Sunday, December 30, 2018

Another List of the Top Ten Movies for 2018

Okay, so technically this isn’t a post about churches in movies. I like comparing and contrasting other people's "top ten films of 2018" lists, and thought I should add mine to the other three zillion lists. On Friday, we'll return to our regular format.

#10 Paul, An Apostle of God - When I can, I like to include Christian films on this list, but it can be difficult because so many Christian films are... Can I say this politely? Ummm... awful. But this fictionalized story of the Man Who Was Saul takes creative liberties with the story but stays within Biblical bounds. Which isn't always easy to do.

#9 The Death of Stalin - Writer and director Armando Iannucci specializes in mocking politicians (In the Loop, Veep) which he does in this film as well. The politicians of Moscow in 1953 are ruthless killers, and yet the members of the Soviet Council of Ministers are just as petty and self-centered and worthy of ridicule. It’s a funny film, but also very chilling. In this year of #MeToo, when the sins of the past are being unveiled, it’s just too bad the press of that time weren’t more interested in the horrors of their own time (See also this year's Chappaquiddick.) The clergy does play a role in The Death of Stalin. When Orthodox bishops are invited to Stalin’s funeral, another round of intrigue and bloodletting is set off.

#8 Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse - One would think there have been plenty enough Spiderman origin stories, but this film has the origin story of a Spider-Boy. And a Spider-Girl. And a Spider Robot. And a Spider Pig. Yes, it’s strange, but also funny and inventive. No church in the film, unless you count a graveyard by a church.

#7 BlacKkKlansman -Spike Lee tells the true story of a black police officer who “infiltrated” a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan with the aid of a Jewish police officer. It's always distressing to see how the Klan has adopted and sullied symbols of the Christian faith, but in this film, there is satisfaction in seeing justice done, providing hope for the day when God makes all things right.

#6  First Reformed - Certainly the most clergy and church filled film on the list, this is the story of a grieving pastor who looks for meaning in radical environmentalism. The film takes the work of ministry seriously, and ends a dark story with a note of grace.

#5 Avengers: Infinity Wars - To be honest, I’ve seen this film on lists of the worst films of the year. I get it; there are a lot of superhero films, and some people are sick of them -- especially a movie like this one, which brings dozens of comic characters together. As someone who has loved these characters throughout my life, it's thrilling to see them come together. And Thanos is an excellent villain.

#4  A Quiet Place - There’s no church or clergy in the film. We don’t see much more than one family, but they do pray together. Quietly. Everything they do must be done quietly to keep the monsters away. It is amazing that Jim from The Office directed and starred in this effective horror thriller.

#3 Won’t You Be My Neighbor?  - The one documentary on this list, it is the story of a clergyman. Fred Rogers was known to the world as the host of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, but he was also an ordained Presbyterian pastor. This film tells his story, carrying on his message of love and kindness.

#2 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - When the Coen brothers make a film, I assume that film will be on my top ten list. It’s just a question of where. The film is an anthology of Western stories. In the preface to the first, we learn that in this world there are no churches, but many saloons. The film is at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, but always harkening back to the theme of mortality.

#1 Isle of Dogs - Sure, you might think you’ve seen all the stories about talking dogs in a dystopian Japan that you will ever need to see. But this one, by Wes Anderson, stands out. No clergy or churches, but delightful images and idiosyncrasies bring a strange world worth visiting to life. My favorite of the year.

(Just so you know which film I’m choosing from, here is a list of all the new films I saw this year:  Black Panther, Annihilation, I Can Only Imagine, Paul an Apostle of God, Isle of Dogs, God’s Not Dead III, A Quiet Place, The Miracle Season, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool II, First Reformed,, Incredibles II, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Ant-man and the Wasp, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Mission Impossible: Fallout, BlackkKlansman, Unsane, Beirut, The Nun, RBG, Bad Times at the El Royale, Game Night, Chappaquiddick, Rampage, The Commuter, The Other Side of the Wind, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, Mandy, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Death of Stalin, Green Book, & Roma.)

See you Friday when we return to our normal format of evaluating churches and clergy in films. January’s theme: The Play’s the Thing.

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