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Ranking the Movies of 2018: Week 8

Two new releases and four older films join my list.

Nearly 50 movies in 2018 for me. That’s actually less than usual for me in a two month period but let’s not dig too deeply into my sad, lonely life in front of a screen of some sort. This is, after all, a modern project intended to catalog a year in my life as a movie critic. It’s also about how singularly silly it is to rank and compare movies. Each film is subjective and to say that one movie is better than another movie is rather ridiculous in most cases.

Nevertheless, I do hope to find some sort of narrative that goes beyond a random assemblage of movies. I am hoping that that this weekly ranking will somehow develop into a story of its own and a unique way of seeing the year through my eyes. That’s the goal anyway; though eight weeks into this project nothing in particular has emerged from the now 49 movies I have collected this year.

Two new releases join the list this week with the release of Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bruce Willis, in his return from direct-to-On-Demand features to a movie that actually plays on a big screen, Death Wish. The two films have some surprising things in common. For one, each movie is about a novice turned violent avenger with Lawrence going from ballet star to top flight Russian spy and Willis’ Paul Kersey going from mild mannered doctor to vengeance seeking gun nut.

The films also share a blood riddled aesthetic as each film is bathed in the red viscous fluid of life. I was actually surprised to note that Red Sparrow’s body count ranks next to Death Wish which surprised me for not being as bloody and body count dependent as I expected. Red Sparrow directed Francis Lawrence out bloodied Death Wish director and well known horror enthusiast Eli Roth, with Red Sparrow dumping a far more disturbing amount of blood than Death Wish.

Red Sparrow clocks in on this list much higher than Death Wish thanks to Jennifer Lawrence, who continues to be one of the most fascinating and challenging movie stars of all time. Just look at that unusual resume of hers or even just her last two features, Mother(!) and Red Sparrow, two films that could not be more different in her performance and yet share the same boundary pushing aesthetics. Not many actors have the guts to go back to back with movies that provide such challenges to mainstream audiences.

With the release of Death Wish, I was encouraged by my podcast co-hosts, Bob Zerull and Josh Adams, to revisit the original, 1974 Death Wish starring Charles Bronson. Neither of the Death Wish movies proved all that interesting. Neither version is truly terrible but neither movie is very memorable either. Death Wish ’74 only remained in the public consciousness because of the high crime rate in New York in the late 70s and 80s and not because Death Wish was challenging and emblematic of the times. It’s an action movie and it would have been forgotten in any other era or had it not been set in the media capital.

The new Death Wish threatened to capture the zeitgeist by being released at a time when gun violence is once again top of the headlines, though not the headlines the movie was expecting. The new Death Wish is set in Chicago and was intending to capitalize on Chicago’s terrifyingly high crime rate. That all changed, however, after the shooting at a High School in Parkland, Florida.

Exploiting the real life, ongoing crime rate in Chicago was the same tact the original film used by setting its story in the ultra-violent, pre-Disneyfication, New York City. That likely would be where think pieces about Death Wish ’18 would have begun. After Parkland, however, the conversation is much different and Death Wish ’18 arrived to more empty theaters and to empty editorial page think pieces. The film was completely washed over by the real life tragedy with the media choosing to ignore Death Wish rather than be distracted by it.

Our Everyone’s A Critic Movie Podcast classic this week was the 1981 Best Picture nominee Reds, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton. The film was chosen to coincide with both the Russia set Red Sparrow and the Academy Awards weekend where Warren Beatty took home Best Director for his work on Reds. Sometimes the Academy gets it wrong and this proved to be one of those cases, at least in my opinion.

Reds is a dull slog with zero story momentum and severely boring characters arguing over their relationship as history happens around them. The film is set just after World War 1 in Russia where Beatty’s Communist agitator and journalist goes to cover the Bolshevik Revolution. Beatty does a good deal of yelling and screaming about his love of Communism but it is the numbing number of times he and Keaton put history on pause to argue over their relationship that makes Reds such a tough sit.

The only good part of Reds is Jack Nicholson, who plays legendary playwright Eugene O’Neill. When Nicholson is onscreen and quietly attempting to woo Keaton away from Beatty’s blowhard, the film comes alive a little. Sadly, Nicholson’s O’Neill is just a supporting player in a nearly three and a half hour slow march to nowhere in particular. Beatty’s inclusion of talking head interviews with people who knew the real life people he and Keaton play in the film is baffling and only seems to contribute to the ludicrous bloat of this forgettable supposed classic.

One final note for a new movie added to this list. Hell’s House is a movie from 1932 and it is one of the first in the career of my favorite actress of all time, Bette Davis. The Filmstruck App, a must have for those who love art house movies and the Criterion Collection, is featuring 32 of Bette Davis’s feature films this month and I am going to try and see as many of them as I can. Hell’s House doesn’t feature much of Bette Davis and yet her scenes are the liveliest and most entertaining in this otherwise drab weeper.

Next week on the Everyone’s a Critic Movie Podcast we have four new releases joining this list: A Wrinkle in Time from director Ava Duvernay, the weed comedy Gringo starring Charlize Theron, the horror sequel Strangers 2, and the bizarre weather-themed heist flick The Hurricane Heist. Our classic is a random choice as we could not find a proper corollary among our new releases. This week’s classic is His Girl Friday starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, one of my favorite films of all time and one that neither Bob nor Josh had seen before.

The choice of His Girl Friday came about after Josh and I watched the 1988 release, Switching Channels, starring Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner which was a modern for the 1988 remake of His Girl Friday. Switching Channels joined this list this week in the Top 20 and I expect His Girl Friday will certainly enter this list much higher than that. You can hear our conversation about Red Sparrow, Death Wish ’74 & ’18, as well as Reds and Switching Channels by downloading the latest Everyone’s a Critic Movie Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your preferred podcatcher app or by following this link to our website

  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  2. Black Swan
  3. Phantom Thread
  4. Black Panther
  5. Annihilation
  6. Just Charlie
  7. Columbus
  8. Hostiles
  9. Boogie Nights
  10. Foxy Brown
  11. Becks
  12. Game Night
  13. Are We Not Cats
  14. The Ballad of Lefty Brown
  15. 12 Strong
  16. Red Sparrow
  17. Act & Punishment
  18. Switching Channels
  19. Actors of Sound: A Foley Artist Documentary
  20. Insidious: The Last Key
  21. Sheik Jackson
  22. Samson & Delilah
  23. Heat
  24. Hell’s House
  25. Early Man
  26. Almost Paris
  27. Bloodsport
  28. Reds
  29. Play Misty for Me
  30. Frantic
  31. Taffin
  32. Samson
  33. Last House on the Left
  34. Burnt Offerings
  35. Paddington 2
  36. Cloverfield Paradox
  37. Peter Rabbit
  38. Proud Mary
  39. Den of Thieves
  40. Death Wish 1974
  41. Death Wish 2018
  42. The Commuter
  43. Fifty Shades Freed
  44. Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built
  45. Forever My Girl
  46. Every Day
  47. 15:17 to Paris
  48. The Greasy Strangler
  49. Maze Runner: The Death Cure
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