Cruelty and misunderstanding can make you a monster or a mute. Guillermo del Toro’s compelling allegorical fable, The Shape of Water, shows us that quite well. We can say all the obvious things about this multi-layered film set in its backdrop of the Cold War and a high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. There’s loneliness and loss; competition between the United States and Russia to have the first man in Space; fear, paranoia, dehumanization and exploitation of people and creatures. There’s the overriding do whatever it takes kind of brutality to be the one on top. Yet, there’s also that...

Spoiler Alert: Some Plot Details Revealed Cruelty comes in different forms. We can’t escape the obvious in BENT: the unimaginable inhumane cruelty of The Nazi Party towards Gays and Jews. Yet, we see more than the Nazi’s cruelty in this brilliantly acted, honest, heart wrenching, and inspiring play (written by Martin Sherman and directed by Moises Kaufman >now playing at the Mark Taper Forum ). We see other kinds of cruelty as well. Cruelty directed towards someone else when you’re scared to love. Cruelty aimed at yourself when you can’t accept who you are. BENT, set in 1934 Berlin where many were...

  “I don’t want the Raisinettes, I just eat around them” … that’s what Andrew Neiman, Whiplash’s main character, does with the hurts in his life. That’s what he tries to do with jazz teacher Terrance Fletcher’s demeaning and crude sadism in this psychologically riveting film. Fletcher’s cruelty has its hook and he finds it in Andrew’s mother’s abandonment. But, in the end, the complexly selfish motives driving Fletcher’s cruelty do not win out. Or do they? That’s the question Whiplash leaves us with. Yet, there’s another even more important question: how is someone like Terrence Fletcher able to bait Andrew and get...