Category Archives: Family Mythology

Congratulations, Doug

Okay. This is very cool. The Shape of Water (2017 Fox Searchlight, directed by Guillermo del Toro) won some Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards, including for Best Director and Best Picture. I watched the WHOLE THING, all three and a half hours of it, just to see how this movie would do. The high point for me was the announcement of Best Picture at the end. As a member of the cast, my brother got to stand on the stage with the whole group, and I am so happy that he got to experience this.

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Here he is with his wife, Laurie…

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.. clowning with Sally Hawkins…

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… with Guillermo del Toro…

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… and giving an interview the day of the event.

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Here are a couple of bonus pictures taken on the set during filming.

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Way to go, Doug! From your rather obscure brother…

So I Watched My Brother

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Watching The Shape of Water (2017 FOX Searchlight, directed by Guillermo del Toro), I noted with interest the brief sequence when Elisa Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins) offers a boiled egg to the Amphibian Man (played by Doug Jones). When I saw him take the egg and dive back into the water, I flashed back to a family vacation about five years ago. We were in Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I was body surfing (not very well on my part) with my brothers Rich and Doug, and he used the same diving form that I saw him use in this movie.

Before I get into what I want to say most, let me mention that the directing and acting were superb. Additional cast members Octavia Spencer (as cleaning lady Zelda Fuller), Michael Shannon (as repulsive bad guy Richard Strickland), Richard Jenkins (as neighbor Giles), Michael Stuhlbarg ( as scientist Dr. Robert Hoffstetler), David Hewlett, and others did a superb job in playing their roles and adding their individual facets to this gem of a film.

Lest I give the wrong impression, this film earned its R rating. I estimate that the scenes which made me uncomfortable amounted to about fifteen minutes of screen time, and I would have preferred to have seen that time devoted to a more extensive portrayal of my brother’s character and more transitions in the development of his relationship with the mute cleaning lady.

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A number of social issues were covered in this period piece, and if the film had one major weakness, it might be that it tried to do too much. I personally prefer to see fewer themes developed more fully.

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Now for the things that really impressed me besides the fine acting. This is a unique effort in that it is a blend of monster movie and art film, which is evident from the opening credits. Just to see it, I had to drive a hundred miles to an art house where it was playing in Kansas City. The musical soundtrack is used so effectively that it seems like an additional character in the story. I like that this is a relatively low budget film that nonetheless has unique and stunning visuals. It’s a beautiful piece of cinematic work.

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Overall, I’d say that this is a fairy tale disguised as science fiction. The Amphibian Man is more than a monster. He represents an almost spiritual longing, that ache for something wonderful and unexpected which will overtake us.

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Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins in the film THE SHAPE OF WATER. Photo by Kerry Hayes. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

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I think people long for the unusual and the mysterious, for something beneficial that is ultimately beyond our control. That which we can manipulate is that which we have an unfortunate tendency to disrespect and take for granted.

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Watch My Brother Again

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Thank you to those of you who tuned in/logged on to see my brother, Doug Jones, play Lt. Saru in the new Star Trek series. Now that you’re in the process of completing that assignment, let me direct you to go see The Shape of Water when it is released this December 8th.

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Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this is an interesting looking movie (warning: R-rated for language, violence, nudity, sexuality) which by its trailers looks like a science fiction, Cold War period piece,  art flick. I am reminded of Pan’s Labyrinth, in which Doug also worked with Guillermo.

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The cast is excellent, including Sally Hawkins (Godzilla) and Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures)…

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… and a bunch of other good actors such as Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) …

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… Richard Jenkins…

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… and David Hewlett.

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It is the character of Elisa Esposito played by Hawkins who appears to be the focal point of the story. She is a mute cleaning lady who works in a lab facility and who forms a relationship with an aquatic, hominid creature imprisoned there.

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I’ll be interested to see where they take this. I expect it to be beautiful and possibly disturbing given its rating. Of course, living in a town as small as mine leaves me with no guarantee that the film will be showing in a local theater. I might have to wait until it comes out on video to review it. Until then…

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… watch Doug, or else.

