2018 is dead but I am not and neither, incredibly, is this site. Well it was, but like Lazarus risen, it comes forth with fresh new content! Is more to follow? Who knows, but I resolve to feign a college try or two before settling into effort-free idleness. But who am I kidding? I may have known when it started but 2018 saw the end of idleness in my life for some time. More on that in a moment.

I'm saying goodbye to the year that was with a recap of mine in love and movies, the noteworthy and the not-but-noted-anyway that color my memories of 2018. It was a monumental year that brought seismic change to our family with one unfortunate side-effect: limited time for cinema, a real shame because it was (I hear) a great year for movies. Throughout this post I'll call out a few titles from each month that I'd like to catch up on, so look no further if you're hunting for rental suggestions; they all come recommended by critics and others whose opinions I trust.

Without further ado, let's get started on this walk down my personal Memory Lane. Here's the serious and the silly that was on my mind in 2018. 

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Films I Missed: Paddington 2, Hostiles, Mary and the Witch's Flower
What a start to the year! The "Time's Up" movement took center stage, Oprah's Golden Globes speech raised presidential prospects, and Film Twitter was tearing itself apart over Three Billboards' racist cop. We spent most of the month catching awards nominees as they expanded into the Charlotte market but our very first movie of the year was less dignified: Green Lantern. Yikes! Speaking of yikes, remember when a bunch of troglodytes called for a no-girls-allowed cut of The Last Jedi?

We crossed an item off of our bucket list and became season ticket holders to the local theater. In January we caught two musicals: School of Rock (featuring ridiculously talented kids in a wonderful companion to a wonderful film) and Phantom of the Opera, which was less impressive than in previous tours (a very obviously disguised Phantom frequently appeared before the mirror scene, stripping any mystery from incidents that should be strange and unexplained beforehand.)

Films I Missed: Annihilation, Game Night, Early Man
In the early morning on February 21, my wife violently shook me awake and, waving a tiny white stick in the air, shouted "Hey! Hey! Want to have a baby?!" before bursting into tears. Not exactly an Instagram moment but one I'll certainly never forget (I got out a series of increasingly wide-eyed "what"s before myself dissolving into a puddle of happy tears.)

Another reason it was a good month: the Patriots lost the SuperBowl, during which Netflix set my timeline aflame by suddenly announcing the release of The Cloverfield Paradox; I joined in tweeting enthusiastically but then never watched the movie. I'm told it's terrible.

Films I Missed: Death of Stalin, Love Simon, Isle of Dogs, Unsane
Fresh off of the pregnancy news, it was off to the United Kingdom for the first major vacation since our honeymoon in 2011. A few highlights:

We toured Windsor Castle...
...visited dead royalty at St. George's Chapel (two weeks before the wedding!)...

...were awed by Stonehenge...
...walked the tomb-filled halls of Westminster Abbey (this was amazing)...

...went to as many museums as we could find...

...unwound with late-night scrabble.
It was a pretty amazing trip. And oh yeah, we went to Hogwarts.

The Warner Brothers Studio Tour - London: The Making of Harry Potter was one of the highlights of the trip for these two hopeless Potterheads. It begins with a brief welcome video but the screen soon retracts, revealing massive doors instantly recognizable as those leading to the Great Hall. They open, and you're there - the actual set, reconstructed and adorned with familiar props and costumes leading to front of the hall, where costumes for each Hogwarts professor are on display.

From there it's a leisurely stroll through sets and relics from the entire 8-film franchise: Hagrid's hut, Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor common room, and more. 

Rounding the last corner you come face to face with the scale model used to film exterior shots of the castle, pictured above. It's breathtaking, massive and stunning in its detail. The lights are kept dim and music from the films soars around you. I was struck by how quiet everyone around us was, even how quiet we were, just taking in this monument from our youth. A truly magical moment; I may have gotten a bit misty. Accio tissue!

Films I Missed: You Were Never Really Here, Lean on Pete
Did you know that after 35 years, Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on cinemas and screened Black Panther (lightly edited to remove kisses and naughty words) to a mixed sex audience? It was a move that earned the kingdom some praise for moderating before it brutally murdered a journalist. Easy come, easy go, eh Prince Salman?

My birthday is in April; I got a PlayStation 4 and a minor obsession with Avengers: Infinity War. We celebrated by seeing Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, the second in a string of shows with plot-relevant pregnancies (in March we saw Waitress when we got back). Timely!

Films I Missed: Tully, First Reformed, RBG
Solo is remarkable in that it was the first Star Wars film I wasn't dying to see opening night. I did, of course, eventually see it and it was fine, if a bit "I Understood That Reference: The Movie."

Concerned about the potential negative impact of streaming distribution on the French theater industry, Cannes barred Netflix films from competition. Netflix responded by pulling their entire lineup from the official selection, which included Orson Welles' final film The Other Side of the Wind (unfinished when he died but since reconstructed) and Roma, a leading contender for the upcoming awards season. Netflix would go on to release Roma in a limited theatrical release (they want that Oscar), but the whole affair prompted interesting discussions about the uncomfortable coexistence of traditional and digital distribution models. 

Films I Missed: Upgrade, Leave No Trace, Hereditary, Three Identical Strangers
My June obsession is Gotti, the John Travolta biopic of John Gotti distributed in part by movie ticket subscription company MoviePass. It has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 24 on Metacritic and responded to the poor reception by launching an ad campaign suggesting it was a conspiracy. Wowza!

