I feel kinda “meh” about the latest (final?) Oscar handicap piece by Variety‘s Kris Tapley, but the illustration art by “Naki” (aka Ha Gyung Lee) is fascinating.

Sally Hawkins is obviously ready for a little aquatic hunka-chunka with the Oscar statuette, but look at his stiff posture. He’s clearly feeling conflicted. His eyes are closed but he’s apparently saying to himself, “What have I gotten myself into?” Why isn’t he embracing Hawkins wholeheartedly? His left hand is weakly touching her back, but otherwise his body posture screams standoffishness. The position of his arms say “maybe she’ll stop if I just stand here and I don’t express anything that could be seen as warm or erotic?”

We all know that Oscar’s arms are traditionally folded as he clasps an upside-down sword, but Naki could have gone anywhere with this. She could have shown Oscar giving Hawkins a sexy bear hug or kissing her on the lips, or caressing her hair with his left hand while his right hand strokes her neck. Instead she portrayed him as respectful but passive — a good friend or a son, but not a lover.

My pet theory is that Naki isn’t that much of a fan of The Shape of Water, and that she held back on the romantic frisson as a result. Good artists always reveal themselves in their work.