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BCB After Dark: Making the most progress?

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks which team will be the most improved in 2023.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Miami Marlins
The Marlins are playing the D-Backs here
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the coolest afterparty for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come on in and join us. We’ve got a good table reserved for you. Let us take your coat for you. The dress code is casual. The show will start shortly. Bring your own beverage.

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 week I asked you who would lead the Cubs in steals in 2023. It was a clear win for Nico Hoerner, who got 54 percent of the vote. Dansby Swanson came in second with 15 percent and Cody Bellinger got 12 percent.

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.

So last time, we were discussing vocalist Samara Joy and how she was up for two Grammy Awards last night. As it turned out, she won both awards—one for Best Jazz Vocal Album and the other one for Best New Artist, beating out a whole lot of more famous pop artists.

Now if you’re a regular reader around here, you’re already familiar with Samara Joy and therefore, you were not one of the knuckleheads on Twitter last night going “Who the (bleep) is Samara Joy?” after she won. (Although I do want to give a special shout-out to those who wrote things like “I don’t know who Samara Joy is, but she’s Black and from the Bronx so I’m glad she won.”) But if, like me, you were not one of the 12.4 million Americans who watched the Grammys last night, you missed this performance of “Can’t Get Out of This Mood.” I’ve played the studio version of this song in this space before, but here’s a live version on a worldwide stage for this 23-year-old jazz sensation.

We’ve now finished two rounds of the BCB Winter Noir Classic after Sunset Boulevard (1950) bounced out The Killing (1956) by a margin of 71 to 29 percent. Those are two terrific movies from two terrific directors (Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick), but Sunset Boulevard is arguably the most iconic film about Hollywood for a reason.

So after two rounds, the bracket looks like this:

So just eight movies remain on only seven contests left. At two votes a week, we should finish this up just in time for Spring Training to start.

Let’s start at the top again with The Maltese Falcon (1941), directed by John Huston, taking on Laura (1944), directed by Otto Preminger. Both of these films feature a detective investigating a murder but otherwise, couldn’t be more different. The Maltese Falcon has one of the greatest MacGuffins of all time in the titular bird and it was the film that made Humphrey Bogart a superstar. Laura features that all-time twist (Preminger was famous for putting surprise twists in his films) and one of the greatest supporting performances in film history by Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker.

Here’s what I wrote about The Maltese Falcon earlier:

The Maltese Falcon. Directed by John Huston. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in his film debut. It’s also the directing debut for Huston.

“The stuff that dreams are made of.” Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you probably know the famous last line of this film. Humphrey Bogart steps into the role of Sam Spade, a hard-boiled private investigator who is only slightly more honest than the corrupt cesspool of San Francisco where he works. One morning in his office steps the beautiful Ruth Wonderly (Astor), who hires him to find her sister’s boyfriend. Spade believes nothing that Ruth tells him, which is good because everything she told him was a lie. That includes her name, which is actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy. But Spade believes her money, so he takes the job.

Spade’s partner gets murdered on the job for Brigid and Spade gets caught up in a quest for the Maltese Falcon, a medieval treasure of immense value. Brigid is after it, as well as Kasper Gutman (Greenstreet) and the two gangsters working for him, played by Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr. It’s a tale of murder, love and betrayal. It’s a classic for a reason.

This was actually the third attempt to adapt the Dashiell Hammett novel, after a 1931 version starring Bebe Daniels and Ricardo Cortez, and Satan Met a Lady (1936), starring Bette Davis and Warren William. The first one was good (although not anywhere near as good as this version) but it was basically banned in the US after the Production Code was adopted in 1934. I’ve never seen Satan Met a Lady, but everyone who has seen it has called it hot garbage, including Bette Davis.

But Huston’s The Maltese Falcon was a departure from the previous versions and even from crime movies that preceded it. It’s often called the very first film noir, although that’s a bit like declaring what was the first rock ’n’ roll song or the first crime novel. There’s no clear dividing line, but The Maltese Falcon certainly influenced every noir film that was made in its wake. Huston and cinematographer Arthur Edeson revolutionized the look of the the crime picture that became the look of noir. They put the shadows and darkness into it, among other innovations. Huston also de-emphasized the whole mystery whodunnit aspect of the plot and put the focus on the characters and their motivations, especially on Spade. This is also the film that made Bogart a superstar and Astor, Lorre, Greenstreet, Cook and Lee Patrick as Spade’s secretary are all terrific.

