In 2018, I watched 49 movies, two more than in 2017, and slightly less than the average of 51 movies per year that I’ve averaged over the past 10 years. Yes, I track my movie-watching (and my book-reading, calories, sleep, travel, and other things), I enjoy doing it, and I refer back to it often.
Of the 49 movies I watched in 2018, 14 of them — or 29% — were released in 2018, which is the lowest “new movie” total I’ve seen in a year since all the way back in 2012.
That means my 2018 top 10 list isn’t as confident as previous’ years when I had more movies to pick from- that said, I’m happy with this list overall:
A Star Is Born
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Avengers: Infinity War
A Quiet Place
Ant-Man and The Wasp
Tomb Raider (2018 version)
How and What I Watched
I watched most (nearly 60%) of movies on a digital format such as Amazon Prime, Plex (my personal media library), Netflix, HBO Now, and iTunes. 30% of my viewing came from theaters, and the rest (just 4 movies) on DVD.
This is a big drop from just 5 years ago, when nearly 25% of my viewing was on DVD/Blu-ray, and only 30% on digital platforms.
This year, I spent most of my time — roughly 52 hours, or an hour a week — watching action movies, my top genre, beating out comedy without much of a battle. Next was drama, documentary, and thriller with two entries (Get Out and A Quiet Place).
The action genre was boosted not only by my regular November – December rewatches of several Bond movies; it was also enhanced by my watch of the entire five-movie Dirty Harry series, plus 6 of the 14 movies I saw in theaters this year.
Clearly, I need to get back into the new movie scene in 2019. I saw 30% fewer new movies in 2018 than my recent yearly average, due in part to a number of personal and professional happenings, and to a lesser extent, decreased interest in what was out there in terms of movies.
MyWatchlist – (obviously) a running tally of the movies I want to watch – is at an all-time high, and I should either purge that list, or watch some movies from it, or both.
I should probably branch out beyond cheesy action movies and catch a few more dramas.
On a related note, I feel like the classic romantic comedy needs to come back around in a big way.
My mother, Cathi Campbell, passed away Monday June 11th 2018. Her obituary will appear in the Bangor Daily News (Maine) and Hartford Courant (Connecticut) on June 13th and 14th 2018, and is also reprinted below.
Catherine Marie Dowd Campbell went to be with the Lord on Monday June 11, 2018, held by her son Jason Clarke and with her beloved husband Peter Campbell by her side. While she struggled with cancer, she did not lose the battle, persevering with her endless strength and willingness to spend every minute happily sharing life with family. She is survived by her son Jason Clarke and wife Heidi, her husband Peter Campbell and his sons Joshua Campbell and wife Michelle and Jared Campbell and wife Tanya, her mother Pauline Dowd, her siblings Dennis Dowd and wife Cheryl, MariAnne Lalama and husband John, David Dowd and wife Paula, and Patricia Dowd. She is also survived by her grandchildren Henry and Annie Clarke, Connor and Mckayla Campbell, and Whitney, Eva, Chase, and Maverick Campbell. Cathi also leaves behind many nieces, nephews, cousins, and members of the extended Dowd and Campbell families, as well as a world of friends.
She is predeceased by her father Gerald Dowd, her parents-in-law, Lorraine and Douglas Campbell, and a special nephew, Paul Lalama.
Cathi was born in Hartford Connecticut in 1957, and spent a happy childhood playing between trees and around the city. She moved to Maine in 1979, where she loved gardening, cross country skiing, making homemade halloween costumes for her son Jason, listening to the Red Sox while ironing, her time as a Cub Scout pack leader, and her life as an aunt, sister-in-law, Mom and wife, as well as a neighbor and friend to so many. Cathi also reached her lifelong goal of graduating college during this time and began her career as a social worker, a true calling where she shared her overflowing support and guidance to many hundreds of people in need of a guardian and champion.
Later in life, she made many new friends living in southern Maine, Florida, and then again Connecticut, where she was closer to her parents and siblings. During this time, her love of travel and exploration flourished, as she and Peter visited nearly every state in the country and traveled abroad as avid campers, hikers, cruise-goers, and occasional theme park visitors. Their three-month-long epic cross-country RV trip in 2014 was a truly special experience that enriched their appreciation for the vast range of people and places that only travel can provide.
