Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the swingin’ spot for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’ve got a big week planned here and we’re glad you’re here to start it out right. I hope you had a good weekend—or at least a better weekend than the Cubs. Please seat yourself tonight. 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.
The Cubs had a clinical 5-1 win over the Washington Nationals tonight. They scored two runs in the top of the first inning and led the rest of the way. The pitching was strong—and oh my, have Drew Smyly and Mark Leiter Jr. been pleasant surprises all year. And Dansby Swanson and Ian Happ both homered, proving once again that the two of them are going to be a major part of the next contending Cubs team. Maybe even this year. I know a lot of Cubs fans either didn’t want the Cubs to sign Swanson or, more likely, had him as their last choice of the four big free agent shortstops. But so far this season—and it is early, only Xander Bogaerts has outproduced Swanson in among the free agent shortstop class of 2023. Maybe they didn’t get the free agent shortstop we all wanted, but just maybe the Cubs got the free agent shortstop we all needed.
Last time, I asked you if you thought the red-hot Pirates would finish above .500 this season. You don’t seem to be believers as 69 percent of you said that they would not. I wonder if that vote would change today now that the Bucs are 11 games above .500.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and 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 trio of three elite women jazz masters: Esperanza Spalding on bass and vocals, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums and Geri Allen on piano. This appears to be from 2016. This is “Unconditional Love.”
After our discussion of Hitchcock movies last week, I decided to pull out the collection of 4K Blu-Ray Hitchcock collection that I got for Christmas. I hadn’t watched Vertigo yet (hey—I got a lot of films for Christmas and I wanted to save some) so I decided to watch it again over the weekend, this time in 4K.
I’m not here to offer my general thoughts on Vertigo. I figure that all of you have either seen it or have made a conscious decision that you’re not going to watch it. It’s a classic and as I mentioned last time, it finished first in 2012 and second in 2022 in the BFI Sight & Sound critics poll of the greatest films of all time.
But I am going to say that watching it on a 4K disc with a quality sound system completely changed the experience of watching Vertigo for me. Vertigo has never been my favorite Hitchcock film and it still isn’t. But I have a great deal more appreciation for the movie after watching it this way, which is much closer to the way that Hitchcock intended it to be seen.
I can’t remember the first time I saw Vertigo. It almost certainly was on a rented VHS tape on an old standard definition TV with mono sound in the mid-eighties. I’m sure I liked it, but it really didn’t make that big of an impression on me. Certainly not like North by Northwest, Psycho or Rear Window did.
Vertigo did make a big impression on me this time, and it’s not just because I’m older. It’s that the superior sound and picture made the themes of the movie pop a lot harder. I rewatched Vertigo in the early pandemic days on streaming and that was just three years ago. It didn’t have the same kind of impact on me then.
In the 4K version that I have, the Robert Burks cinematography really stands out. The location shots of San Francisco are just much more compelling with the higher quality. They’re gorgeous, really. And more importantly, the shots of the stairs in the bell tower (as well as the hilly streets of San Francisco) really give a much stronger sense of Scotty’s (James Stewart) vertigo. The colors give that sense of unreality that a lot of color pictures from the 1950s had. But whereas that odd coloring could be distracting in some films, it really packs a punch in a film about psychological torture. And now, newly restored, the colors really pop off the screen.
Adding to that is the restored Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, which sounded great. When I first watched this movie on a cruddy VCR with mono sound coming out of a tinny TV speaker, the soundtrack was simply background noise to the story. Now it becomes a clear supporting player and worthy of the audience’s full attention.
I don’t have an elite videophile home theater set-up. While my TV and speaker system aren’t the cheap stuff you find in the aisles at Walmart, it’s not high-end stuff either. It was stuff purchased 3 or 4 years ago that could be described as mid-tier, or maybe low mid-tier. But is was certainly enough to make a big difference in my eyes.
