, because it’s not in theatres anymore. But you should pick up a copy of it or find a digital download service and spend some time with Saroo, or should I say Sheru?