Film Review: Nightmare Alley

By the time this post will be live, Nightmare Alley will have been nominated for Best Picture for 2022. Now, as a horror fan, it always excites me whenever I see a horror film on the Academy Awards ballot, so of course, I’m thrilled to see it there. At the same time, I don’t feel like this film was Del Toro’s best. This film was a remake of the 1947’s Nightmare Alley, in which Tyrone Power played the lead, but also was the one to insist for the film to be made in the first place. Having watched the original film, it’s very difficult to enjoy Bradley Cooper attempting to be the leading noir man when despite his best efforts at being a good actor, simply lacks the charisma of a true leading man (especially when you compare Power’s stage presence with his).

The film is adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham. The plot is a fascinating one: a man down on hi luck joins a traveling carnival. The man in question is Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) and he quickly grows fascinated with wanting to learn the tricks to become a mentalist (mind reader). He believes he can outsmart the average man and in doing so can make money off of their stupidity and hope.

That is until he meets Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) a psychiatrist with wealthy clients. The two team up to try to schill money out of the wealthy, but Stanton makes the mistake of thinking that he’s more powerful and cunning than he actually is.

Of course, Del Toro excels in depicting the perfect noir film scenes and the pacing is excellent, and the cast’s saving graces are Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette. But with a movie that runs over two hours, it’s difficult to root for a leading man that we don’t care anything about (in the 1947 original we do feel sorry for Tyrone Power’s Stanton) in this remake, we can’t help but be happy for Bradley Cooper’s Stanton to get exactly what he deserved.

If you haven’t watched the original you may enjoy this version more than I did, or if at least you don’t expect much from your leading men other than being “easy on the eye,” as Toni Collette’s Zeena tells Stanton in the very beginning, then you may overlook this miscasting. Other than that, I recommend the film because the plot is interesting and has a very bold message: Can we truly outrun our real nature, or will we ultimately befall what we really are? I’d also say to read the book because it’s excellent.


Film Review: The Shape of Water

shape of water

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a sucker for fairy-tales (the Grimm variety or Oscar Wilde, not Disney) and impossible loves (think Edward Scissorhands and Kim), so of course I’d fall in love with Guillermo Del Toro’s lush fairy-tale of a love story, The Shape of Water.

The movie opens with the audience getting to meet Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who lives in a tiny apartment alone above a theatre house, next door to the lonely artist Giles (Richard Jenkins). Due to working as a cleaning lady for a government laboratory in Baltimore, Elisa’s “day” begins at night, working the so-called “graveyard shift” with co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

Most of her days are the same, until one night a new test subject is brought into the lab, a revered River God from South America dubbed the “Amphibian Man” (Doug Jones) for being a cross between a man and sea creature. Elisa feels compassion for the Amphibian Man and is saddened that the creature’s handler Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) has no interest in getting to know the creature and instead, tortures it daily without mercy

Elisa feels drawn to the Amphibian Man because, like her, he is different. She also feels compelled to him because they’re both lonely, invisible beings to society, and decides to initiate a friendship with the creature through egg lunches and sharing of jazz music. But when learns that the government is only interested in killing the Amphibian Man rather than trying to learn more about him, she’s overcome with grief and hatches a plan to get him out of the heavily surveyed government lab with the help of Giles and Zelda.

The beauty of the film is that it brought together four characters that represented “invisible” and alienated people. Elisa is invisible for being mute, Zelda is invisible for being a woman of color in 1962, Giles is invisible for being a gay starving artist, and the Amphibian Man is invisible because he isn’t even deemed as human. All four characters suffer from loneliness and are aching for some kind of human contact that will make them feel alive again and complete. Before meeting the Amphibian Man, Elisa was merely existing, but once her feelings for him begin to blossom and are reciprocated, that’s when she begins to truly live.

Del Toro’s visually stunning movie ignited the bleak atmosphere of the Cold War and cruelty with the spark of love and how colourful everything begins to be when one is in love. He also masterfully reminded us that sometimes it’s the lesser important people who become the heroes of the story when they feel they have a purpose.

The Shape of Water is a touching love story of how two very radically different people (they’re not even the same species!) are brought together and how their love overcomes all the obstacles. This movie is truly a celebration of the Latin quote, Amor vincit omnia (Love conquers all). And in today’s complacent, superficial modern society where everything is disposable, even love, it’s refreshing to be reminded that some things are worth fighting for.

By: Azzurra Nox