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Thursday, January 25, 2018

‘Catcher Was A Spy’ is a WWII Whiff

Based on a book by Nicholas Dawidoff recounting a fascinating true story, “Catcher” does a disappointing disservice both to Rudd and to the real-life catcher/spy Moe Berg. Berg was a journeyman professional baseball player better known for his engaging intellectualism than his skill on the diamond. He held degrees from Princeton and Columbia, spoke multiple languages and made short work of trivia questions on popular radio quiz shows. But he was also an endlessly secretive and mysterious man who jealously guarded his privacy from even those who considered themselves friends.

Sadly, Rudd’s agelessly boyish good looks and relatable likability just don’t lend themselves to the depths of the Berg enigma. At one of the film’s premiere screenings at the Sundance film festival this week, director Ben Lewin described the difficulties of finding a face for Berg. I don’t know who would have been a better choice than Rudd, but you could start by looking down the cast list at Paul Giamatti, who might have done something interesting with the lead role instead of being relegated to a mugging supporting character.

Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: January 25, 2018 at 09:17 AM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: moe berg, movies

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   1. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: January 25, 2018 at 09:20 AM (#5613073)
As soon as I saw Rudd was going to be playing Berg, I had the same thought. Too bad, we could use a good baseball (and historical) movie.

Paul Schneider would have been good.
   2. Paul d mobile Posted: January 25, 2018 at 09:29 AM (#5613083)
Giamatti's 50 and looks it, so might be tough to have him pull of pro ball player (Rudd's 48 and does not look it).
   3. jmurph Posted: January 25, 2018 at 09:38 AM (#5613088)
Considering the material, I actually didn't find the book to be very good, either.
   4. dlf Posted: January 25, 2018 at 09:39 AM (#5613089)
I read 'The Catcher was a Spy' some years ago and came out feeling somewhat sorry for the undiagnosed / untreated mental conditions that obviously plagued Berg. Delusions of grandeur and paranoia combined with a towering intelligence and memory must have made his life difficult from the inside. Of course he also treated those around him like #### and shouldn't get a pass for that.
   5. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: January 25, 2018 at 09:45 AM (#5613095)
I read 'The Catcher was a Spy' some years ago and came out feeling somewhat sorry for the undiagnosed / untreated mental conditions that obviously plagued Berg. Delusions of grandeur and paranoia combined with a towering intelligence and memory must have made his life difficult from the inside. Of course he also treated those around him like #### and shouldn't get a pass for that.


This was my take too. This was a case where knowing more about the story was definitely a negative.
   6. DaVoice of DaPeople Posted: January 25, 2018 at 10:53 AM (#5613142)
The screenplay was written by a guy with a decent track record (Robert Rodat—Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot).So I mean there’s that.

I’m holding out for a Ten Cent Beet Night movie.
   7. McCoy Posted: January 25, 2018 at 11:03 AM (#5613153)
Well, the Patriot was not a good screenplay but it is rather remarkable that Rodat has the SPR credit to his name when you look at his IMDB page. I always wonder how these guys actually make a living and pay the bills. For instance around 2008 or so I ran into one of the writers for the movie Green Street Hooligans and coincidentally enough I had just watched that movies within the last 6 months. So afterwards when I get home I checked his IMDB page and found that he had basically done nothing for years and year before writing that movie and had done nothing for years afterwards. Does that mean you were a barista in between? What do these guys do in between these rare opportunities to get their material green lighted?
   8. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 25, 2018 at 11:10 AM (#5613162)
I’m holding out for a Ten Cent Beet Night movie.


Even if they're just ten cents, I'm not eating any beets.
   9. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 25, 2018 at 11:13 AM (#5613167)
So afterwards when I get home I checked his IMDB page and found that he had basically done nothing for years and year before writing that movie and had done nothing for years afterwards. Does that mean you were a barista in between? What do these guys do in between these rare opportunities to get their material green lighted?


You write a bunch of stuff, both treatments and scripts, that never gets produced. But you still get paid for them.
   10. GGC Posted: January 25, 2018 at 11:38 AM (#5613187)
3. jmurph Posted: January 25, 2018 at 09:38 AM (#5613088)
Considering the material, I actually didn't find the book to be very good, either.


I thought that the Chris Fowler SportsCentury ESPN show on Berg was better. Berg's story is an interesting story, but he was a blowhard. I saw a bio in the library on OSS chief Wild Bill Donovan. I looked in the index to see if Berg's name was in there. It wasn't.
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 25, 2018 at 11:39 AM (#5613188)
Even if they're just ten cents, I'm not eating any beets.


