It’s another Wednesday night here at BCB After Dark: the swingin’ spot for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It may be quiet and cold out there, but it’s warm and boppin’ in here. Come on in and stay for a while. There’s still one good table in the second row with a good view of the stage. There’s no cover charge. We’ve got the best beverages in town—because you brought them yourself. No corkage fee.
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.
Last evening I asked you which Cubs first baseman would get the most time at first base in 2023. The vote ended up not being as close as I thought it would be as 48 percent of you thought that Eric Hosmer will get the most games at first. In second place was Matt Mervis with 31 percent and Trey Mancini received 21 percent. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Hosmer will get the most at-bats of the three. I suspect that many of you think that Mancini or Mervis will get a lot of at-bats as a designated hitter.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Tonight we’ve got a real superstar lineup from a concert at SFJazz in 2013. Here are two song, both featuring the great pianist McCoy Tyner, who left us in 2020. The first number is “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit” and features Esperanza Spalding on bass, Joe Lovano on Saxophone and Eric Harland on drums.
As if that’s not enough, the second number, “Blues on the Corner,” Tyner was joined by Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, John Handy on alto saxophone, Joshua Redman on tenor sax, Bill Frisell on guitar, Matt Penman on bass and Harland back on drums.
So basically, a who’s who of jazz talent from five decades.
You might want to skip over the part with Bill Cosby between the two songs.
You voted in the BCB Winter Noir Classic in the face-off of the two “girls name” noirs and man, was the final vote close. By one vote, you picked Laura (1944) over Gilda (1946). Honestly, I’m kind of glad that this one didn’t end up in a tie. I think I would have picked Gilda because I like Rita Hayworth more than Gene Tierney, but I think I would have hated myself afterwards. These two films are very close in my mind and I’m fine with either one winning.
This week, one of the two or three most iconic noirs of all-time enters the competition: Double Indemnity (1944). Noir expert Eddie Muller argues that while Double Indemnity wasn’t the first noir, its critical and commercial success was what opened the floodgates to the hundreds of imitators afterwards. It takes on one of those noirs that followed in its footsteps, The Asphalt Jungle (1950). The Asphalt Jungle earns the spot by virtue of its win over Detour in the first round.
Double Indemnity. Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Wilder cast two well-loved actors, MacMurray and Stanwyck, and had them play a pair of amoral murderers. (Robinson, who became famous playing gangsters, plays the honest person in the film.) Stanwyck plays Phyllis Dietrichson, the second wife of a rich mining executive who seduces insurance salesman Walter Neff (MacMurray) into a plot to kill her husband for the insurance money. But she doesn’t have to work too hard at it because Neff relishes the idea of pulling one over on his good friend Barton Keyes (Robinson), who works as a fraud investigator and believes that there’s never an insurance scam that gets past him. All three actors are never better than they are in this film.
The script for Double Indemnity crackles with some of the best dialog in noir, thanks to Wilder and novelist Raymond Chandler, who makes a cameo appearance in the film. Lines like “I killed him for the money and a woman. And I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman” set the tone for all noirs to come. (Also “Who’d you think I was anyway? The guy that walks into a good-looking dame’s front parlour and says, ‘Good afternoon, I sell accident insurance on husbands… you got one that’s been around too long? One you’d like to turn into a little hard cash?’”)
Here’s the trailer for Double Indemnity.
Here’s what I wrote earlier on The Asphalt Jungle:
The Asphalt Jungle. Directed by John Huston. Starring Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen. Also featuring Sam Jaffe and, billed fifth, Marilyn Monroe in a part that would prove to be her breakout role.
The Asphalt Jungle is another heist film, but it’s not just another heist film. It’s the heist film that set the tone for all the heist films to follow. For one, it goes into great detail into how the heist is actually pulled off, which is something Hollywood never did in the past for fear it could serve as an instruction manual for actual criminals. On top of that, The Asphalt Jungle gives each character in the film a separate motivation for getting involved in the heist as well as their own fatal flaw. No crime film before it tried to humanize the crooks like The Asphalt Jungle did. The film also portrays the cops as venal and corrupt as the gangsters, making they city a true “asphalt jungle” where only the strong survive. The women, mostly Hagen and Monroe, aren’t true femme fatales as much as they are simply more animals in the jungle struggling to survive.
Every heist film owes a little something to The Asphalt Jungle. Especially indebted are last week’s winner The Killing. Also Dassin’s Rififi, which would have been included here had I not made the decision to exclude non-English language films.
I wouldn’t say that Huston invented the look of film noir in The Maltese Falcon, but I would say he established it as the way that every noir should look. It became a shorthand for audiences to know that they were in for a certain kind of tale. In The Asphalt Jungle, Huston and cinematographer Harold Rosson update that look for the 1950s. The shadows and the angles are all still there, but they mix it in with a more naturalistic style that draws from Italian neorealism. The result is that this is a enthralling movie to look at, and not just because Marilyn Monroe is in it.
Here’s the trailer for The Asphalt Jungle.
Double Indemnity or The Asphalt Jungle?
The Asphalt Jungle
You have until Monday evening to vote.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
The Hall of Fame vote is announced next week and I’m convinced that they schedule it for late-January because otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to talk about. Most teams’ rosters are pretty set by early-January and Spring Training doesn’t start until mid-February. (At least we’re going to get some World Baseball Classic action in March.)
I try to tell myself that I don’t care about who is and who isn’t in Cooperstown anymore. Some days, it’s even true. But other days, I get drawn back into the endless arguments about why one retired ballplayer was better than another retired ballplayer and how unfair it is that the worse player is enshrined in Cooperstown.
I was struck by this article on mlb dot com today about the most puzzling Hall of Fame “snubs.” It’s a roundtable discussion about players whose candidacies didn’t get much support when they came up for a vote, but they probably should have gotten a longer look. Some of them probably should have got inducted.
That’s where you come in. I’m going to give you their list of “snubs” and you tell me which one is most-deserving of induction into baseball immortality. Clearly, you can think that more than one of these players deserves to get in, but our system only allows for one vote. If you want to tell us all the players you’d induct in the comments, please do so. But you’ve got to pick just one for the poll.
The choices are:
Everyone but Edmonds played in the eighties, which should come to no surprise to anyone who knows how society has decided that Gen-X isn’t worth paying any attention to. Heck, that’s how they got the name “Gen-X” in the first place.
(Also, the eighties were a very “neutral” period for run scoring in the game. The pitchers of the decade put up numbers that didn’t look that great compared to those of the sixties and seventies and the hitters didn’t post stats that compared well to those of the nineties and aughts.)
So which one of those players is most worthy of being enshrined in Cooperstown?
Which of the following players is most worthy of induction into Cooperstown?
Thank you so very much for stopping by this evening. I hope we brightened your night just a little bit. If you checked your coat, we can get that for you now. If there’s anything else you need, please tell us now. Please get home safely. Stay warm. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.