I feel like I’ve shown the trailers enough in the earlier rounds, so I’m going to try to find a scene to share for the third round and beyond. I’ll try to find ones from the early parts of the film so that there are no major spoilers for those of you who haven’t yet seen the movie. Here’s Sam Spade meeting Joel Cairo (Lorre) for the first time and finding out about the bird.

Here’s what I wrote about Laura earlier.

Laura: Directed by Otto Preminger. Starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb. An ambitious and gorgeous young advertising executive (Tierney) is murdered and a detective (Andrews) becomes obsessed with her as he investigates her death. There is big twist to this film in the middle, and I wrote about it here last year. Webb is magnificent as a older newspaper columnist who had been Laura’s mentor. Also features a pre-horror icon Vincent Price and Judith Anderson.

Adding to what I wrote last time, Laura is a good film for those of you who like murder mysteries with a twist. It’s popularity at the time was aided by the theme song “Laura,” which became a hit and a jazz standard. It’s been recorded over 400 times, including by Frank Sinatra, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and many, many others. (They added lyrics to it later so it could be sung.)

I’ll add that not just the Oscar-nominated performance by Webb that stands out but Price and Anderson are excellent in supporting roles as well. It’s a film where the supporting cast kind of outshines the leads, but Tierney and Andrews are good in their roles as well.

Here’s the first scene from Laura. Webb makes quite an impression in his screen debut as Waldo Lydecker.

So now it’s time to vote. You have until Wednesday evening to vote.


The Maltese Falcon or Laura?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    The Maltese Falcon
    (68 votes)
  • 20%
    (17 votes)
85 votes total Vote Now

Up next, Double Indemnity (1944) will take on Kiss Me Deadly (1955).

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and the movies.

Tonight I’m going to refer to this article by Will Leitch at mlb dot com about his five teams that are most likely to improve in 2023. He stresses that they aren’t World Series contenders, but rather teams with a losing record in 2022 who could make a substantial improvement in their win-loss record this season.

One of those five teams is the Cubs. Now if I ask “Which one of these five teams is going to improve the most in 2023?”, the Cubs are going to run away with the vote. This is a Cubs site and most of you are Cubs fans. The home-field advantage is too big.

So instead, I’m just going to ask one question about the Cubs. Will the Cubs improve their won-loss record by more than ten games this year? The Cubs went 74-88 last season, so in order to improve that much, they’ll have to win 85 games.


Will the Cubs win 85 games in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    (127 votes)
  • 25%
    (43 votes)
170 votes total Vote Now

Now the second part of the question deals with the other four teams listed in the article: the Angels, Diamondbacks, Marlins and Twins. These four teams are in different situations than the Cubs. The Angels did add some badly-needed pitching through free agency, but most of their hope of a bounceback relies on keeping their stars healthy. The Diamondbacks are simply a young team with a lot of promising new talent establishing themselves in the majors. The Marlins are in a similar position, but they made a deal with the Twins to add some needed hitting in Luis Arraez, as well as free agent Jean Segura. The Twins got Pablo López from the Marlins to shore up their pitching staff, and of course they kept Carlos Correa after a long and winding road.

The records of these four teams in 2022 were:





So the question is which one of these four teams will improve their record by the most games in 2023? So if you think they’re all going to finish 81-81, then you vote for the Marlins because they had the worst record last year. The Twins could win 89 games and still not be the most improved if the Marlins win 81, for example.

Also, remember that the new “balanced” schedule could help teams in tough divisions like the Marlins and Diamondbacks, compared to their schedules last season.

So which of these four teams will improve the most in 2023?


Which team will have the most improved record in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    (32 votes)
  • 26%
    (36 votes)
  • 21%
    (30 votes)
  • 28%
    (39 votes)
137 votes total Vote Now

And of course, we’d love to hear your thinking and your predictions in the comments.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by this evening. It’s been a lovely late-winter evening and we hope we’ve made it a little more pleasant. We can get your coat for you now. Stay warm out there. Get home safely. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow night for more BCB After Dark.