The point here is that the way you watch your films matters, especially in a film like Vertigo. I have several 4K Blu-Ray discs and some films benefit from the added fidelity more than others. I have Mad Max: Fury Road in both a regular Blu-Ray disc and a 4K Blu-Ray, and while the 4K is definitely better, it doesn’t make me reassess the film like the 4K Vertigo did. (The 4K of Fury Road also doesn’t have the black-and-white edition, which does give a completely different experience. But that’s another essay.) I’m sure I would have an even different relationship to Vertigo were I to see it in a theater, although the way theaters are set up today, it might not be an improvement.
I’d like to think that if you could have seen Vertigo in a theater when it came out in 1958, that would have been the most-impressive presentation of all. But considering that Vertigo got mixed review when it came out, maybe not. I always find it funny that James Stewart and Kim Novak co-starred in two movies in 1958: Vertigo and Bell, Book and Candle. Bell, Book and Candle made more money and got better reviews.
Vertigo still isn’t my favorite Hitchcock film. As a character study of a man slowly losing his mind to obsession (and the woman who both drives him to it and then lets it happen again out of guilt), it’s excellent. But the plot is ridiculous even by the standards of a Hitchcock film. I won’t say why just in case someone hasn’t seen it, but there are a million cheaper and easier ways for the villain to accomplish what he wanted to without resorting to what he does in the film. But this new version allowed me to concentrate more on its strengths (the acting, the music, the cinematography) and less on Vertigo’s weaknesses.
Here’s the original trailer for Vertigo. This is the kind of crappy video quality that left me mild in my enthusiasm for the movie when I first saw it.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
We’re going to play a game tonight. I’m going to let you promote any one player from Iowa tomorrow. That player will play regularly (maybe not every day, but regularly) until they get hurt or they stink so bad that they have to be sent down again. You can’t call up the other one until after Memorial Day. You can send down or release anyone you want.
So who do you want? Christopher Morel or Matt Mervis?
Morel isn’t technically a prospect anymore—he used up his rookie eligibility last season. But after a strong start after he made his major-league debut last May, Morel struggled down the stretch last year. Over his final 58 games with Chicago last year, Morel hit a poor .194/.269/.376 with five home runs and five steals. So it made all the sense in the world that Morel would start this season in Triple-A, especially since he basically skipped the level and was promoted straight from Double-A last year. (Morel did play nine games with Iowa in 2021, but none in 2022.)
This year, however, Morel is treating Triple-A like batting practice. Over 23 games and 108 plate appearances, Morel is hitting a whopping .363/.463/.835 with 11 home runs and four steals. Those 11 home runs have been travelling a long way, as anyone who reads the Minor League Wrap knows. He leads the International League in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS. He’s tied for first in runs scored. He’s fifth in batting average and sixth in on-base percentage. Morel’s walks are way up this season but on the downside, his strikeout percentage is in about the same place it was last year. It’s actually down a little (27.8% as compared to 32.8%) from his major league stats, but it’s up from his totals in Double-A last year. So he hasn’t really made progress in that one area.
Mervis has yet to make his major-league debut and his season line in Iowa isn’t quite as good as Morel. Still, it’s very good. Mervis is hitting .295/.407/.580 with six home runs and 27 RBI—just one fewer than Morel. Mervis also has 17 walks this year as compared to 17 strikeouts—he strikes out at a meager 15.7% rate so far this season. That’s up just one percentage point from where it was during his time in Iowa last year.
Mervis is left-handed and Morel bats right-handed. Morel can play many defensive positions, although how well he plays them is up for discussion. For the record, Morel has played nine games at third base this year, seven in center field and three each in left and right. Mervis can only play first base.
So which one do you want right now? I know many of you probably want both, but for tonight, for the purposes of discussion, you’ve got to pick one or the other. I will let you vote for “neither” and I will let you vote for “other.” But if you vote “other,” I’m limiting it to position players. If you want Javier Assad back in Chicago, I’ll let you call him up and either Mervis or Morel. Voting “other” means you want someone like David Bote or Brennen Davis playing in Chicago. (Or in DC for the next two days, I guess.)
If you want to say who you’ll send down or release in the comments, please do so. For the purposes of discussion, there are no rules tonight about who can get demoted or released. Beyond just the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, of course.
So which is it?
Which Iowa Cub do you most want on the major league roster right now?
This poll is closed
Other position player (leave in comments)
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