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Friday, January 25, 2013

Posnanski reviews “Trouble with the Curve”

Maybe the movie didn’t have enough of the invisible President bit?

In so, so, so many ways TWTC does a much greater disservice to scouts that it does to the stat people. Heck, it merely makes stats-people into unrecognizably cartoonish figures who hate baseball but want to work in it so they can take over the world with their baffling “batting average” statistics. Big deal.

But scouts … this movie was supposed to celebrate them. Instead it makes grumpy and unfunny old men* who have some sort of weird super-power ability to hear drifting hands. This is exactly the stale depiction of scouts that Moneyball did such a good job of lampooning in the first place….

But here’s the point: If you want to celebrate a scout, why wouldn’t you have him NOTICE all these things. This gets at the very heart of what scouts do. They watch the games. They talk to the players. They learn all about the families. They listen to the fans. If you are doing a whole movie about what scouts can tell you that computer can’t—this is very crux of the argument. One of my favorite scout stories involves a scout in Venezuela who saw a kid play. He was too small, he was too slow, he couldn’t hit a lick. But the scout loved him, loved him because he had these beautiful soft hand, the ball just stuck to his glove, velcro, and he had this marvelous arm and this wonderful attitude. The scout kept following around the kid—there was something about him.

He called the GM personally to plead the case. He said he only needed $5,000 to sign the kid. $5K. It was nothing. The GM said no. Kid can’t run. Kid can’t hit. Who cares about soft hands? The scout said, “Fine, I’ll put up the 5K myself and prove you wrong.” The GM was impressed with that and he liked the scout a lot and he said, “OK, fine, you can have 5K.”

The player turned out to be Andres Blanco—not a star, certainly, not even an everyday player. But the guy got 654 plate appearances in the big leagues, made some dazzling defensive plays and was one hell of a deal for $5,000.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 25, 2013 at 03:29 PM | 426 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: andres blanco, clint eastwood, films, hollywood, movies, posnanski, scouts, trouble with the curve

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   401. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 02, 2013 at 01:53 PM (#4360718)
I mean, peak Ryder would easily have a shot at anyone's fantasy rotation, but as an actor she wasn't doing anything that thousands of other winsome, perfectly formed young women couldn't.

Like a lot of our favorite actors & singers, she has some talent, but if she looked like a warthog you'd'a never heard of her.
   402. McCoy Posted: February 02, 2013 at 02:17 PM (#4360731)
Ryder, at the time, embodied the disenfranchised sarcastic generation Xers and since she was a girl and rather cute a lot of those flannel wearing smelly grunge kids happened to have a crush on her.
   403. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4360736)
@401: In fairness, though, isn't that true of most people who are famous in every field of entertainment? The number of female actors who can make it without looks is very, very small. It's the entry fee, if you will. There's a level of talent female actors need. Of the thousands who have that, the test becomes, when they're on screen, do your eyes keep going back to them? Ryder has that. When she was young she was almost impossible not to look at when she was on-screen. Everything else is very, very secondary.***

Oh, and the ability to show up. Actors (well, 'actors') like Lindsay Lohan are rare. On television, with it's frantic pace and deadlines, they're almost non-existent. Even on a show like Mad Men, there are no rehearsals. (Apologies if you know all this.) You go through your lines on set solely in order to know where your marks are, then it's "Action".

I know half a dozen people who are successful in commercials, and a half dozen who do all right in tv and on film, and they're all scrupulous (to a weird degree) about two things: their looks, and showing up early. When I was 18, I had gone into the city at the invitation of my next door neighbor, who was teaching a class in commercial acting. She made a passable living doing commercials because she had That Thing, whatever it is. We took the train home together and in a crowded car she was the only one with a double seat to herself. Had her legs up, relaxing. When she pulled out a cigarette (this was a while back) there was a guy there, immediately, with a lighter. She had that glow, whatever it is. Ryder had that.

***and once you get in, it's like a club. A big reason Kristen Stewart is a star is that she's reliable. She started very young, she knows the routines, and she shows up. It's one reason why mainstream acting can be so damnably ordinary. We get stuck with the ones who got in as kids and proved they were reliable. Stewart, Kirstin Dunst, Shia LaBoeuf, and hundreds more mediocrities all got early starts.

For a business that seems to be all about glamour, it's just as much about showing up, on time, and ready to work.

   404. McCoy Posted: February 02, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4360745)
And not raping anyone.
   405. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 02:50 PM (#4360754)
***and once you get in, it's like a club. A big reason Kristen Stewart is a star is that she's reliable. She started very young, she knows the routines, and she shows up. It's one reason why mainstream acting can be so damnably ordinary. We get stuck with the ones who got in as kids and proved they were reliable. Stewart, Kirstin Dunst, Shia LaBoeuf, and hundreds more mediocrities all got early starts.


I was in a friend's office once and the conversation was exactly about that:

--We need a kid, thirteen, shy, to play Mike.
--That kid, in that thing, he'd be about right.
--He's already too tall. Otherwise okay. Plus, if he grows six inches during shooting, it's a problem.
--What about that other kid, the one in the play, who did the commercial?
--The pizza thing?
--No, the other thing.
--Sure. Call his agent.

