Daniel Fienberg’s review published on Letterboxd:
I wanted to check here to get a sense of how this piece of beautifully photographed, anthropomorphized garbage became an Oscar frontrunner and instead the main Letterboxd review page for this documentary is 50 people making the exact same two jokes.
Yes. The octopus is more his friend than his teacher.
Yes. He wants to fuck the octopus and it's gross.
You're all hilarious.
Sincere question: Is "My Octopus Teacher" intended as a parody of the countless nature documentaries in which photographers become deeply emotionally involved with primates and wax poetic about looking into the eyes of a chimpanzee and seeing his soul and stuff? Are directors Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed using photographer, star, aspiring octopus fucker Craig Foster as an object example and saying to Jane Goodall et al, "This is how ridiculous you look?"
Because that, honestly, is the only way I can view the current version of "My Octopus Teacher" as anything other that intolerable schlock, if it's saying, "There are lots of good reasons and ways to be in awe of nature and we don't want to say any one way is wrong or right, but here's a way that's TOTALLY wrong."
I would pay good money to watch a showing of "My Octopus Teacher" with an octopus doing commentary, basically accompanying the movie with "My Pasty Humanoid Stalker." Of course, you could never get a showing of "My Octopus Teacher" with octopus commentary because whatever unquestionable instincts and intelligence octopuses possess, IT'S NOT A KIND OF INTELLIGENCE THAT IS ANALOGOUS TO HUMAN INTELLIGENCE AND IT'S A GENUINE INSULT TO BOTH OCTOPUSES AND HUMANS TO TREAT IT LIKE IT IS.
The alternative I would love, of course, is a version of "My Octopus Teacher" without a word of Craig Foster's "dialogue" and probably without the equally cloying score.
"My Octopus Teacher" runs under 90 minutes, which is good because there isn't a single smart or perceptive thing said by Craig Foster in the entire documentary. His superficial observations about octopuses are of a standard far, far, far below what a reputable NatGeo or PBS documentary would ever allow and his superficial observations about the lessons he learned from spending a year stalking what — let's be PERFECTLY honest here — may or may not have been a single octopus at the end are even worse.
"She was teaching me to become sensitized to the other."
No. She was not.
"In this strange way, our lives were mirroring each other."
No. They were not. The octopus was going about the steps of its one-year lifecycle. It was eating. It was trying to avoid getting eaten by sharks. It was TRYING to find a private place to fuck another octopus to perpetuate the species and you kept sticking your camera into her hidey-hole, even after she "ran away from you" and spent a week trying to avoid you.
The only thing, honestly, that "My Octopus Teacher" is dumber about than octopus behavior is human behavior, which is part of why I still truly want to believe it's parody, because it's such a comically shallow depiction of a human experiencing an unexplained, unexplored midlife crisis and, from what we can see, DESPERATELY avoiding spending time with his son.
Craig Foster isn't really willing to expose anything about himself, so it probably isn't surprising that he would make up octopus behaviors and pretend that they were enlightening to him as a way to avoid studying his own behaviors?
If I have to watch anthropomorphized nature, at least let it come from a Pixar movie or a good animated movie that at least has some interest in human behavior and hopefully has somebody talented to write dialogue. The Ralph Bakshki version of "The Octopus Teacher" would at least have some good fucking.
It is a true embarrassment that this is the kind of dreck the Academy put in the documentary field and the only bigger embarrassment will be if it somehow wins.
I feel stupider about octopuses and about marine biology for having watched this movie and it vaguely terrifies me that there will be audiences out there who watch and come away feeling like they now understand... anything.
Very pretty underwater photography, though.