Welcome back to BCB After Dark: The invitation-only club for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s good to see that you’ve earned yourself an invitation. Please find a table. We’ve got a good one in the second row, slightly off to the left. But you can sit wherever you please.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
The Cubs are back to .500 since the last time we spoke. So I’m guessing people are in a better mood. There was no Cubs game tonight and there are no minor league games on Monday anymore. At least none in the Cubs system. The Triple-A West League has picked Wednesday as their off-day, but they’re the only ones playing on Mondays.
Last time I asked what Cubs player has been the most pleasant surprise for you so far this season and with 35% of the vote, you said “Matt Duffy.” Kris Bryant was second with 20% and Jake Marisnick was third with 17% and I think we all hope that Marisnick isn’t going to miss much time with his injury.
Here’s where I talk about jazz and movies. As always, you’re free to skip ahead. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Miles Davis’ follow-up to the masterpiece Kind of Blue was the also brilliant Sketches of Spain from 1960. The album was arranged and conducted by Gil Evans, whom Davis had worked with several times before and would work with again in the future. In it, Davis and Evans explore the music of Spain, both folk and classical. The story is Davis was inspired to make this recording by his wife dragging him to see a flamenco dancer.
Listening to it, it doesn’t sound like much that Davis had done before. (That’s one of the things that made Davis such a giant in music. He was always re-inventing himself.) To me, I’ve always thought it sounded more like a soundtrack to a movie than like a jazz album. In fact, as I read some reviews of it floating around the ‘net, I see that one of the big questions about it is “Is this jazz?” Wikipedia tells me it falls into a category called “Third stream,” which was defined as a fusion of jazz, classical and world music. Personally, I think it’s a jazz album. It may also be a classical album and an album of world music.
The genre isn’t really important. It’s Miles Davis and it’s a beautiful record to listen to. I often pull this one out when I’m angry or upset and I just need to calm myself down.
The first piece, and the one that is really the most famous, is Davis playing and Evans conducting a performance of “Concierto de Aranjuez,” a piece of classical guitar music written by Joaquín Rodrigo. It’s apparently considered one of the great pieces of Spanish music of the 20th century. I’ll have to take others word for that. But I do enjoy it very much.
Here’s a link to a recording of the entire album. [VIDEO]
Sometime in the mid-1970s when they weren’t speaking to each other, John Lennon gave an interview in which he took a crap on the music of Paul McCartney, saying that his former partner didn’t write anything but “silly love songs.” McCartney responded to Lennon by writing “Silly Love Songs” and having a number one hit with it. And what’s wrong with that?
Sullivan’s Travels is Preston Sturges’ “Silly Love Songs.” Sturges, who also wrote and directed The Lady Eve (both are from 1941) that I wrote about a few weeks ago, was famous for making “screwball comedies” which was the mother of the romantic comedy or “rom-com” of today. Most of them were broad farces usually ended up pairing a man and a woman from a different worlds together in the end. The big difference between a “screwball comedy” and a modern “rom-com” is that a “screwball comedy” almost always has a ton of really ridiculous scenes in them and often a lot of slapstick. A rom-com could have those elements but doesn’t necessarily have them. Also, while all rom-coms end up in a romance, there are some screwball comedies that do not necessarily have a romance in them. But most of them did.
Back to Sullivan’s Travels from 1941, the film is basically Sturges’ defense of the screwball comedy as art. It’s also a pretty good screwball comedy in and of itself. It stars Joel McCrea as a famous Hollywood director named John L. Sullivan and Veronica Lake as a down-on-her-luck wannabe actress who is just called “The Girl.”
(Warning: Spoilers to follow for an 80-year old movie.) Sullivan wants to direct an important movie called “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (And yes, the Coen Brothers/George Clooney movie took its name from that.) This was going to be a picture that turned a mirror on society and demonstrated man’s inhumanity to man. It was going to be a movie about poverty and struggle. Sullivan is convinced that it will be a masterpiece.