It really is about already Being There.
   406. McCoy Posted: February 02, 2013 at 03:31 PM (#4360763)
It really is about already Being There.

That pretty much sums up the hiring process for virtually every single company and industry on the planet.
   407. billyshears Posted: February 02, 2013 at 04:27 PM (#4360781)
I'm right in the target age range for people who were supposed to have crushes on Winona Ryder. And while she's undoubtedly attractive, I can't say that I or any of my friends ever had any sort of thing for her. Tiffany Amber-Thiessen and Nicole Eggert were much more common objects of fantasy from what I recall.
   408. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 04:49 PM (#4360786)
Speaking of the excursis into Star Trek, I had not realized that a group of people, with CBS's permission, continued the original series. It's called Star Trek Phase II and imagines a fourth year of OS.

http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/

I've watched the first two, short episodes. Some of the production values are quite good. The acting gets excessive at times, something a good editor would catch, but missed here. Kirk enters the bridge, looks left, right, and left; pauses go on a little too long. There's a stretch of the first episode with what appears to be an unintentional gay subtext--two guys look at each other a beat too long. A look hangs in the air. At the end they stand a little too close. It's a good try, though. The bridge is about as good as it was in the OS's first season.
   409. Greg K Posted: February 02, 2013 at 05:26 PM (#4360800)
I'm right in the target age range for people who were supposed to have crushes on Winona Ryder. And while she's undoubtedly attractive, I can't say that I or any of my friends ever had any sort of thing for her. Tiffany Amber-Thiessen and Nicole Eggert were much more common objects of fantasy from what I recall.

I'm actually just outside of the optimal age, but I don't let that stop me!

It's like my pop culture upbringing was stunted for some reason. In high school my favourite band was Nirvana and my favourite actress was Winona Ryder. But this was 2000-2002.
   410. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 06:40 PM (#4360825)
19 year old Winona is a timeless lust.

Holy Toledo--in their fourth crack at it those crazy guys at Star Trek: Phase II turned their labor of love into a very respectable full length episode. Fifty minutes of time travel goodness, a timeline where a Klingon is first officer of a starship, the doomsday device destroyed in the OS reappears, and a shuttle gets stashed in a garage.

If comedy is a real art, why are so few comedies in Top 100 film lists? And other than an unfortunate musical soundtrack why isn't Groundhog Day, or Tootsie for that matter, on any lists? Both are at least as good as Some Like It Hot, which I've always thought was badly hurt by Jack Lemmon's grating performance.
   411. Greg K Posted: February 02, 2013 at 06:53 PM (#4360830)
If comedy is a real art, why are so few comedies in Top 100 film lists? And other than an unfortunate musical soundtrack why isn't Groundhog Day, or Tootsie for that matter, on any lists? Both are at least as good as Some Like It Hot, which I've always thought was badly hurt by Jack Lemmon's grating performance.

Comedy would feature pretty heavily in my top 100 list. I'm not entirely sure if I'd have the balls to call it a "100 Best Movies" list rather than "My 100 Favourite Movies"...but if I'm being honest I think movies like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, The Big Lebowski, High Fidelity, Stranger than Fiction, and Being John Malkovich* belong in a best movie list**.

*Not exactly sure if all those are "comedies" per se, though humour certainly plays an important part in them.

**Also aware that this betrays the fact that I have poor taste in movies. This is why I don't have the forementioned balls to back up m picks.

EDIT: Should add In Bruges as well.
   412. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 07:09 PM (#4360834)
Those are all extremely well-crafted films, that do have a strong element of humor. They're funny, is what they are, albeit often bleakly so. I can see them in a Best Films list.

Any room on your list for Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers, or W.C. Fields? How about Barton Fink? Speaking of the Coen's, I had no idea they directed Intolerable Cruelty, or had a remake of the Shirley McClaine vehicle, Gambit, almost ready for release.

Or that Ethan Coen co-wrote The Naked Man, which wiki describes as

Dr. Edward Blis, Jr, a chiropractor by day, moonlights as a professional wrestler at night. His wrestling name is the Naked Man and he wears a naked body suit when wrestling. After his parents are killed by Sticks Varona, a cripple with crutches which double as machine guns, and an Elvis Presley impersonator, he loses his sanity. He adopts the persona of his wrestling character and goes on a rampage of revenge
   413. Greg K Posted: February 02, 2013 at 07:18 PM (#4360836)
or had a remake of the Shirley McClain vehicle, Gambit, almost ready for release.

Weird, must be a UK thing, that movie was out here 4-5 months ago I think.

Though sadly I didn't see it, as much as I love the Coens (not to mention Alan Rickman!) it had one of the worst trailers I've ever seen. I make it a point to never judge a movie by a trailer...but I found I couldn't help myself this time. I'll check it out when it comes out on DVD though.

