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Sunday, April 24, 2022

2022 Bolts from the Blue

I began playing in the Hardy House fantasy baseball league in 1989. It was named for the building on the Northwestern campus where we conducted our first few auctions. I didn't have to travel far as I was teaching in the Political Science department there at the time. 

There have been many ownership changes over the years, and I'm the only guy in the league who has played every season. A couple of other guys have been in all but one and just about everyone has been in the league for a decade or two. Even the "new guys" have now played for many years.  We have a healthy share of lawyers and academics, and most of the guys were debaters in college. 

We started out as a standard 4x4 roto league, but switched from using batting average to on- base percentage as a hitting category in 2011 and also added strikeouts and runs as categories in that same season. We changed from saves to saves plus .5*Holds in 2019, but had no regular season in 2020 so this is still a very new category. 

The 2021 version of my team won the Hardy House title, thanks to a solid offense and a core of inexpensive pitchers that I was able to retain from prior seasons. I'm surprised that I didn't blog about the victory last fall, but I was back on campus teaching in person with all the distractions that brought. 

2022 is going to be a bigger challenge because Sean Manaea ($5 keeper salary) got traded to the National League (San Diego Padres) right before the auction and was thus not eligible to be retained. Also, I decided not to retain the services of Lance McCullers (also at a $5 salary) because of the lingering effects of an injury he sustained in the American League playoffs last season. Those were two of my top starters last season and keeping them at an inexpensive price would have been very helpful in assembling an outstanding offense for 2022. Instead, I had to spend a lot more on a single ace. Oh well.

Here's my roster from the auction, which was unfortunately held again over Zoom. We had planned an in-person meeting in Chicago, but the major league labor lockout made the selected date untenable -- and we could not find a workable substitute.

Retained players are in blue

C Plawecki BOS $1
C Mejia TB $3
1B Walsh LAA $17
2B Semien TEX $22
3B Rendon LAA $3
SS Torres NYY $13
MI Biggio TOR $9
CI Moncada CHX $19
OF Tucker HOU $16
OF Buxton MIN $25
OF Alvarez HOU $33
OF Kelenic SEA $13
DH Kepler MIN $11

$185 hitting (or 71% of the $260 allotment)

P E Rodriguez DET $16
P Berrios TOR $25
P Paddack MIN $3
P Hill BOS $3
P Gil NYY $1
P Pearson TOR $4
P Loaisiga NYY $5
P Duffey MIN $4
P Karinchak CLE $5
P Pagan MIN $5

$71 for pitching (or 27% of the budget)

I had $4 unspent -- saved for a TOR catching prospect (Gabe Moreno), but another owner had saved even more to buy him at the auction. One team had $20 unspent (!) and the league as a whole didn't spend $45. Several other teams had more left than I did. 

Reserves (as champ I could select first in the snake draft):

OF Ward LAA $3
P Tyler Wells BAL $2
P Chargois TB $1

Obviously, my offense is a lot better than my pitching. I selected many young pitchers and some guys traded from the NL just before the season (Paddack and Pagan), but two of the youngsters began the season on the injured list (Karinchak and Pearson) and another started in the minors (Gil). Moncada, among my hitters, also started hurt.

The results have been unimpressive through the first two weeks as my team has been mired in last place through most of the last week -- with the minimum of 5 pitching points on many days. 

But it's very early. 

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Sunday, March 27, 2022

Oscars 2022

Miniature people with cameras on movie clapper and Oscars 2022 text

The Oscars are tonight and this is my annual post reflecting my personal ranking of the nominees in each category. Caveat: I have not yet seen many of the films or performances. Since I typically watch most of these films and performances eventually, I will make future edits with changes (additions) reflected in yellow highlighting. 

Note that I'm not making predictions here. You can look elsewhere for those. 

Best Picture

The Power of the Dog
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
Drive My Car
King Richard
Don’t Look Up

Belfast is a great film, while the others are very, very good for the most part. Don't Look Up was actually kind of disappointing, but I feel like I should see it again. It may have been my expectations that caused me to react as I did. 

West Side Story

Best Director

Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”

I always find this difficult to separate from Best Picture.

Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

Best Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”
Will Smith, “King Richard”
Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

These were all very solid performances and I could make a case (or ordering) for any of them. So I left them in alphabetical order. 

Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”
Andrew Garfield, “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

Best Actress

Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”
Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Both of these films involved somewhat unsympathetic main characters. Colman is always very good, but Stewart might also be deserving. She was very good. 

Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”
Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”

Best Supporting Actor

Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”
Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

I'm not sure these would actually be my nominees in this category.

J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos”

Best Supporting Actress

Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”
Judi Dench, “Belfast”
Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”

I'm a big fan of Jessie Buckley. Dench was great, in all honesty, and could win this category. 

Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”

Documentary Feature

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

I need to see other nominees, but this was a terrific film. Maybe my favorite of 2021. 

Writing With Fire

International Feature

The Hand of God, Italy
Drive My Car, Japan

I have work to do here too. Both these films were fine, but Drive My Car was kind of slow and The Hand of God isn't particularly memorable.