I could go for it if they're pickled. Maybe you can get a few beet eggs, too.
   12. reech Posted: January 25, 2018 at 12:12 PM (#5613207)
   13. Omineca Greg Posted: January 25, 2018 at 12:40 PM (#5613226)
In the Antipodes, they top hamburgers with beets. Sometimes the pickled ones, and sometimes grated and raw. It's a really good idea, tastes great.

I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich in Auckland, and they asked me if I wanted it "with corn or without." Intrigued, I signed up for the corny version...What I got was a grilled cheese sandwich, that was filled with melted cheese...and creamed corn. I was skeptical, but it turned out to be way better than I thought it would be.

Not as good as the beet topped hamburgers though. That technique should go international.
   14. Rowland Office Supplies Posted: January 25, 2018 at 01:33 PM (#5613280)
Paul Schneider would have been good.


He sure would've. The dude embodies "enigmatic."
   15. Rally Posted: January 25, 2018 at 01:59 PM (#5613302)
Giamatti's 50 and looks it, so might be tough to have him pull of pro ball player (Rudd's 48 and does not look it).


Those ages and relative appearance for their age are exactly the situation for Robert Redford in the Natural, and his manager Wilford Brimley. Redford today would probably pass as younger than Brimley in 1984.
   16. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: January 25, 2018 at 02:06 PM (#5613313)
I can't even find a trailer for this movie. That's gotta be a bad sign.
   17. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: January 25, 2018 at 03:22 PM (#5613415)
I can't even find a trailer for this movie. That's gotta be a bad sign.


2 seconds with Google ...

Edit: to hotlink

   18. Hysterical & Useless Posted: January 25, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5613427)
Do people usually visit movie sets outside of the Universal Studios tour?


Back in 2001 I had a temp job in a bank. The office manager had an IMDB page, consisting of one script which was "in development" (ie, it had been optioned, there was a director involved, a couple of actors seemed interested, but there were no immediate plans for it to be shot).

Six years later, after a different director got involved, the film finally came out. Did alright, he was able to quit the office managing biz and do the writing thing full-time.


I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich in Auckland, and they asked me if I wanted it "with corn or without."


Even more years ago than in the above, we were driving out to visit my wife's family. Stayed overnight in Zanesville, OH (home of the immortal Zane Grey!). Breakfast the next morning, the diner we went to had Corn Pancakes on the menu. Now, I always use some crushed corn flakes in my pancake batter, a quarter cup or so, gives a nice extra flavor IMO, so I ordered them. Pancakes came, had kernels of corn throughout. Very strange.

   19. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 25, 2018 at 03:48 PM (#5613441)
Even more years ago than in the above, we were driving out to visit my wife's family. Stayed overnight in Zanesville, OH (home of the immortal Zane Grey!). Breakfast the next morning, the diner we went to had Corn Pancakes on the menu. Now, I always use some crushed corn flakes in my pancake batter, a quarter cup or so, gives a nice extra flavor IMO, so I ordered them. Pancakes came, had kernels of corn throughout. Very strange.


Let me get this straight. You routinely put crushed corn flakes in your pancakes and think that is normal. But when confronted with 'corn pancakes' that have *surprise* corn kernels in them, you think that is odd? What do you assume chocolate chip pancakes are, pancakes with coco krispies in the batter? Blueberry pancakes?
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 25, 2018 at 03:54 PM (#5613450)
Redford today would probably pass as younger than Brimley in 1984.

Eh, he would also pass for his first baseman's mitt from The Natural.
   21. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 25, 2018 at 03:58 PM (#5613455)
Not as good as the beet topped hamburgers though. That technique should go international.

Thank you for the idea, and I will assist your cause. I usually grow some beets in my garden and then find myself struggling with what to do with them other than roasting or shaving into a salad. Next year, I'll give the beetburger a try.
   22. Greg K Posted: January 25, 2018 at 04:22 PM (#5613478)

2 seconds with Google ...

Wow, that trailer is simply awful. It looks like it was made by a high school A/V club. Or just someone with a youtube account.
   23. Rowland Office Supplies Posted: January 25, 2018 at 04:49 PM (#5613498)
2 seconds with Google ...

Wow, that trailer is simply awful. It looks like it was made by a high school A/V club. Or just someone with a youtube account.