Through more than 20 years of constant companionship, Cathi and Peter also enjoyed watching the Red Sox and Celtics, baking (with many people receiving their favorite treats at each visit), being members of the East Windsor Rotary, and tending to their RV and garden. They rescued a dog, Libby, who loves to travel with them and was spoiled in the way only they could, and who is heartbroken at the loss of “her Memere”.
While she made the most of life with work, friends, and family, Cathi treasured her life first as Mother and later as a Grandmother more than anything else, known as Memere after her own maternal grandmother. Through countless visits and vacations with all of them, and through thousands of text messages with her first born grandson Henry, she showered all her grandchildren with the brightest light of her soul, telling the world about their every accomplishment, and taking every opportunity to share in their lives. Cathi was a constant fan and supporter of her grandchildren’s many sports, music, and arts activities, attending every performance as photographer, first (and loudest clapper), and watching recordings of their performances until she knew every word, as she did for her own son Jason.
She leaves her grandchildren with her many signature sayings, a genuine love for travel and adventure, and a lifetime of memories to share with their own children and grandchildren.
Services will be Monday June 18th at 11am at the Carmon Funeral Home on Poquonock Avenue in Windsor, Connecticut and later this summer in Anson, Maine, her final resting place, where she will be committed to a burial among fields and trees, a spot fitting for her beauty and love of the outdoors. Those wishing to make a donation may do so to the American Cancer Society online at cancer.org.
I stood up from my seat in the pew, ready to carry a heavy weight. Could I take a punch? I guess this was as good a time as any to find out. Only it would have to be a wet one, like a kiss, because it was starting to rain.
When someone dies, you still need to do the normal things. Like shave, make sure your shirt is wrinkle-free, help your kids get ready for the events of the day. There’s fixing up the daughter’s hair, helping the son with his tie, and you eat a little bit if you’re hungry or you know you’ve been forgetting. Then there are the abnormal things, the new things. Trying to find a way to comfort your mother, who’s just lost her Father. Remembering the last time you saw someone, how they looked. How they looked compared to what you remember them as.
The first time we found out my Grandfather had cancer, we quickly gathered plans to race down and see him. It always amazes me how our small family can create chaos out of quiet, when given the sliver of a chance. This was more than a sliver. It was just after Easter, the time of year that Connecticut is in the full bloom of spring while northern New England is still going rounds with winter, hoping at best for a draw. We escaped the dirty snow banks to flowers on the trees and something like blue in the skies. We were told, rightly or wrongly, that we needed to visit Grandpa because things did not look good. The kids ran around the back yard, we setup lawn chairs, the aunts and uncles gathered. You talk about work when you don’t want to talk about the future.
Four years later, he died. Four years of ups and downs, long nights we could only imagine with all the distance of 300 miles and a half a climate between us and my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbors. What did my mother go through in those four years that I could learn from? Not just the fear of driving to the hospital, but the loneliness of driving home, to go to bed, to wake up and go on with their lives the next day, waiting for news.
What about my Grandfather, at the center of it? You’ll need to change your eating habits, try to like new things, have patience forced on you like an icy sidewalk when you fall. The patience of waiting rooms, test results, the patience of waiting to see if a new treatment works or what else it will do to you while you’re trying to battle the larger of two evils.
When I think about those four years, I imagine the patience is tempered by the vast uncertainty of length, like how driving somewhere the first time always seems so long. Do you lose sense of time wondering if today will be a good day, or if this month will bring setbacks, or this season will be filled with promise as the enemy retreats? And come to think of it, did the enemy retreat, or are they regrouping? When you’re a child, time alternates between enemy and friend at different times. Growing up means understanding time, befriending it, ultimately controlling it. The cancer takes that, returns days to weeks, hours to months, removes your ability to predict and balance your present with your future.
Secretly, I didn’t think he’d get well, only manage, with bouts of triumph and resolve, while a steady decline walked on, ignoring his will.
He died in February, yet another time of year when Maine is consumed by the darkness and the whiteness of winter, while Connecticut turns the corner. There weren’t quite flowering trees, but the snow had given way to rain and the immeasurable dark skies were now just gray, with a hint of blue.
Me with my Grandfather Gerald Dowd, Christmas 1984.
We were ready. I had a haircut and bought a larger wedding band to fit over my broken finger. My family would immediately notice if I wasn’t wearing a ring, and even a swollen and purple knuckle would not excuse the adoscelent arrogance of not wearing it to such an occasion. Death is one of the reasons we maintain traditions in the first place.