Part of the problem here (and above) is that Hulu started showing commercials during films whereas our plan used to mean commercials were only placed at the beginning -- but during TV shows (when breaks are typically already in the editing). Thus, we hardly use the free Hulu we get with our mobile phone plan. That's why I haven't seen Flee yet, basically. 

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, Bhutan
Flee, Denmark
The Worst Person in the World, Norway

Animated Feature

I haven't seen any of these movies yet, but intend to see Flee and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. It just hasn't happened yet.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

NCAA Hoops 2022

Kansas fans are still sad and a little bitter over the lost 2020 NCAA men's basketball tournament. KU was 28-3 and ranked #1 in both the AP and USAT coaches poll and in Ken Pomeroy's more sophisticated stats-based system. Indeed, in Pomeroy's system, the gap between #1 and #2 was about as large as the gap between #2 and #8. The team was riding a 16 game winning streak, last losing to Baylor -- a team that ended the season ranked #4 and #5 in the two polls and then won the 2021 championship. The Baylor loss was avenged (on the road) as the 12th game in the winning streak.

The team also lost the very first game of the season by 2 points to Duke at Madison Square Garden, which ended the year ranked #8 and #11. Their third loss was on the road by 1 point to Villanova in December. 'Nova ended the year ranked #10 in both polls.

It was a really good Kansas team and KU likely would have been the favorite in the tournament. Still, despite eagerly wanting another championship, I've likely taken the 2022 team too far in this bracket:

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Best Films of 2021

Below, find the annual list produced by Metacritic that reflects an aggregation of over 300 "Top 10" film critic lists for the year. Every year, I note this list to keep track of what I've seen and to provide my own tiered rankings of the films. I might add some comments especially if I've updated my rankings from my prior post on new films that I managed to see in 2021. 

Generally, I post this list in February (just to be sure the rankings are final) and I'll have typically seen about half of them -- thanks partly to a concerted effort in the new year to see them. 
Movie and Metascore# 1st Place# 2nd Place# OtherPoints
189 The Power of the Dog3123118.5257.5
291 Drive My Car232389.5204.5
390 Licorice Pizza202186188
474 Dune121267.5127.5
585 West Side Story10766110
685 The Green Knight71166.5109.5
796 Summer of Soul10561.5101.5
890 The Worst Person in the World81251.599.5
982 Pig7557.588.5
1094 Petite Maman864480
1191 Memoria1172976
1275 Titane634973
1374 The French Dispatch3447.564.5
1486 The Lost Daughter6239.561.5
1575 Red Rocket2343.555.5
1690 The Souvenir Part II2537.553.5
1775 CODA533152
1875 Belfast9220.551.5
1977 The Card Counter0638.550.5
76 Spencer3139.550.5
2182 C'mon C'mon233850
2281 The Mitchells vs. The Machines433149
2386 Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy5327.548.5
2491 Flee223343
2567 Annette322841
2688 Parallel Mothers123340
2785 Passing0039.539.5
2874 tick, tick...BOOM!052939
2974 Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn342037
3087 The Tragedy of Macbeth3024.533.5
Because we include some foreign publications, it is possible for a few titles to repeat from last year's list due to differences in USA and overseas release dates. 

have seen a few of these films to-date, but have plenty to go (22 of 30 listed). As I watch them, I'll highlight changes

Tier 1 These are top-notch Oscar-worthy films.

The Power of the Dog
Summer of Soul
Licorice Pizza

Obviously, I would have selected Belfast over CODA for Best Picture. Summer of Soul was really entertaining and Licorice Pizza was fun. 

Tier 2 These are very good films, but with some flaws. Some of them have received Oscar nominations. 

Red Rocket 
The French Dispatch
The Lost Daughter
The Card Counter
Pig (Hulu)
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Drive My Car 

Red Rocket director Sean Baker makes really good films -- this one is about someone from Boogie Nights returning to Texas in unexplained poverty. Bad decisions prevail, but character choices are limited by their context. 

The Card Counter turned out to be an Iraq film, which I didn't realize before viewing it. It's difficult to watch at times. Viewers likely expect to see a gambler succeeding (or failing) with life-altering consequences. Here, you get that, but also Abu Ghraib flashbacks. 

Frankly, the order of the first 6 of these Tier 2 films could be altered on any given day. 

Tier 3 These are likely good films, but with more flaws.

The Green Knight

None so far.

I typically don't need lower tiers for this list because it is comprised of the very best movies of the year -- at least according to film critics. 

Here's the alphabetical list of the 22 films that I have not yet seen (with some streaming info added):

Annette (Prime)
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
C'mon C'mon 
Dune (HBO Max)
Flee (Hulu)
Memoria (Kanopy)
The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Netflix)
Parallel Mothers
Petite Maman
The Souvenir Part II
tick, tick..BOOM! (Netflix)
West Side Story (HBO Max)
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
The Worst Person in the World 

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