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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)
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)
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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