Saturday morning, we were groups of dark suits and dresses, piling into dark cars under deep gray skies. They weren’t showing clear signs of lightening; that took the promise out of our small talk about the weather. Some of those gathered were handed umbrellas by the funeral attendants, until the umbrellas ran out. My own children had never been to a funeral; never seen my wife and I at our most vulnerable. We would need to expose them to the power of grief and still hold them close enough to not feel alone.
A traditional Catholic mass anchored the solemnity. Even for those people who grew up outside of the church, it provided meaning to our dress and united our quiet solitude. The sermon reminded us that my Grandfather received comfort as dramatically and as surely in the other world as he had been plagued by pain and decline in ours. This peace was possible in his new place because, the priest assured us, “Only the father knows the son,” and “only the son knows the father.” This was religious in intent. Then my uncle got up to deliver the eulogy for his father, gone after a lifetime, and those words meant something even more to me.
After a short drive from the church, we gathered at the gravesite. The rain clacked on umbrellas above us, and below the somber quiet followed us from the church. They’d erected a canopy over the grave for the service. My grandmother and aunts and uncles and friends gathered in seats for the military ceremony, honoring my Grandfather’s service in Korea. I stood outside the canopy, listening.
Approaching middle age, I realized I had been wondering, for nearly 30 years, how my Grandfather felt on the long boat ride from Korea back to the United States. I know from stories that he and his friends played cards to relax and pass the time, but what else? What mix of confidence and relief showed itself on the faces and in the words of him and the men next to him? Did he dwell much on the choices that lay before him, as impossibly wide as the ocean? Did he plan out the universe he would co-create, that now stood gathered around him in the cold and wet world he left? You rarely think of something when you’re in the middle of it, even as long as a life.
My wife pulled my daughter closer under her umbrella. Men in uniform moved through traditions. My Grandfather had never been as far away from that boat and its possibilities. No harm could come to him anymore as he stood with the Father, in rest following a lifetime of choices and sentences, lucky and smart, fair and cruel.
My son looked up at me, and I looked back at him. I don’t think you learn how to act at funerals, any more than you learn how to control life. You befriend time, and you carry an umbrella, and when you escape one battlefield, you take a moment to laugh and play cards and maybe you catch a glimpse of the next adventure you’ll have a hand in creating. Then you go towards it, with fear and confidence, invincibility and fragility. Peace and loss.
As my son stared at me standing in the rain, his face moved for a second. I think it was recognition. Then he lifted up his umbrella, stretching to the limits of his reach to place it over my head. I took it from him and held it over both of us. We were out of the rain for the time being, but it was still loud as hell and inches above our heads. He stood close to me to keep out of the cold.
Only the father knows the son, and only the son knows the father.
Scrolling through Instagram the other day, I noticed a friend’s photo of a photo of a jar filled with slips of paper. She and her family had spent the month of November writing down things to be thankful for, and then took turns pulling out slips of paper and talking about them together on Thanksgiving.
Since I was already feeling like Thanksgiving went by too quickly for our family, without much of a chance to reflect, and inspired by my friend’s simple idea to add some meaning to the typically busy holiday season, I decided to grab the kids and do something similar. The result is our first ever Memory Jar (beta version, of course).
The idea is that every Wednesday for the next couple of weeks — and in between, if the inspiration strikes — we’ll jot down a memory from the past 11 months (happy or sad, both are important) on a slip of paper and drop it in a glass jar. Some afternoon or evening between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we’ll sit down and take turns pulling slip of paper out of the jar and talking over what we’ve done over the past year.
The resulting “memory jar” craft project is described below. Since this an off-the-cuff project we whipped up last night, I’m not sure how it will turn out, though I’m hoping it helps us take just a few hours to get together and think back on the ups and downs of 2014.
Here’s how we made our memory jar:
Some wrapping paper (holiday themed, if you’re into that)
Some ribbon (again, holiday themed is possible though not required)
A basket (or similar container)
Something to write with (pen or marker recommended)
Friends and/or family to contribute
Grab some different rolls of holiday wrapping paper and cut off 1’x1′ square pieces. Then, fold the pieces in half 3-4 times until it’s folded into a 3″ square.
Then, unfold the piece back again, and you’ll have some nice creases to cut on.
Using the creases as guides, cut the larger squares of paper into smaller squares. Then, fold the smaller squares in half (with the paper design on the outside) and crease them to make sure they lay flat.
As you finish them, put them in a circle in the bottom of your basket. Leave room in the middle of the basket for the jar.
