Not the Wind, Not the Flag

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Monk 1: “The wind is moving.”

Monk 2: “The flag is moving.”

Sixth Patriarch: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.”

– Zen Koan

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THE SHAPE OF WATER

 Movie Review

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“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, For You are everywhere.”

That line from an unknown poem pretty well defines the movie, The Shape of Water.

Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water is pure movie magic. It is hard to peg exactly where this genre movie falls, but since del Toro was heavily influenced by Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)I’ll start there. This movie is much more than just a horror film. It is a period piece, a romantic thriller, and a spy movie, all wrapped into one. It explores the timeless themes of loneliness, alienation, isolation, being different from others in an intolerant society, and yes, falling in love with the other.

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Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito

Sally Hawkins plays disaffected and lonely janitor Elisa Esposito. She works at a Aerospace research facility in Baltimore with her friend Zelda, (Octavia Spencer). Elisa is mute and communicates with the world in signs. The time is 1962 at the height of the cold war. Sometime while working her shift a specimen is brought into the lab that had been captured in the Amazon and is worshiped by the natives as a god.  The creature is described by the military as the “asset.”

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This asset is a humanoid type creature that Elisa is able to befriend. She discovers that he is intelligent and communicates with him in sign language.  They develop quite a relationship together. When the creature becomes endangered Elisa plots to set him free in a rain canal in Baltimore. But first she smuggles him out of the facility and into her small apartment where she keeps him in her bathtub. While there they fall in love.

The creature has a curious way of glowing in blue colors when stimulated and is a marvel to watch.

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Spoilers ahead:  The military, in the form of Colonel Richard Strickland, is hot on their trail. He gets to the canal just as the creature is about to make his escape. Strickland shoots both the creature and Elisa. Miraculously the creature is able to heal himself of the gunshot wounds (he is a god after all) and also to heal Elisa. He grabs her up and leaps into the canal. He gives her gills so that she may breathe underwater and presumably they are able to live happily ever after.

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I just loved this movie. This is why you go to the movies. You keep going to see movie after movie, hoping you will see one that you can connect with, hoping to see a movie as good as the best movie you ever saw, wanting to hit that high mark one more time, but seldom ever making it. This is Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Hollywood and he has copied it to the rest of us. It is genius.

The Shape of Water jumps to the top of my Best Movies of the Year list for 2017. I give it a 10/10. The only other movie that I rated that high this year was Blade Runner 2049. I am not sure which one will get the top slot, but I have to admit, I am a sucker for a good loves story.

The Gun Shop

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Instruments of death that fit snugly into the palm of your hand were gleaming dully in their showcases lovingly caressed by blue velvet. Oiled wooden handles jutted from solid blue back bodies. There was a faint odor of oil and metal lingering on the air conditioned atmosphere of the room. The soft sounds of creaking leather reverberated through the reverential quiet as the clerk tenderly, ever so gently, eased a delicately balanced, but heavily weighted .357 magnum out of its holster

“Listen to this action,” he whispered to me imploringly.

Firmly, but gently, he gripped the butt of the gun in his right hand. He placed the web of his thumb over the hammer of the awesome black revolver and slowly began to exert pressure on it. The man’s hands trembled slightly and he closed his eyes. Small beads of perspiration began popping over his upper lip. A little metal clicking noise emerged from the gun as the hammer went through its first cocking phase. A slight smile appeared on the lips of the clerk as he continued to pull back on the heavy hammer and another click emerged — the gun was half-cocked — the clerk began breathing heavily now and rapidly  his face grew flush. He slid his thumb to the edge of the hammer and applied the tip of it to the ridges cut deeply into the top edge. He pushed down hard and fully cocked the revolver. A tiny tear drop appeared in the corner of the clerk’s eye.

The gap between the ridged head of the steel hammer and the body of the gun was a chasm. It looked like the jaws of a primordial reptile. It was powerful, and it was frightening — the stored-up energy of that hammer begged to be released. He pulled the trigger.

Snap!

I jumped. The hair on the back of my neck prickled and a shiver ran down my left arm. The clerk placed the gun back into the showcase and hung the holster back on the rack. He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew out blue clouds of smoke across the room. He had a distant look in his eye. I turned on my boot heels and walked out of the store into the bright afternoon sun. I squinted my eyes and shuttered with relief to be back in normal time and space again. Just to-make sure I kicked out at the base of a red white and blue mail box standing at the edge of the sidewalk. It hurt sufficiently to be convincing. I began the three block walk back to my office still in a bit of a stupor.