Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the swingin’ hangout for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s another Wednesday evening before we go dark and we’re glad to spend the time with you. Come on in out of the cold. There’s no cover charge. Grab any table. 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 night I asked you who was the Cubs’ best “under-the-radar” free agent acquisition this past winter. This turned out to be a great question because all five players got a significant number of votes in the poll. But only one could come out on top and that was Trey Mancini, who pulled in 31 percent. In second place was Drew Smyly with 25 percent and Brad Boxberger was in third with 19 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.
It’s cold out where I am and I bet most of you are in someplace that’s cold right now. So I thought I’d bring a little sunshine with some Brazilian jazz. Tonight we’re featuring Brazilian pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias doing three numbers.
It’s another one of those NPR Tiny Desk concerts and this is just from last December. It features Marc Johnson on bass, Rafael Barata drums and Leandro Pellegrino on guitar. Stick with it until the end for great solos on the bass and drums.
You voted in the quarterfinals of the BCB Winter Noir Classic and number one seed The Maltese Falcon easily advanced past Laura with 81 percent of the vote.
Tonight we’ve got the number-two seed, Double Indemnity (1944) taking on Kiss Me Deadly (1955), the number 26 and final seed that has pulled two upsets thanks in no small part to its totally awesome trailer. Can Cinderella Kiss Me Deadly keep up the winning streak now that I’m no longer featuring trailers?
We still have two Billy Wilder-directed pictures alive among the final eight with Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. This doesn’t surprise me. I wonder if I should have included Wilder’s Ace in the Hole in the tournament. It was considered, but I thought I already had enough from Wilder and I didn’t want this tourney to get too big. My original plan was for 16 films and it expanded out to 26. That turned out to be a good thing, because a lot of you have mentioned in the comments that you’ve discovered new films that you loved. But I’d suggest checking out Ace in the Hole as well. It even makes a reference to Double Indemnity. If you’ve got a sharp eye, you’ll catch it.
Here’s what I wrote last time about Double Indemnity:
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?’”
To add to what I wrote last time, Double Indemnity also benefits from some terrific cinematography from John Seitz, who also later worked with Wilder on Sunset Boulevard. I’d say that the look of the film is classic noir, but it’s Seitz and Wilder on Double Indemnity that helped to create that classic look. (Certainly they took a bit from John Huston and The Maltese Falcon.)
This is also one of the rare films from this period when both of the lead characters, Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson, are just awful people. Yet MacMurray and Stanwyck are so good that . . . well, we don’t actually end up rooting for them but we do become invested in their story. Stanwyck didn’t want to play such a horrible woman as Phyllis, but Wilder baited her into taking the part by asking her “Are you a mouse or an actress?” She thanked him later.
Here’s a part of the scene where Walter first meets Phyllis. It’s also a great example of the script. “How could I know that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?”
Here’s what I wrote about Kiss Me Deadly last time.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Directed by Robert Aldrich. Starring Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart and Juano Hernandez. Often considered the greatest filmed adaptation of a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer detective novel, Meeker stars as Hammer who gets sent on a dangerous quest after he picks up a mysterious hitchhiker, played by Cloris Leachman in her film debut. After that, things go from bad to worse for Hammer. Fistfights and beautiful women. It’s all in a day’s work. What more do you need?
Kiss Me Deadly is extremely violent for a noir or any film of the 1950s. The film was condemned by a congressional committee for encouraging juvenile delinquency. Today, it’s considered to be a classic that was highly-influential on the French New Wave, not just for its subject matter, but for the way it did a lot without a lot of budget. Meeker’s violent and nihilistic Mike Hammer was also unlike almost anything else on the screen at the time.
Robert Aldrich was just getting his start as a director when he made Kiss Me Deadly and it’s the kind of B-picture that novice directors get their start on. (He had been an assistant director for a while.) But Aldrich would go on to a successful career, directing such films as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), The Dirty Dozen (1967) and The Longest Yard (1974). None of those films were Oscar-bait (although Bette Davis did get a Best Actress nomination for Baby Jane) but they are all films that are still watched and beloved by their fans today.