Watch My Brother

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I’m feeling a bit wiped out by the tedium of posting chapters of my book, Alias Adam (FOR FREE), so I’m going to try getting by with mentioning Star Trek: Discovery, which aired last night with its first episode. I understand that all subsequent episodes are on CBS All Access (Netflix internationally). I’m mentioning it because Doug Jones, my youngest brother, plays Lieutenant Saru, the alien science officer (obviously to the left in the above picture).

I see no need to review the first episode since it is being reviewed to death on a great many other sites. I just want to mention that I’m proud of my brother and excited by the potential of this series. The special effects are good, the franchise storied, and the cast diverse. I don’t expect it to be anything less than a cultural hit.

For another post on Doug, check my Family Mythology category in the black strip on the left. I expect to post about him again under that category as well.

In summary, WATCH MY BROTHER! You may go now.

Doug Jones: Man of Mythology

Still shot from Pan's Labyrinth (2006), directed by Guillermo del Toro.
Still shot from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Doug Jones is one of the top creature actors in the motion picture industry, and he is also my youngest brother.  I am proud of him, and I have no qualms about continuing the nepotism I began in last week’s post where I wrote about the work of my son-in-law. Doug began perfecting his technique long before he knew what his profession would be. As a boy, he was a spot-on mimic of me, my other brothers, and our father. When he entered his teens, his caricatures became even more accurate, their aim deadlier.

As stated on my Author page, I am a small college professor of biology. In the faculty break room a number of years ago, one of my colleagues mentioned that he had seen Doug in Pan’s Labyrinth and that he thought it was good. I acknowledged this and attempted to pass it off so as not to appear conceited, but he stopped me. He really thought this movie was good, an excellently conceived and executed fairy tale. This continues to impress me because my friend taught a class in Germanic Folklore and another in Film Studies, and he was not easily impressed. Doug himself had told me that he was very much aware during filming that he was participating in a work of genuine art.

The story itself is a well-constructed mythology set in Spain during time of war. There is, of course, another theme I always like in such stories: a relationship with a child (in this case, a young girl). In addition to portraying the title character (the fawn) my brother also played the Pale Man (Pallido Hombre) with the eyeballs in his palms.

Still shot from Pan's Labyrinth (2006), directed  by Guillermo del Toro.
Still shot from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Trained as a mime, Doug knows how to make the prosthetics of creature acting work effectively, and he brought these characters to life by body movements and facial expressions (even under heavy makeup) that convey emotion. He also learned his lines in Spanish (which he does not speak) so that the voice-overs would be convincing.

Okay. Enough fawning over the fawn played by my brother. I have longer gallery posts about Doug (Beneath the Monster and Post Mortem) on my other blog site (MORE THAN MONSTERS). You can read these by clicking here  and here. You may also view a documentary about Doug Jones by clicking here.

With Doug at a recent family vacation in Brian Head, Utah.
With Doug at a recent family vacation in Brian Head, Utah.

Animated Mythology (Part 7)

Still shot from Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (2014), directed by Steve Loter.

Okay, so I lied in my last post, or at least I was mistaken. I decided to go one more week on the topic of animated mythology. Those following my blog might be a little surprised by this next and final selection for the series. Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast from DisneyToon Studios is obviously meant for a younger audience, but it contains the necessary elements of a myth. It features fairies, a creature with prescient awareness, and a a legend of prophesied cataclysm, so it should qualify as a suitable example. Some adults will be pleasantly surprised by the sophistication of the story line, and the artistic concept and image composistions are interesting and unique for the Tinker Bell video series. This is especially true for the monster’s transformation sequence, and the role played by this creature is different than one would expect.

Still shot from Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (2014), directed by Steve Loter.
Still shot from Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (2014), directed by Steve Loter.

So the last statement of the previous paragraph requires a full disclosure statement. Michael Greenholt, the Animation Supervisor for this project, is also my son-in-law, and I am obviously proud of his work. I do not think this invalidates my comment, however. A look at the quality of the animation on this video should confirm what I have written. To view some additional examples of Mike’s art, click here. To see a gallery post about Mike from More than Monsters (my other site) click here.