The studio is not convinced. They want him to make pictures that will be more commercial and make more money. They try to convince Sullivan that he can’t make a movie like that because he doesn’t know anything about being poor, considering that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and never had a day in his life when he had to worry about where his next meal was coming from. So Sullivan decides he’s going to travel the rails like a real hobo and learn what it’s really like to be homeless and poor.
At first, the studio thinks it would be a great publicity stunt and sends a van to follow him around and do a story on his journey. Sullivan (correctly) thinks that he wouldn’t learn anything real with reporters following him around, so he manages to briefly ditch them. He runs into Veronica Lake, who is leaving Hollywood after failing to break into the motion picture business. She doesn’t recognize Sullivan (although she’s absurdly obsessed with meeting director Ernst Lubitsch, who made elegant and prestigious movies, although some were comedies) and lends Sullivan 35 cents. Eventually the studio publicists find Sullivan and bring him back to Hollywood.
Sullivan makes a deal. If they leave him alone to travel the country without interference, he’ll return in a few weeks and get back to work. Sullivan tries to repay The Girl’s kindness by letting her stay at his mansion while he’s traveling, but she insists that she goes along with him. She insists he has no idea what is out there and he’ll get killed without her looking out for him.
So the two of them dress up like tramps and catch a freight train. Of course, Lake is absolutely adorable dressed up like Charlie Chaplin in “The Tramp.” She doesn’t look anything like the man she’s pretending to be, but the movie solves that by having Sullivan say “No one is going to believe you’re a man.”
Sullivan talks to the other people who jumped on the freight train, and it kind of went like this.
“How do you do, fellow tramps?”
Sullivan and The Girl travel the roads together, have several adventures and of course, fall in love. The problem is that Sullivan is married, although only for tax purposes and his wife won’t give him a divorce. (And yes, who in the world would enter a marriage to someone you don’t like simply because you think it would save you money on your taxes?) They return and Sullivan decides to help all the people who helped him along the way by passing out money. He refuses to let the girl come with him, which she insists is a mistake. He give her a reference to Lubitsch instead.
Sullivan is robbed, beaten and left with amnesia. Because the thief had taken his shoes earlier, when the thief (and the money) is found dead and horribly mangled after being run over by a train, Sullivan is declared dead.
He’s not actually dead, of course, but he does get in trouble with the law and is sentenced to six years on a chain gang. The work is brutal, but one Saturday night the prisoners are invited to join a poor black church for movie night in an act of Christian charity. While there, he starts laughing at a Walt Disney cartoon. It’s there that he realizes the line that later ends the picture:
There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that’s all some people have? It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.
Sullivan is eventually rescued (I won’t reveal how) and returns to Hollywood, where The Girl is now a big star and his tax-wife has remarried after his “death.” That leaves Sullivan free to marry The Girl and make comedies, which are what the world really needs.
Here’s Sullivan meeting The Girl [Video]
The film was made just while the US was just exiting the Great Depression and while World War II was raging in Europe. It screened for the critics just three days before Pearl Harbor and opened a few weeks after. The message that Sturges (and McCartney) was trying to make is that sometimes we need something that’s going to take our minds off how terrible the world can be. And then maybe the world won’t be so terrible.
Welcome back to all the people who skip the jazz and old movies. This week, I’m just going to ask you after about 30 games, who is going to win the three National League divisions? I’m going to save the Central for Wednesday, so today I’ll simply ask “Who is going to win the NL East?”
This is maybe the most interesting division in baseball. Only 3 1⁄2 games separate the first-place Mets (who just put Jacob deGrom on the IL) and the last-place Nationals. The Braves are young and talented. The Nationals won it all the last time we played a full season, and they were awful to start 2019. The Marlins are definitely improved and have the potential to get even better. The Phillies can’t be counted out. Clearly, any one of these five teams could win the division.
So who is it going to be? Who will raise the NL East Pennant in October?
Who will win the NL East in 2021?
This poll is closed
New York Mets
We’ll see you again tomorrow night with an abbreviated BCB After Dark and I’ll ask you who will win the NL West.