Grab some ribbon (green and red, if available) and tie them to the top of a clear jar. Place the jar into the middle of the basket.
Set a particular day of the week (“Every Wednesday”) or just invite friends/family members to jot down memories any time.
When you’ve written a memory, fold it back up so it’s hidden and place it into the jar.
When the slips of paper are gone, or on a set date (we’re going with New Year’s Eve), take turns removing a slip of paper and reading it. Then spend a few minutes talking over the memory before passing the jar along to the next person to take the next slip of paper.
Bonus points for having a phone or laptop on hand — when a slip of paper is pulled from the memory jar, find photos or videos of the event to add to the conversation.
I rarely ever channel surf live TV, though when I do I’m consistently amazed at the sheer length and frequency of commercial breaks. The seismic impact of DVRing aside, TV providers have limited if any tools beyond the decades-old “Previous Channel” button to help casual surfers avoid the mind-numbing crush of ads in those rare occasions when clicking around is the entertainment method of choice.
Browsing through the DirecTV channel guide while out of DVR’d shows on a quick lunch break the other day, I thought of a new idea that might infuriate advertisers and networks even as it makes casual browsing just slightly better for viewers.
Imagine a small icon to the right of the channel or show name every time that particular channel was on a commercial break
Imagine your TV provider’s standard channel guide (a screenshot of my DirecTV guide is pictured). Now, imagine a new feature: An icon next to each channel or show name, to appear when that particular channel is currently in the midst of a commercial break. If we want to get negative, the icon could be a red button or perhaps a skull and crossbones; a more moderate icon could be as simple as a megaphone or “Ad break” — anything to provide an immediate and yet subtle visual clue so you can choose to skip past that channel and pick one where that 295th rerun of The Wedding Singer is actually airing.
If TV providers wanted to go a step further and give a nod to the advertisers they were helping viewers avoid, they could potentially even show a logo of the advertiser next to the show name in the guide, updating it live as the ads changed. An even more explicit and potentially mutually beneficial feature would be to show a countdown until the break is over. Sure, a commercial break countdown that still shows 4 minutes left might spur viewers to another option, though a nearly-finished countdown could also tilt the scales towards a few seconds of ad viewing. Since so much of my ad viewing comes via fast-forwarding the ads in DVR’d show, I’m assuming advertisers are already accounting for extremely brief views as part of their ad creation process.
Yes, this would be more visual clutter in the already crowded channel guide user experience, and no, TV providers are not likely to subvert their partners so brazenly. All that said, “heads up” ad break tracking on channel guides could be a useful innovation to a problem that has plagued our lazy weeknights and sick days for generations.
One of my favorite TV shows is ending, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Nearing the third season premiere of Kroll Show next month, co-creator and star Nick Kroll announced that he’s ending the show entirely after this season airs. Not because ratings are low, or the network decided to move on, or any of the business-related reasons that shows are ended. Rather, Kroll is wrapping up simply because he “wanted to feel like we were going out with the best work that we’ve done.”
Given how rare this type of voluntary ending is, I have even more respect for Kroll than I already did. In an industry where the norm is to renew successful shows until long after their natural expiration dates — resulting in increasingly ridiculous plots and beloved cast/characters exiting, among other issues — it’s really refreshing to see a star (with creative control, no less) making sure a show goes out like this.
Nick Kroll and Jon Daly as Wendy and Ashley, two wealthy jerks who get into adventures
Of course it’s natural to want something great to continue. That said, we often stick with great shows to the point where they’re no longer recognizable as what we loved in the first place. The results are comedies like The Office continuing on without its star, funniest character and emotional heart; otherwise superb dramas like Downton Abbey resorting to inexplicable deaths, and previously respected shows like ERdescending into soap opera-like insanity to keep viewers tuned in.
The worst part isn’t even what we’re watching — it’s what we’re missing. When previously great shows continue on well past their prime, their producers and stars are spending time and energy investing in a stale product when they could instead be working on new and different projects. A new project isn’t guaranteed to be a winner, though I’ll always bet on a great performer to come back again with something new and great, when given the chance.
After Kroll Show wraps, I’ll miss Liz and Liz, Ceasar (maybe not), Bobby Bottleservice, Wendy and Ashley, the Wheels crew, and of course Gil and George most of all. That said, loving nearly every minute of the show so far only makes me more excited to see where Kroll and the cast and crew of the Show will end up next.