The 90th Academy Awards occurred on Sunday, March 4.
It was a big night for many movies, notably Guillermo del Toro’s “Shape of Water,” the story of love between a woman unable to speak and a fish-man.
There is obviously more to the story than that, but for now that’s what you need to know.
“Shape of Water” went into the night with thirteen Oscar nominations and won four, including Best Picture and Best Director.
This is definitely a success for any film, especially since Guillermo del Toro had never won an Oscar. However, the Academy was missing something in its nominations.
Where was the Oscar nomination for Doug Jones, the actor playing the fish-man?
You may not be familiar with the name “Doug Jones,” but I would bet that you have seen him act. He is a regular in del Toro projects, such as Hellboy (Abe Sapien) and Pan’s Labyrinth (both Faun and Pale Man).
Maybe these don’t ring a bell for you, but go ahead and look him up on IMDb. He has 161 credits as an actor; I’m sure you’ve seen him in something. You just don’t recognize him because he spends hours in a make-up chair donning heavy creature suits to portray the vast majority of his roles.
“For example, next time you watch “Shape of Water” consider that it took three hours to get into make-up and forty minutes to get out, and that is one of the easiest processes of any of his characters.” – Dylan Walker ’18
In February 2018, Jones spoke to NPR about his role in “Shape of Water” and his acting process for portraying the fish man.
This interview made it abundantly clear that Jones is acting as much as any of his counterparts. In fact, his task is arguably more difficult.
For example, next time you watch “Shape of Water” consider it took three hours to get into make-up and forty minutes to get out, and that is one of the easiesr processes of any of his characters. Or notice that he is portraying the fish man while unable to see or hear to his full capabilities. (Besides the normal pieces covering his eyes and ears, Jones had mechanical gills that also buzzed in his ears.) He even needed help walking on set.
Yet hearing Jones talk about his process shows the depth of consideration that portraying the fish man required.
“I find the heart and soul of a character before I find his elbows and his hands. I want to find out what motivates those elbows and hands,” Jones said.
This involved creating his own method of communication that had to be far removed from anything recognizable as human and somehow rendering the fish man as “sexy,” someone Sally Hawkins’ character would conceivably fall in love with.
This process is something any skilled actor, such as Jones, would do while preparing for a role, and he somehow manages to do it while unable to see well, hear clearly or go to the bathroom.
Ultimately, Shape of Water flops without a convincing performance by the fish man.
Doug Jones brings this in spades in a masterful portrayal, and this ought to have been recognized by the Academy, or anybody really. Out of all the accolades the film has received, Jones has only received one honorary award by the Austin Film Critics Association, and no other nominations.
I fear that if this spectacular performance by Jones is not enough to earn him an Oscar, nothing will.
This is a shame, because Jones certainly deserves it.
Dylan Walker ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Mountain Grove, Mo. He majors in Classics with concentrations in Film Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.