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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Baseball 2020

Given the surge of COVID-19 cases around the country, particularly in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, it seems odd to think that major league baseball is gearing up for a 60 game regular season -- and then a post-season.

Those 4 states I mentioned, by the way, are home to all major league spring training sites and 10 of the 30 major league teams. The league has averted the first problem by sending teams to their own cities and stadiums for the abbreviated "summer camp" that is about to start prior to the regular season, which is slated to begin on July 23.

The 10 teams in the afflicted states will have to grapple with the reality of operating amidst a worsening pandemic. It's also not clear what happens with the Toronto Blue  Jays as the US-Canada border is still mostly closed to non-essential crossings. 

My long-time American League rotissiere-style fantasy league is going to set aside the keeper element this year and have a one-time Zoom draft tentatively scheduled for July 18. We're debating some category changes, but not everyone has agreed to play. The picks will be either linear or snake-style. The "regular" Hardy House league and auction-style draft will resume in 2021.

My long-time head-to-head 24-team league is making plans to resume the linear draft that was interrupted on March 12. We'll begin picking a couple of players per day again starting July 9 and then initiate a short 7 week regular season on July 23. We'll use 3 divisions of 8 teams, so every team will play against all the other teams in its division. The divisional champs and then the 2nd place team with the best record will have playoffs and a World Series in the last two weeks of the season, ending September 27.

Let's hope the players, managers, coaches, and staff associated with the various teams are able to pull this off safely. I've been watching some KBO games that I record on the DVR and they've been playing without a hitch for many weeks -- even though the league says it will shut down for at least 3 weeks if anyone tests positive. Of course, South Korea has done a much better job managing the virus.  Despite this success, the situation remains precarious, of course. 


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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Hulu Film Festival

During quarantine in May and early June, my spouse and I activated the 30-day free Hulu offer that was promoted with the Roku device I purchased last fall. We streamed a large number of movies during those 30 days and I'm going to rank them quickly here.

Must-viewing: excellent and very good films

Parasite (South Korea)
Honeyland (North Macedonia documentary)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)
The Guilty (Denmark)
Shirley
Biggest Little Farm (documentary)

The top 3  here were serious Oscar contenders last year. Indeed, we signed up for the free month primarily to see Parasite.

The Guilty was a tense crime drama that was unexpectedly good. Maybe on a different night I would have put it in the category just below.

We're not big fans of Elisabeth Moss as we don't watch Handmaid's Tale and didn't see Mad Men. Her Smell was really difficult to watch last year. However, if you really like her, then this is a great showcase for her talent. The story is also good. Moss has a nack for playing unpleasant characters, at reflected in her recent films.

Biggest Little Farm is flawed, but I'm putting it here because it made me think about my own gardening processes -- and my eating.

Entertaining, but flawed
Alternatively: Interesting and probably worth your time

Jane (documentary)
The Day Shall Come
Killer Joe
Citizen Jane (documentary)
Grabbers
Non-Fiction (France)
Vox Lux
Hotel Mumbai
Plus One
A Brilliant Young Mind
I Kill Giants
The Sound of Silence **

The two Jane documentaries are both great in spurts, but have some dull or weird spots that brought them down a notch. The Day Shall Come is probably not as good as this ranking suggests, but it is an appropriate film for the social moment we are experiencing in the US regarding policing and racial injustice.

If you liked Tremors (1990), you'll probably like Grabbers. No Kevin Bacon or Fred Ward, but Ruth Bradley was good.

Non-Fiction was trying hard to be important, but I was resistant to its commentary on modern forms of communication. McLuhan's "the medium is the message" is pertinent.

The Sound of Silence is slow with a very subtle message. Did you like Noise (2007) or Safe (1995)? It had that vibe.

Natalie Portman was giving Moss's character in Her Smell a run for the money, but this had an odd twist in the story.

Plus One was predictable, but watchable thanks to Maya Erskine primarily. Male lead Jack Quaid is the son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, which likely helped him get cast.

Give it a Pass

Greener Grass

This satire had its moments, but too few, sadly.

** My spouse likely would have put this film in the Give it a Pass category.


Note: After the free trial ended, I activated the Sprint mobile phone offer to get Hulu free -- but with commercials. Thus, if we've missed something particularly good, we could return to it. However, we really hate commercials. I tried to watch an episode of "Ramy" and it had more/longer breaks than I was anticipating.



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Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Best Films of 2016

As promised, I'm working my way backwards through the annual Metracritic lists of top films as compiled from the rankings posted by film critics. I didn't see all of these films in 2016-2017 so I'm looking for possible viewing opportunities in the next few weeks (or months) of home lockdown.
FILMS MENTIONED ON MOST CRITIC TOP 10 LISTS - 2016
Movie and Metascore# 1st Place# 2nd Place# OtherPoints
199 Moonlight653391353
294 La La Land371982.5232
396 Manchester by the Sea212995218
481 Arrival14775.5133
593 Toni Erdmann161145116
688 Hell or High Water7768105
790 Paterson1125684
896 O.J.: Made in America *7104182
984 The Handmaiden3953.581
1089 Elle51036.572
1181 Jackie2645.564
1279 American Honey2632.552
1382 The Lobster153650
1486 Cameraperson252642
1579 Silence332641
1683 20th Century Women3128.540
79 Sing Street1035.540
83 The Witch0137.540
1983 Everybody Wants Some!!1132.538
2079 Green Room0329.536
2182 Certain Women212533
2290 The Fits2515.532
2395 I Am Not Your Negro1222.530
2487 Love & Friendship002829
2578 Zootopia022428
84 Kubo and the Two Strings022328
2765 Deadpool1120.527
2879 Loving1022.526
79 Fences2019.526
83 13th112026
* The eight-hour documentary O.J.: Made in America was screened in two theaters to qualify for film awards prior to airing as a miniseries on ESPN. As a result, you may see it appear in lists from movie critics in addition to those from TV critics.
This is a quick and crude ranking -- keep in mind that I haven't seen some of these films in four years.
Readers may recall that 2016 was a trying year for my family, so it's not really a surprise that I missed seeing so many of the top ranked films. Once I see them, I will move them in the list and mark the updates with yellow highlighting. 

Best Films of 2016

Hell or High Water
Moonlight
Manchester By the Sea

Excellent

Paterson
Sing Street
La La Land
13th
I Am Not Your Negro
The Lobster
The Fits
Fences

Very Good, But Flawed

20th Century  Women
Deadpool
Green Room
Love & Friendship
American Honey
Arrival
Everybody Wants Some!
Jackie

Have Not Yet Seen

Cameraperson
Certain Women
Elle
The Handmaiden
Kubo and the Two Strings
Loving
O.J. Made In America
Silence
Toni Erdmann
The Witch
Zootopia

I confess that Toni Erdmann has been on my priority list for awhile. While in Ottawa on sabbatical, I checked it out from the local library, but never watched it (partly because of the length). I'm unlikely to see the animated Kubo or Zootopia. There are several documentaries on the list and a horror flick, genres I never prioritize for quite different reasons.


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