With ‘The Shape of Water,’ All Three Amigos Now Have Oscars

Guillermo del Toro certainly had a big night at the Oscars this weekend.  For his uncanny movie about interspecies romance, he earned not just one, but two Oscars: one for Best Director and another for Best Picture.  And in itself, that is certainly a historic accomplishment: a singularly talented and uniquely visionary director who has been long overdue in such a concrete fashion, bestowed by all of his peers for his accomplishments.

The thing is, though, that his wins on Sunday were notable for another reason.  It’s not just The Shape of Water and it’s not just del Toro.  It’s not just that the Academy is recognizing diverse talent on a scale that it simply hasn’t at any other point in its history.  Now that del Toro, one of the iconic “masters of horror,” has his gold statuette, all three of the so-called “Three Amigos” now have been recognized by Hollywood as masters of their craft.

The three men in question are Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaròn and Alejandro Gonzàles Iñàritu.  They are a group of three Mexican directors who took to Hollywood during the same time in the 1990s, and by the 2000s had cemented themselves as among the very best in their field.  And although it was slow going there for a while, the Academy has finally bestowed its highest honors on all three men.

Del Toro, of course, is a director unlike any other working today: seamlessly blending fantasy, horror and genuine Human drama into the kind of gorgeously visualized stories that only he can bring to big screen.  He is perhaps best known for his foreign language smash-hit, Pan’s Labyrinth, which effectively served as my generation’s introduction to non-English language films.  Also in his native tongue are the dark and whimsical vampire tale Cronos and the unsettling ghost story The Devil’s Backbone.  He additionally is responsible for Blade II, the first two Hellboy movies, Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak.

Cuaròn’s first critical hit was with 2001’s coming of age sex comedy Y tu Mamà Tambièn, although American audiences would have to wait another three years for his breakthrough film at the box office: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (aka, the first really good movie of that franchise).  He followed that up with the acclaimed dystopic retelling of the Nativity, Children of Men, and finally won an Oscar with the sci-fi disaster movie Gravity in 2013.

Iñàritu is perhaps the most accomplished of either of his compadres.  He first broke out on the film scene with the multitudinously plotted Amores Perros, type of narrative that he shortly thereafter revisited with 21 Grams.  He then followed that up with an unbroken string of critical hits: first Best Picture nominee Babel, Best Foreign Language Film nominee Biutiful and consecutive Best Director winners Birdman and The Revenant (aka, the movie that finally won Leonardo DiCaprio his belated Oscar).

In fact, over the last five years, these three men have collective won four Best Director Oscars: broken only by Damien Chazelle’s win last year for La La LandCuaròn won for Gravity during the 2014 ceremony.  Iñàritu won back-to-back Oscars in 2015 and 2016 for Birdman and The Revenant respectively.  And, obviously, del Toro claimed the 2018 award for The Shape of Water.

Wherever the Academy goes from here, it’s obvious that the future of Hollywood is Mexican.  This block of directors have already seen to that.

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