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By Megan Bianco
In a rather surprisingly, underwhelming awards season this year, there are still some movies that are worth seeing on the big screen. Despite most of them being pretty safe or typical of the filmmakers’ work, my two recommendations this week are also a little flawed, but still intriguing: Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water.
As an almost spiritual follow-up to Todd Haynes’ Carol (2015), Call Me By Your Name is set in 1983 northern Italy, where 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) spends his summer vacation in a love triangle between French peer Marzia (Esther Garrel) and a 24-year-old American, Oliver (Armie Hammer). The Shape of Water is like Del Toro’s take on E.T. (1982) and Beauty & the Beast (1991), but with his trademark gore and “R” rating. In 1960s Cold War-era D.C., Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute janitor who becomes attached to a powerful sea creature kept trapped in the government laboratory where she works.
Both films coincidentally also co-star one of the best character actors in modern film, Michael Stuhlbarg. Call Me By Your Name is one of the rare films to not be completely oversaturated with hype from an Oscar campaign. The acting from Chalamet is award-worthy and one of the best breakthrough performances in the past decade. Sufjan Stevens’ dreamy music score is breathtaking. The Shape of Water, on the other hand, is a bit heavy-handed in tone and theme, with two love scenes between a woman and fish being rather awkward. But the cinematography, art direction and special effects are dazzling on the big screen.