Now more than halfway through the pregnancy, we decided to cap off the month with a last weekend getaway and headed to Hilton Head Island. 

Films I Missed: Eighth Grade, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
July saw the end of our MoviePass membership. As it turns out, there's not much profit in slashing ticket prices for consumers while paying full price yourself. Suddenly strapped for cash, MoviePass tried to stem the bleeding with a surcharge on popular movies and showtimes or outright removing them from the app entirely. The writing was on the wall; by month's end the service went down for a few days after the company failed to make payments to its card processor.  

Remarkably, MoviePass is still limping on, reigning in services and raising prices. Maybe it can make it but signs point to no. Recent filings suggest they've bled subscribers since implementing cost controls and HeliosMatheson, their parent company, has seen their stock price go from trading above $47 to less than $.02. That's right, two cents. So long, MoviePass, and thanks for all the movies.

Films I Missed: BlacKkKlansman, Alpha, Searching
But I'm a sucker for the movie ticket subscription programs so we immediately signed up for the newly announced AMC A-List. A bit more expensive than MoviePass but more flexibility with at-home ticket reservations and multiple movies in a day. Why I chose to do this right two months before our baby was due I'll never know. We saw Crazy Rich Asians, which was great, but now I've paid the A-List subscription fee for five months and have still only used it to see Crazy Rich Asians, because of course as an expecting couple there was other shit to do, Nick, you idiot, you absolute moron. If anyone asks if Crazy Rich Asians is worth seeing, tell them you know a guy who paid $100 for his ticket.

In other film news, the Academy of Motion Pictures announced and then quickly unannounced the creation of an Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. Perhaps announcing the category alongside specific qualifying criteria would have helped avoid such fierce criticism, which was swift and came from everywhere thanks to its vague definition. The Academy was accused of both attempting to tilt the scale so Black Panther would be assured a nomination and of trying to prevent it from tainting the "real" Best Picture award. My guess is we'll see another attempt down the road. After all, these types of categories aren't unheard of; the very first Academy Awards presented Oscars to an Outstanding Picture and then a separate Best Unique and Artistic Picture. 

But please, a little more foresight next time, Academy.

Films I Missed: Mandy, Assassination Nation, The House with a Clock in Its Walls
With one month to go until baby, September remains a bit of a blur of nursery prep and parenting classes. What I can tell you is that at some point we got Life of Pi from Netflix (yes, we still use their DVD service). It remains unwatched. 

Oh, and The Phantom of the Opera has a sequel and it is an ugly, unpleasant, melodramatic nightmare that I found deeply funny.

Films I Missed: A Star is Born, The Old Man and the Gun, Bad Times at the El Royale, First Man
Summed up: Hamilton. Hocus Pocus. Had a baby. As for Hamilton, we cut it close. Our ticket date was October 16, our due date the 21st. Almost every expecting couple we knew started having their babies a week or two early. All of the old wives tales? We did the opposite. No spicy foods. No eggplant. I had to sleep in a different room entirely (I kid, I kid). And we got lucky. Also lucky: we originally had scheduled our UK trip for this month. Whew!

Hocus Pocus. When it came time for induction, we were neck deep in the "Freeform 31 Days of Halloween." Induction and labor lasted about 32 hours. Do you have any idea how many times you can catch Hocus Pocus over 32 hours? I do, and the answer is many. Thank goodness it's our kind of campy fun. The 25th Anniversary Special, though? No thanks. And as for having a baby:

That's Margaret Olivia. She was born October 21 and spent a week in the hospital with a bout of jaundice but is otherwise healthy.We call her Maggie and she's pretty great.

Films I Missed: Overlord, Widows, The Favourite
On November 1, we watched our first movie as a family of three: Murder on the Orient Express, starring Sir Kenneth Branagh's nigh miraculous mustache. Learning to be parents those first few weeks was certainly an adventure. A sleepless, poop-covered, oh-god-the-dogs-ate-the-diapers adventure. But we've grown into it together. At Thanksgiving, I was thankful to have a partner like Whitney. Loving to the last, ever patient when I'm frustrated, a reassuring voice when I'm feeling defeated. I'm a fortunate person, rich in love if nothing else. And I'm not just saying that because she'll be reading this!

On a less serious note, as new parents in search of cost cutting measures we finally made the decision to cut the cord, swapping from cable to PlayStationVue. Aside from some occasional issues with channels loading right away we're pretty happy with the swap.

Films I Missed: Mary Queen of Scots, Vox Lux, Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, If Beale Street Could Talk, Bumblebee
We joined the Disney Movie Club after hemming and hawing about it for months. We want to have some animated classics on hand for when Maggie is ready to start watching movies (a few years down the line). It just so happens that Disney recently began issuing a new "Signature Collection" of Vault-eligible titles, so we snapped them up. Here's my first haul, total cost $23. 

We also got out on our first post-parenthood date night, sharing fajitas and taking in A Christmas Story: The Musical, which I didn't even know existed until we got the tickets. As a kid, I never really got the movie (it's been more than a decade since I last saw it, so it may need revisiting) but I enjoyed the show. As a musical it's entirely superfluous, but as a sweet, family friendly cup of Christmas cheer, it was exactly what I needed to get into the holiday spirit.

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And that was my year, told in about one thousand more words than necessary. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Looking into 2019, it's going to be a wild year for our family but I hope to find some time to get back to the theater, which I love and have missed. And for you and your loved ones, I wish for all the happiness this New Year can bring you.

Happy New Year.

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