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Interlude Musings and Movie Review: "Vanity Fair"

It's still very much undecided as to whether any games will be played at all between the Cubs and the Marlins this weekend. Based on current forecasts, I cannot imagine conditions being suitable for baseball in Miami this weekend. Even if the storm does in fact make landfall north of the Miami metro area itself, there will be rain and wind for likely a couple of days, and then there's the question of whether any airports will even be open for the Cubs, who are now in Chicago, to be able to fly down there.

The latest "best guess" has the Cubs and Marlins playing a doubleheader in Miami on Monday, Sept. 20, which is the only common off day for the two teams -- and this would require the Cubs to fly from Cincinnati to Miami and then to Pittsburgh to play Tuesday night, Sept. 21. Then the third game in the series would be held till the end of the season if it still had any bearing on the race.

This isn't the greatest scenario, but it's probably the best of a bad situation. In the meantime, let's hope that the hurricane does indeed weaken, so that damage in south Florida is minimal.

As for the Cubs, if their next game is indeed Monday vs. the Expos at Wrigley Field, this gives a great opportunity for rest and recovery and tune-up. Aramis and Nomar need rest. The pitching staff can use a few extra days off. And if there are indeed doubleheaders and no off days stacked up later, by Sept. 20 the Triple-A playoffs will be over and pitchers like Sergio Mitre and Mike Wuertz will be available to bolster the bullpen (no jokes here, please).

So, with the day off, my wife & I went to see the highly-touted "Vanity Fair" at the Davis Theater, which is a neighborhood theater that's started showing first-run films (it's where we saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" as well). Here's the difference between a neighborhood theater and your local multiplex. We arrived about 3:55 for a 4:15 show, and when we opened the door, the staff said "We're not open yet!" Apparently, the lock on the door wasn't working. So we had to stand outside for a few minutes while they finished -- I dunno, cleaning the floors or making the popcorn or something.

Roger Ebert gave this movie four stars, and though Ebert likes most everything, he doesn't give out this top rating often, and so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I got confused, frankly. There are so many characters and so many families in this story, based on an 1820 novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, and this movie didn't cast them well -- or maybe too well, because too many of the characters looked alike, that it took me half the movie to figure out who some of them were.

The basic story is of Becky Sharp, a lower-class orphan who attends a "finishing school", but as a lower-class woman in the early 19th Century, can do no better than be a governess. She winds up working for a family that has a title, but apparently never bothered to hire servants, or couldn't afford to, because the family estate redefines the word "rundown".

The rest of the film is about how Becky tries to social-climb (or as one character puts it, "mountaineer") her way into the upper-crust of British society. The novel, I suppose, at the time was a devastating commentary on what the class system was all about in Britain, but it seems somewhat lost in translation in the film. Reese Witherspoon, who gets better and better with each role she plays, is terrific as Becky, and though she is the only American in the cast, you'd never know it -- her British accent is perfect.

There is a scene late in the film which involves a dance performance put on for the King (played foppishly by Richard McCabe), which seemed a little out of place for the 1820's -- but may have been done intentionally by the Indian director, Mira Nair (no cracks about outsourcing directing here, please). Gabriel Byrne is great as a nobleman who at first appears buying paintings from Becky's father, and later becomes an important force in her life. Of this I will speak no further, if you are not familiar with the story from the novel.

The movie's probably going to garner Oscar nominations, if for nothing else than costumes and set designs, and maybe even for Witherspoon. Is it a four-star movie? Four stars of confusion, maybe.

(I know, I know. Let's get back to baseball!)

AYRating: ***