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Monday, September 28, 2020

Who Deserves to be an All-Star? 2020 Edition

Back on my old site I used to run a series of articles about who deserves to be an All-Star (as well as Pro Bowlers). What can I say, I'm a big fan of rankings, even when it comes to sports. In this shortened, pandemic season, MLB has opted not to have an All-Star game. Makes sense, because there's no reason to risk getting COVID-19 to play in an exhibition game. Also, the sample size for 2020 is so much smaller than normal. But all that being said, this season still counts. Counting stats will still be attributed to players and division and league champions will still be crowned. We still (unfortunately) still use All-Star appearances as a measure for legacy greatness. Even if there won't be a game, there's no reason we still can't have selections. Truthfully, IRL, there's no reason we can't have the players vote (or sports writers or really anyone competent) on who should have deserved an All-Star selection, even if there's no actual game to play. The NBA has First Team, Second Team, and Third Team honors as well as All-Star selections. Why can't the MLB do something analogous? Players should still be honored if their actions still count - which they do. That's where this post comes in. I will give out First Team and Second Team honors for each league. As the DH exists for both leagues, each League will get a selection for the eight individual defensive positions, DH, and one relief pitcher spot. I will also honor five starting pitcher spots for each Team (seeing as all teams have a five-man rotation normally). Below are my lists for who I believe deserves to be an All-Star for the 2020 MLB season:


First Team:

C: Salvador Perez (KC) 1B: Jose Abreu (CWS)* 2B: DJ LeMahieu (NYY) SS: Tim Anderson (CWS) 3B: Jose Ramirez (CLE) RF: Teoscar Hernandez (TOR) CF: Mike Trout (LAA) LF: George Springer (HOU) DH: Nelson Cruz (MIN) RP: Liam Hendricks (OAK) 

Jose Abreu, Jose Ramirez, Mike Trout, and DJ LaMahieu are all legitimate AL MVP contenders by year's end. To me, Mike Trout is clearly 4th on this list. He's last among these players in WAR and the Angels were never competitive for a playoff spot, despite the fact that 2020 saw the most teams per league ever earn one (and the other three players are on teams that did make it). But, he's still Mike Trout and he's, in Larry David voice, pretty, pretty, pretty good. After a close battle with Tim Anderson for most of the season, LaMahieu ended the season with the best batting average in baseball. DJ has been great when he played, but I don't think you can miss 10 games in a 60 game season and still win the MVP award. It's a super, super close contest then between Ramirez and Abreu. Feel free to call me a White Sox homer, but I'm going with Abreu. I think he's been the slightly better offensive player this year, and he's been more consistent throughout the year. Abreu led the AL in hits and RBIs - an incredible 60 RBIs in 60 games - and has the batting average, slugging percentage, wRC+ and home runs advantage to Ramirez. Abreu also has the better WPA (2.01 to 1.45) than Ramirez, which means Abreu's offense meant more within the context of his individual games than Ramirez's. The Cleveland third baseman led all of baseball in WAR, but a big reason his WAR is better than Abreu's is due to the nature of the position each player plays. By their inherent value, a first baseman is the least valuable defensive player, only to a DH. WAR takes their defensive positions into account. However, as Jayson Stark wrote in The Athletic for his case for Abreu as the AL MVP, "Abreu is tied for the AL lead in Defensive Runs Saved at first base (+5) - while Ramirez is -6 at third base. So does Abreu deserve to have points deducted just because of the position he plays? I couldn't convince myself of that." 

I definitely cheated a little with my outfield, but since both Trout and George Springer play center field and both finished 1 and 2 among AL outfielders in WAR, I thought both deserved First Team considerations. Since I didn't feel any left fielders play well enough to earn First Team honors, I slotted Springer in left. Plus, because Springer plays the hardest outfield position well, if this were a real game, he should have no issue playing the easiest position well. Teoscar Hernandez finished 3rd in the AL among qualified right fielders in WAR, but first among them in wRC+, wOBA, home runs, and OPS. Plus, I wanted to honor the Blue Jays who played well enough to earn a playoff spot in 2020. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Movie Review: The Devil All The Time

Even during a pandemic, the tech titan Netflix has been consistently churning out original content. Now that Labor Day has come and gone, now is the time of the year where that original content is prestige, award-hopeful films. With Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7 and David Fincher's Mank coming later in the year, and past the release of Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, this past week saw the release of Antonio Campos' The Devil All The Time, a southern gothic epic starring basically every young and talented white actor working nowadays, such as *takes deep breath* Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Harry Melling, Haley Benett, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson. 

The film spans two generations during the 1940's through 1960's in the American South as the film is about the cyclical and generational cycle of religion and violence. Early in the film, Bill Skasgard's Willard, a soldier in the Korean War, comes across a fellow soldier that has been tortured and crucified. Willard comes home from the War with PTSD (never explicitly said, but shown through Skarsgard superb acting). A nice fellow, but clearly haunted by both his religious past and his overseas experiences. We see his tendencies, both pure and evil, passed down to his son Alvin, the older version of the character is played by Holland, ostensibly the film's lead but feels like he doesn't show up until two hours into the film. Along the way we meet Charlotte (Benett) who eventually becomes Willard's wife and Alvin's mother, Alvin's step-sister Lenora (Scanlen), Lenora's mother Helen (Wasikowska), Helen's pastor beau Roy (Melling), a cop named Lee (Stan), Lee's sister Sandy (Keough), Sandy's husband Carl (Clarke), and a flashy snake-in-the-grass preacher named Preston Teagardin (Pattinson). 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

100 Greatest Films of the 2000's

As we recently saw the end of one decade and the start of another, I decided to write my 100 Greatest Films of the 2010's article. After I completed that article, I was inspired to write my 100 Greatest Films of the 1990's post, as I personally think it was one of the greatest decades ever for the art form. As such, we are here so I can discuss the greatest films of the 2000's (films released from 2000 through 2009).