That's not the movie from the article posted here. That trailer's for a different Berg project from a couple of years ago. And yeah it looks dire.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: January 25, 2018 at 04:59 PM (#5613504)
I would assume that Corn Pancakes were made with cornmeal. Not actual chunks of corn.
   25. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: January 25, 2018 at 05:28 PM (#5613530)
2 seconds with Google ...
Ah, I got the title of the movie wrong. No wonder.

It's terrible. I wish I hadn't seen it.
   26. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 25, 2018 at 05:32 PM (#5613533)
My brother-in-law makes sweet corn ice cream with a raspberry swirl. It's delicious. No chunks of corn, though - I think he uses fresh cobs to get the corn flavor.
   27. Hysterical & Useless Posted: January 25, 2018 at 05:42 PM (#5613539)
I would assume that Corn Pancakes were made with cornmeal. Not actual chunks of corn.


Thank you, PF. Not that I would assume that anything I do would be construed as "normal." I do, after all, spend serious hours here everyday.
   28. BDC Posted: January 25, 2018 at 05:59 PM (#5613545)
Those ages and relative appearance for their age are exactly the situation for Robert Redford in the Natural, and his manager Wilford Brimley. Redford today would probably pass as younger than Brimley in 1984

The same with It Happens Every Spring in 1949. Ray Milland plays the handsome young professor who finds a formula that can make him a star pitcher. Paul Douglas plays the grizzled veteran catcher who has to mentor him. Milland was three months older than Douglas.
   29. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: January 25, 2018 at 06:08 PM (#5613548)
So afterwards when I get home I checked his IMDB page and found that he had basically done nothing for years and year before writing that movie and had done nothing for years afterwards. Does that mean you were a barista in between? What do these guys do in between these rare opportunities to get their material green lighted?
The credits of a movie do not reflect all the people who worked on the film. There are people in Hollywood who earn a nice living writing for films and have never received a single credit. There are people who are brought in to punch up dialog, people who are brought in to add humor to a script, etc and they rarely receive credit. There are also writers whose work is ultimately discarded and not used on a film but who have been paid anyway.
   30. Zach Posted: January 25, 2018 at 06:24 PM (#5613554)
Really terrible movies can sometimes be a guide to books worth checking out. If you wonder why some movie ever got made, a lot of times it's because everyone fell in love with the book and couldn't quite deliver on their intentions.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 25, 2018 at 06:41 PM (#5613557)
Those ages and relative appearance for their age are exactly the situation for Robert Redford in the Natural, and his manager Wilford Brimley. Redford today would probably pass as younger than Brimley in 1984

The same with It Happens Every Spring in 1949. Ray Milland plays the handsome young professor who finds a formula that can make him a star pitcher. Paul Douglas plays the grizzled veteran catcher who has to mentor him. Milland was three months older than Douglas.

According to TCM's website, Paul Douglas was actually two years younger than Milland, 42 to Milland's 44. OTOH while Milland could pass for 10 years younger, Douglas could have easily played a credible 60 year old. He was a fine character actor, but it's not surprising that two of his acting specialties were playing cuckolds or married businessmen with younger mistresses on the side.
   32. AndrewJ Posted: January 25, 2018 at 07:08 PM (#5613565)
Reminds me of the movie TIN MEN where one of the diner customers discusses the new TV series BONANZA: "It's about this 50-year-old cowboy and his three 45-year-old sons..."
   33. BDC Posted: January 25, 2018 at 07:26 PM (#5613574)
two of his acting specialties were playing cuckolds or married businessmen with younger mistresses

And somehow baseball pictures. Douglas was also in the original Angels in the Outfield. But he missed doing Rhubarb, with Milland. Instead they brought in William Frawley, who was actually a good bit older :)
   34. Morty Causa Posted: January 25, 2018 at 07:30 PM (#5613577)
Douglas got, and kept, Linda Darnell in A Letter to Three Wives. As they say, 'nuf said.
   35. AndrewJ Posted: January 25, 2018 at 07:55 PM (#5613584)
Paul Douglas was also originally the baseball manager in "The Mighty Casey" episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but he died just after filming. Jack Warden was brought in to replace him, a la Christopher Plummer.
   36. Rally Posted: January 25, 2018 at 08:07 PM (#5613592)
The same with It Happens Every Spring in 1949. Ray Milland plays the handsome young professor who finds a formula that can make him a star pitcher. Paul Douglas plays the grizzled veteran catcher who has to mentor him. Milland was three months older than Douglas.


Haven’t seen it, but “young for a professor” and “old for a catcher” could easily be the same age.

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