I’d also say that Kiss Me Deadly has a bit of a seventies TV detective feel, although Ralph Meeker’s Mike Hammer is more raw than Mike Connors’ Joe Mannix ever was. Or even Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer.
So I’m not showing the trailer for Kiss Me Deadly anymore, but I think you should appreciate this scene where Mike Hammer beats up a thug who was following him. Unlike Double Indemnity’s snappy dialog, there’s hardly any dialog here at all.
So which film is advancing on to the semifinals?
Double Indemnity or Kiss Me Deadly
This poll is closed
Kiss Me Deadly
You have until Monday evening to vote.
Coming up next, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) faces The Night of the Hunter (1955). That one should be a tough call, in my opinion.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
Tonight we’re taking a look at the forgotten man on the Cubs’ roster, infielder David Bote. One of the reasons that he’s the “forgotten man” on the roster is that he’s not actually even on the roster, having been put on waivers back in November.
That was a strategic move on the part of the Cubs front office. Because Bote signed that big five-year, $15 million contract extension in 2019, the Cubs were confident that no one would claim him off of waivers. There are still two years and about $11 million to go on it. (Four million this year, five and a half million next and 1.5 million to buy out the two option years) That deal also meant that Bote wasn’t going to “opt-out” of an assignment to Iowa because that would mean opting out of that deal.
Since Bote signed that contract, he had one solid season as a utility infielder in 2019. He played a career-high 127 games that year. His next three seasons have been poor and injury-plagued. He didn’t hit at all in 2020 and 2021 was even worse. He had an ankle sprain and a dislocated shoulder in 2021 which was followed up by shoulder surgery to start 2022. Bote was on the injured list until late-June last season and then got sent down to Iowa in August. He stayed in Triple-A until the September 1 roster expansion and just spent the last month on the team in the season’s “garbage time,” to use an NBA term.
But when Bote was actually healthy and playing on the major league roster last year, he was (kind of) good again. Sure, his overall numbers in 2022—.259/.315/.431 with four home runs in 41 games—don’t exactly say that Bote should be a major league regular. But neither the Cubs nor Cubs fans really ever thought he was one. He’s a utility infielder who can play first, second and third base competently. He can even play shortstop or in the outfield in a pinch. Bote isn’t supposed to be the guy to lead the team to the playoffs. He’s supposed to be the guy at the end of the bench who steps in when someone gets hurt (or just needs a day off) and plays well enough to keep the team competitive.
When you look at Bote’s WAR totals for 41 games last year—0.8 on Baseball-Reference and 0.5 on Fangraphs—that looks like a solid bench player. It’s tempting to multiply those numbers by four and think that Bote should really be starting, but that’s generally not how these things work. Still, Bote was a contributor when he did play. So that’s an argument that Bote’s poor 2020 and 2021 seasons were more the result of health rather than him forgetting how to play baseball.
So the question today is “How many games will David Bote play for the Cubs in 2023?” Clearly he’s not on the 40-man roster, so he’ll have to win a spot out of Spring Training to be with the team on Opening Day. But some players, such as Ethan Roberts, Codi Heuer and maybe Kyle Hendricks, can head to the 60-day injured list as soon as the season starts so there will be openings. But even if he doesn’t start the season with the team, he’ll be in Iowa and available for a call-up whenever there is a need.
So how many games will David Bote play for the Cubs? I’m putting in “zero” because there’s always the chance the Cubs release him or trade him before the end of Spring Training. Or that Bote gets hurt again and misses the whole season. Of course, he could just stink in Iowa and never get recalled.
How many games will David Bote play for the Cubs in 2023?
This poll is closed
Less than 30
31 to 60
61 to 90
More than 90
Thank you so very much for joining us this past week. We hope we’ve made your week just a little bit better. Please dress up warm out there. Get home safely. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.