Blog Posts

The Shape of Water Swims to a 2018 Best Picture Oscar; Let’s Keep the Memory of the Other Films Afloat

The 2018 Academy Award for Best Picture went to The Shape of Water.

See previews of what our mostly Notre Dame experts said about The Shape of Water, and all the other stellar nominees below:


This is the final gift of the movie, a poetic glimpse at eternity. Certainly, one could interpret the poem as speaking about the love between two mortals, two fairy tale lovers. In that case, the poem is a pleasant bromide, an obvious overstatement of the finite love possible between two finite beings. Or, one can read the poem through a more transcendent lens revealing a love even greater than we creatures are capable, a divine love that truly takes the shape of water . . . [READ MORE]


One of the most important achievements of Jordan Peele’s film is that it uses satire and horror to comment on race while so effectively telling a story about a protagonist with whom it impossible not to empathize. Peele is keenly aware of the power of a story to reorient even racist assumptions. Who could not root for Chris? Who could not see themselves in him and therefore understand his plight and relish in his success? It renders the power of racism mute because Chris is a real person and not just a body. The film may even ratify traditional Thomistic anthropology . . . [READ MORE]


Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Phantom Thread catalogs what happens when love warps from infatuation and inspiration into competition and resentment. Its enthralling characters, enticing setting, masterful acting, and strenuous plot make for a well-deserved Best Picture nomination, if not a provocative discussion-piece for couples in relationship counseling . . . [READ MORE]


Wars are not won by linear succession of great victories. Justice is not attained by win after win. Evil is not defeated without suffering and struggle. Good people are killed and the brave show cowardice. Heroes often do not make it back home. And in the midst of all of this, Dunkirk recognizes the little acts of valor that can make heroes out of the smallest of us; it champions the inglorious work of just surviving in times of unthinkable adversity.

It reminds us that defeat is not the end of the story . . . [READ MORE]


Steven Spielberg does not let it be forgotten that journalism is a public service. Ellsberg was motivated to aid the press following his very personal encounter with soldiers on the ground. Graham put aside her own interests and deeply considered the ethics of her decision. She and other members of the media acted from empathy and compassion for citizens who deserved the truth and soldiers who were led into a deadly war. In all of it, Graham and others were focused on the good of the governed, not the governors . . . [READ MORE]


Still, Flannery O’Connor would never end things so tidily and neither does Martin McDonagh. A break in the case leads not to closure for Mildred, but to a perpetrator of another crime entirely. Once again, anger beckons Mildred and Dixon: “hunt him down anyway: it is the right thing to do.” For those on this darkened path, the choice between acting in anger or accepting grace is constant, persistent . . . [READ MORE]


Such a sacred act of love, most intimately expressed in the physical union of sex, demands ritual—to protect it, to impress upon our thick minds its gravitas. Acts of love are acts of choice in which we determine our identity. Because the act of letting someone into our intimate interior has an objective sacredness, it has always been wrapped in a thick protective armor of mores, taboos, and religious rituals. Who we fall in love with, who we invite into the inner rooms of our hearts and beds, who we make the organizing principle of our lives, matters . . . [READ MORE]


Darkest Hour beautifully depicts the effects of this spiritual warfare. Churchill is an imperfect man. He drinks too much, smokes too much, is brusque, crude, opinionated, and has difficulty admitting fault. These personal faults and his previous failures confront him at every turn, cutting him off from others and feeding his doubts about whether he is worthy or even capable of the task that is before him. In one early scene, his self-absorbed rudeness drives his new secretary out of the room, weeping, after only five minutes. In a later one, challenged by a colleague, he mounts an unconvincing, blustering defense of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in World War I, which he had masterminded . . . [READ MORE]


Gerwig understood that, in the film industry, the Catholic school experience has already been ridiculed and raked over the coals. She wanted to create a film that offered a different, more uplifting, and ultimately more truthful approach, and the near-universal acclaim that Lady Bird has received in turn offers Gerwig’s new approach as a model for writers and film-makers. Whether the subject be grace-filled or gritty or both, the truth, when observed with careful attention and told with love, has the power to expand the heart and change a person’s perspective for the better, and forever . . . [READ MORE]


The 2018 Best Picture Nominees and the Script of Transcendence

Featured Image: Detail of The Shape of Water movie poster accessed from, Fair Use.