As I was saying earlier, my the pop culture area of my brain is severely under-developed. I've actually been embarking on a project to get myself better educated on film over the past 3-4 years. My knowledge doesn't reach much past the 80s (movig backwards in time as it were). I finally saw the Godfather and Part Two last week. Ideally I'd like all eras to be represented on my "list", but so far due to lack of exposure my pre-1970 contenders for top 100 placement are limited to The Lion in Winter, Dr. Strangelove, His Girl Friday, Ikiru, and North by Northwest.
   414. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 07:38 PM (#4360841)
I guess they're tweaking it for US release or something. Hm. Or maybe it cratered there, as your post suggests, and they're re=working it.

You are officially the last person over 18 (presumptuous, I guess) to see Godfather. Hey--but you have all of Sergei Eisenstein and Andrey Tarkovskiy ahead of you!
   415. Mefisto Posted: February 02, 2013 at 07:58 PM (#4360843)
Comedy doesn't hold up as well as tragedy because humor changes over time. A lot of jokes are topical, and many of them depend on a particular social context; once that's gone, we no longer get the humor. Tragedy, though, frequently involves timeless themes.
   416. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 02, 2013 at 07:59 PM (#4360845)
I first saw The Godfather two years ago.
   417. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 02, 2013 at 08:24 PM (#4360850)
Robert Duvall's wiki has him in the original Twilight Zone series, in the episode "Miniature", which rings no bells whatsoever.

Robert Duvall's first role was as Boo ####### Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 1962, and he was already 31 at that point. That's old.

Anyway, this thread inspired me to watch The Wrath of Khan on Netflix for the first time this morning. Good movie but doesn't hold up all that well after 30 years, IMO.
   418. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 02, 2013 at 08:27 PM (#4360853)
Also, I think the appeal of Winona Ryder (who I never had much of a thing for despite being in the target demographic) is that she was very pretty, but was cast in most of her movies as the nerdy/goth outcast. In other words, she was hot but also the kind of girl you could maybe lead yourself to believe you had a chance with.

Tiffany Amber Thiessen and Nicole Eggert (to use a couple of examples someone mentioned earlier) were sort of the opposite--they were hot, they knew it, but they still got disproporionate attention relative to their looks.
   419. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 09:55 PM (#4360894)
I don't know, Mefisto. Comedy can also work with timeless themes: humiliation, ridicule, catastrophe, pranks, destruction, loss (with a different look at it than tragedy, obviously), fear of humilation, ridicule, catastrophe... Tootsie dealt with abuse, sexism, exploitation, and loss. I think it's a lot harder to explore those themes comedically, but it's been done, and done well.

Tootsie might be an example making your case, though. The director's blatant sexism is somewhat dated, and in another twenty years, when equal pay for equal work becomes the norm in the US, some of its sexism won't be as relevant or powerful.
   420. Mefisto Posted: February 02, 2013 at 10:29 PM (#4360909)
I don't mean to say that every comedy is necessarily inferior. Lysistrata holds up well 2500 years later precisely because the theme is timeless and the plot will always be funny. But comedy is more likely to become dated than tragedy, and over a long time that leaves us with lots of tragedies and fewer comedies at the top of the lists.
   421. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 02, 2013 at 11:02 PM (#4360916)
Makes abundant good sense.
   422. Gazizza, my Dilznoofuses! Posted: February 02, 2013 at 11:19 PM (#4360923)
#414: I'm 38 and have never seen any of the Godfather movies.

I'm the exact target age for Winona worship and while I find her attractive she doesn't do too much for me. She was on the cover of Rolling Stone my senior year of high school (I think) and one of my friends announced he wanted her more than life itself, which led to another friend punning "Oh, you want to ride her?"

   423. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: February 03, 2013 at 12:09 AM (#4360935)
Dr. Strangelove is a comedy that certainly holds up.
   424. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 03, 2013 at 12:26 AM (#4360941)
@422: why the wait? The first two are excellent by any standard. You don't need to like gangster movies to enjoy them.

Strangelove is extraordinary. I saw it again last year and it hasn't lost a step. I also saw 2001, and Kubrick's special effects still look seamless. Fail-Safe, which was the serious film alternative, also holds up pretty well, though that might be a minority opinion. A lot of it depends on whether you find Walter Matthau's variation on Herman Kahn's winnable nuclear wars scary-believable, or a bomb too far.

I also find Buster Keaton's physical comedy very fresh. Chaplin maybe a little less so, though that might be overexposure.
   425. Srul Itza At Home Posted: February 03, 2013 at 01:55 AM (#4360957)
my pre-1970 contenders for top 100 placement are limited to The Lion in Winter, Dr. Strangelove, His Girl Friday, Ikiru, and North by Northwest.


Another The Lion in Winter fan. Fantastic movie.
   426. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 03, 2013 at 06:45 PM (#4361333)
Thanks, guys. I'm putting Lion on my list. No idea how I missed a Peter O'Toole flick. Think I thought is was some sort of Sean Connery-winter romance cash-in.

Anyone else like Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise? It's remarkably well done; respectful, accurate (afaik, though the lot of WWII historians here might have a more informed opinion), and I thought it was smart as hell to portray Hitler in glimpses, rather than risk a caricature of evil.
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