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BCB After Dark: Keeping your head above water

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks if the Cubs will finish with a winning record this year.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the hottest hangout for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re so glad you stopped by on this joyful night. We’re all celebrating this evening. Come grab a table and join us. 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.

The Cubs beat the Brewers tonight 4-3 thanks in large part to Mike Tauchman. He had a two-run double with two out in the ninth and and scored from second on an error to give the Cubs the lead. There was a nice save for Adbert Alzolay as well.

Also, this:

Good to see the boys steal one. I’ve been vocal that this team has gotten more than their share of bad luck. It’s good to see them get some good luck for once.

Last night, I asked you where Christopher Morel should be playing. There were a lot of votes in this one and the clear winner was third base with 47 percent of the vote. In second place was a little less encouraging, as 31 percent of you thought he was a designated hitter.

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.

Artemis is an all-female jazz supergroup, led by pianist Rene Renee Rosnes. This video of “Bow and Arrow” was recorded this past February. It also features Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Nicole Glover on tenor sax, Alexa Tarantino on alto sax, Noriko Ueda on bass and Allison Miller on drums.

I just returned from visiting relatives yesterday, so my old film watching was a bit cut back this past week. The one film I did watch this week was Thunder Bay, a 1953 film starring James Stewart and Joanne Dru that was directed by Anthony Mann. It’s been featured as part of the Criterion Channel’s “Mann Directs Stewart” collection. I wrote about another film from that collection, Winchester ‘73, back in May.

Mann directed eight films starring Stewart, and five of them were Westerns. Thunder Bay was one of the ones that wasn’t a Western, although there are certainly some themes that you would traditionally find in Westerns here.

Thunder Bay is the story of two oil wildcatters, Steve Martin (Stewart) and Johnny Gambi (Dan Duryea), who head to the Louisiana coast, convinced there is oil offshore. Steve and Johnny are the “fake it till you make it” types who have had a long history of busted oil explorations but a real faith in this project. Not only are they convinced that there is oil offshore, they believe they have an oil platform that can withstand the extreme weather of the Louisiana Gulf. Like hurricanes. Yes, this film has a hurricane.

If you think that two guys drilling for oil is not going to be as thrilling as a Western with outlaws and guns, you’d be right. But Thunder Bay tries to keep the excitement level up by creating a conflict between the local shrimp fishermen and the oil drillers. Understandably, the local fisherman think Stewart and Duryea dropping dynamite into the water is bad for the shrimp harvest. Those tensions are also heightened by Johnny falling for Francesca (Marcia Henderson), the youngest daughter of Dominique Rigaud (Antonio Moreno), one of the shrimp fishermen. Also, Francesca is already engaged to Philippe, another fisherman. But as soon as the suave Johnny shows an interest in Francesca, she drops all interest in Philippe.

(As I was watching this, my first thought was “Of course Dominique doesn’t want his daughter dating Johnny. Every film Dan Duryea is in, he ends up beating the crap out of his girlfriend!” But rest assured, Duryea breaks typecasting in this film and Johnny is not a domestic abuser here. Johnny is a little irresponsible and certainly not as driven as Steve is, but he doesn’t slap women around.)

Dominique’s older daughter, Stella (Dru), is the smart one. She’s the one who went away to college and came back. She immediately doesn’t trust the oilmen because she knows how evil men from outside the Louisiana Gulf Coast can be.

Stewart’s character is the main one here and he’s someone who is obsessive about his search for oil. His desire to strike oil isn’t driven so much by money (most of which will go to financial backers from an oil company run by Kermit MacDonald, played by Jay C. Flippen, one of the all-time great character actors) but by an intense desire for vindication and to prove himself right. Steve is more than a bit scary in that way.

And like in most Stewart’s other films directed by Mann, Steve is a bit obsessive bordering on the mentally ill. Steve immediately dismisses the ecological concerns of the local fisherman as stupid ignorance. Even when Stella comes around to Steve’s point of view (and falls for him, of course), he still tosses her away out of his own mistrust of anyone and everyone.

This is actually a pretty good setup for a film and it’s one you’ve seen done better elsewhere. Businessmen come into a small, tightly-knit village with promises of great wealth, but end up endangering the entire community in their quest for riches. The townsfolk are completely opposed to progress, either rationally or irrationally.

But Thunder Bay tries to have its cake and eat it too. (Spoilers, kinda. Although it is the kind of film where you sort of know how it’s going to end.) Rather than have to make tough choices between oil and shrimp, it gives (almost) everyone a happy ending. I hope no one thought that Steve and Johnny wouldn’t strike oil, but they do so without hurting the shrimping community. In fact, the oil platform makes things better for them. And of course, Johnny and Francesca end up together, as do Steve and Stella.

Obviously had this film been made 15 or 20 years later, there would have been a more ambiguous or even a tragic ending. (End Spoilers).

Thunder Bay is a Technicolor film and it looks great. If you want to see gorgeous shots of the Louisiana Coast, they are there. If you’re into big machines and the twisting metal of an oil drill, it is here too and it looks great. Thunder Bay was also the first Universal Pictures production made with stereo sound, which is kind of just trivia at this point. But it is a sign that it was a big production for the studio.

Mann does a good job of keeping what could be a bit of a dull “man with a dream” story moving along. And of course, from the cast list (which also includes the great Gilbert Roland as the leader of the shrimp fishermen), you can tell this is a well-acted movie. Stewart was trying to be “edgier” at this point of his career, and Steve here is certainly a more complicated character than what he played earlier in his career, although he still ends up being the “good guy” in the end. But Steve’s obsession with his dream can certainly be a bit scary, and Stewart lets us know that there is a real darkness inside of him.

Overall, Thunder Bay is probably a better film than you might think about a couple of oil wildcatters in Louisiana, although it takes an easy way out in the end and it certainly doesn’t have the “bite” of some of the Western films that Stewart made with director Mann during the 1950s. It’s certainly worth watching if you’re a fan of Stewart or Dru, or even if you just want to see a pretty film about oil drilling.

Here’s the trailer for Thunder Bay. I guess I should have mentioned that a lot of punches are thrown in this movie. Although you get most of them from this trailer.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

The Cubs are currently 40-45, five games under .500. I think you’re pretty familiar with how this season has played out. The team got off to a good start and then had a dreadful month of May. They followed that up with a good month of June that got them to within a game of .500 after winning the first of two games against the Cardinals in London. Then they lost on Sunday, got swept by the Phillies and things just looked like May all over again.

So tonight, I’m not going to ask you if you think the Cubs are going to make the playoffs, Fangraphs put their chances of that at 12.4 percent. Instead, I’m just going to ask you if the Cubs are going to finish above .500 this year.

Finishing above .500 in the NL Central actually makes you a playoff contender this season, although 82-80 probably isn’t going to cut it as far as a division title goes. And it certainly won’t get a Wild Card spot. But it would be an improvement over the past two seasons.

So do the Cubs finish above or below .500 in 2023? For those of you who like to bet on “00” on roulette wheels, I’ll let you vote for the Cubs to finish at exactly 81-81.


Will the Cubs finish above or below .500 this year?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    (87 votes)
  • 50%
    (106 votes)
  • 8%
    They’re going to finish at 81-81.
    (19 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now

Thank you to all of you who stopped by this week and all of you who commented. I finally got around to reading all the comments from Monday. (I was on the road that night—I wrote Monday’s piece on Sunday.) Please stop by again next week and bring some friends. Get home safely. Check around your table and make sure you didn’t forget anything. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.