I was initially hesitant to do this list because I felt the decade didn't seem to stand for anything. In some ways, I found this to be true. The 1990's saw the rise of Independent Cinema and thus an overall increase in quality of films released. The 2010's saw the exact opposite of that approach with major studios spending more and more money on bankable franchises. The 1990's saw the rise of auteurs and the 2010's saw the rise of Disney with Marvel and Star Wars franchises dominating the decade. The 2000's were a transition between these two decades. The quality of prestige and Oscar films seem to drop as franchises started to gain steam. The 2000's not only brought us Iron Man, the literal start to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also brought us franchises like Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Dark Knight. Further, the quality of prestige and Oscar-worthy films seemed to dwindle in the 2000's. The 1990's gave us a murderer's row of excellent Best Picture Oscar winners such as Schindler's List, Unforgiven, and Forrest Gump. Even if the best film of the year didn't win the ultimate prize (as is often the case), the winner still felt deserved and had a long tail thanks to the quality of the film (for most of the decade's winners). The 2000's saw a drop in that as the decade went on. I purposefully left off many Oscar nominated and winning films in exchange for more interesting choices. 

That being said, the 2000's did give a rise in two areas: documentaries and comedies. The 1990's saw a rise in making cheap narrative films, and the following decade used that approach to make a wave of compelling documentaries. Starting with Michael Moore 2002's instant classic Bowling For Columbine, the 2000's gave us great doc after great doc. This list by far and away will have the most documentaries than either of my prior two Top 100 lists. Further, this decade saw the rise of Judd Apatow and Adam McKay. Anchorman was released in 2004 and The 40 Year Old Virgin was released in 2005. Both were critical and commercial hits which allowed the filmmakers to ascend to their apex to direct and produce even more comedy gold throughout the decade. 

Lastly, I found the 2000's to be the deepest list out of the three Top 100 movies lists that I have done so far. The 1990's were so good that I struggled to leave off good films from my Top 25 and felt that a handful of films outside my Top 10 would have been in it in any other decade. The 2010's weren't quite as strong, but I did feel confident in this films I chose for the top. However, with both lists, I felt that the Bottom 25 were fine, but not great films. I felt the opposite with this 2000's list. I don't feel the top is very strong, but struggled to leave off great films from making the Top 100. Again, this is part of the reason this list doesn't include many prestige and Oscar winning films. 

As always, I tried to make this list as objective as possible. Check out the introduction to either of my previous two lists to see how I tried to do that. Further, this post is organized like my 1990's post - at the top is the decade's Top 25 films, each one with a personal essay about it by me. As to not spoil the surprise, these films are ranked 25 to 1. Then, the remaining 75 films are ranked and listed while interwoven with a handful of mini lists such as the Greatest Documentaries of the Decade, the Greatest Animated Films of the Decade and the Greatest Comedies of the Decade That Didn't Make This Top 100 List. 

So without further ado, here is the list of the 100 Greatest Films of the 2000's:

Friday, September 11, 2020

What I Learned Watching All of Daniel Craig's James Bond Movies

Partially in preparation for No Time To Die, partially because we are still in the middle of a pandemic and I am bored, and partially because Netflix has Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace to view and I'm a completionist, I recently watched all four of Daniel Craig's James Bond movies: 2006's Casino Royale, 2008's Quantum of Solace, 2012's Skyfall, and 2015's Spectre. I had seem them all before, some of them multiple times, but never in subsequent order back-to-back. 2020 is the year for me watching consecutive franchise films (I started the year watching all Marvel movies in chronological order (from the story's perspective) and have since moved on to watching all 8 Harry Potter films and even saw the first four Pirates of the Caribbean movies). Again, pandemic. Overall, I enjoy all 4 James Bond movies, if not for different reasons. Casino Royale and Skyfall are still the consensus top two and best films out of these four, but I also enjoyed Quantum of Solace and Spectre despite the consensus panning them. I am not a fan of the franchise as whole (it's not like I dislike it or anything, I just haven't seen Bond movie that didn't star Craig or Pierce Brosnan), but I am a movie fan, and these are my thoughts on Daniel Craig's Bond films.

Four years since Pierce Brosnan suited up to play James Bond, the Broccoli family (the producers of the Bond movies) hired Daniel Craig to play the character and rebooted the franchise with Casino Royale. Based on Ian Fleming's book of the same title, it was the perfect film to start over. The 1967 version technically is not a part of the James Bond movie canon and the film was able to capitalize on the online Texas Hold 'Em craze at the time (The mid-2000's were weird man). The film was a gritty, more self-serious take on James Bond which fit perfectly for the era. This was two years before Iron Man was released and so Marvel's light-hearted, rose-colored look at action movies had not taken hold yet, and Casino Royale was released a year after Christopher Nolan's gritty, dark, humorless first take on Batman was praised. We have Mike Myers to thank for this current iteration of James Bond. As Daniel Craig said, "I am huge Mike Myers fan, so don't get me wrong- but he kind of fucked us." Thanks to the wild success of the Austin Powers movies, a direct rip off of the campy early James Bond films, it was hard for these newer Bond films to be humor-filled and campy as well. They needed to distance themselves from the Austin Powers films. Luckily, it worked.