Happy New Year: First films of 2018

Hope you had a better NYE celebration than I did. After buying all the cheesy party accoutrements and drink to toast the New Year, I wound up in so much pain from falling on my ribs I was nearly in tears from 10:30 onward. By midnight I couldn’t move.

I was entirely sober. Even the drink I bought was sparkling cider, as alcohol gives me a headache.

I know: NERD.

Partly to distract me from the pain, and partly because it’s part of a 2018 resolution to see more films, I wound up watching three superb dark comedies – my absolute favorite genre.


Conrad: I bring up Charles Manson and you freak out.

Nick: Everybody freaks out when you bring up Charles Manson!

  • Manson Family Vacation


Manson Family Vacation (2015) is exactly what it sounds: two brothers take to the road visiting sites related to the notorious murders. One an established lawyer, wealthy and settled, the other is an artist drifter who’s made not much of anything of his life. A bit cliche, but forgivable.

The responsible family man, Nick (Jay Duplass) is aghast at his brother’s obsessively grim interest, indulging him only because they’ve been estranged so many years and he wants to make an effort. The artist drifter, Conrad (Linas Phillips) comes off a cackling lunatic, carrying a well-worn copy of Helter Skelter he’d taken from his father’s library and wearing a Charles Manson t-shirt he reveals in photos – selfies with a Polaroid camera, no less – in front of the murder scenes.

Sounds improbable this is a film with heart, but it is a film with heart.


Director: J. Davis, Writer: J. Davis (no info available on IMDB)



This is a picture of Walter Black, who had to become The Beaver, who had to become a father, so that one day this might just become a picture of Walter Black.

The Beaver



I dislike Mel Gibson, but the blurb I read said overlook that and this is a fine film. What do you know, it is.

Walter Black (Gibson) is a deeply depressed man. Getting out of bed is an effort; his black mood destroying his family. Ordered out of the house by wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) after two years putting up with him, he rents a hotel room in which he makes a couple riotously funny attempts at suicide. Having brought a beaver puppet along (just go with it), it assumes apparent sentience, effectively kicking his arse out of bed and pulling Walter out of his funk – until he begins to take over in a more menacing way.

The Beaver (2011) is funny and deeply touching.

Director: Jodie Foster, Writer: Kyle Killen



Frank (2014)

Aspiring songwriter and musician Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) falls in with an eccentric group of musicians working on developing their own oddball brand of music. Their keyboardist attempting suicide, Jon is drafted into joining.

The leader of the group is a man called Frank (Michael Fassbender) who refuses to take off an enormous plastic head, for reasons his friends can only speculate. And yes, it’s deeply psychological.

Taking advantage of Jon’s inherited money, the group holes up in a cabin in County Wicklow, Ireland, where they go to ridiculously hilarious lengths to record an album. Tweeting about the band’s struggle, Jon grows their following so much that by the time they journey to the SXSW Film Festival in the States, they’ve developed a cult following.

Attempting to force Frank to remove his mask, Jon scares him away. Horrified, he watches as Frank is hit by a car while bolting across the road. In pursuit, Jon himself is hit. Frank has disappeared, his mask found rolling on the ground.

After his release from the hospital, Jon begins his search for his friend. Meanwhile, his Twitter followers dick with him, taking the disappearance as a joke, leading him on a wild goose chase.

Laugh-out-loud funny, this quirky film is a gem.

Also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as oddball musician Clara, with a crush on Frank.

The soundtrack is pretty great, as well.

The fictional story is loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician Chris Sievey as well as other outsider musicians like Captain Beefheart and Daniel Johnston. (Amazon.com)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson, Writers: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan


Fantastic start to this 2018 resolution. I’ve not made any list of films, but I expect I’ll draw one up based on recommendations from friends and various trusted resources, such as AFI.

Any recommendations based on these or other, older and more classic films greatly appreciated. And if you’ve seen any of these, I’d love to hear what you thought.


2 thoughts on “Happy New Year: First films of 2018

  1. Pingback: Daily: Mind/Body balance for the extraordinarily lazy – Bluestalking Journal

  2. Pingback: January in Review: Books and Bitchery – Bluestalking Journal

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