Welcome back to another week of BCB After Dark: the after-afterparty for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s great to see you again. I hope you’ve had a better weekend than the Cubs. Let us take your hat and coat. Bring your own beverage. Please seat yourself tonight.
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 were off today. The Iowa Cubs were off today. The rest of the Cubs minor league teams have finished their season. So sit back and catch up on whatever you’ve been meaning to catch up on.
Last week I asked you how worried you were about Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks on a scale of 1 to 5. It seems a lot of you are pretty concerned as “4” won the vote with 33% and another 7% put it at a “5.” That’s 40% in the highest two categories. On the other hand, 7% of you put your concern at a “1” and 25% put it at a “2.” The final 27% came in the middle with a “3.”
Here’s the part where we talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Today’s jazz track comes from pianist Herbie Hancock. It’s a live recording from 1984 of the title track from his 1968 album, Speak Like A Child. The album itself was Hancock’s attempts to strip his music down into simpler forms that would allow for more improvisation. He also wanted to evoke a spirit of hope for a brighter future that exists in the voices of children.
There’s also a really cool part of this performance late in the video where Hancock opens up his piano and plays the inside of it rather than the keys.
Inspired by a recent episode of the Emmy-winning TV show Ted Lasso that was a direct homage to it, I decided to re-watch director Martin Scorsese’s 1985 film After Hours. I don’t think I’d seen it since the late-eighties on a VHS tape. The film is considered to be the only true comedy in Scorsese’s considerable body of work, but it’s a dark comedy (metaphorically and literally) that relies more on the increasing absurdity of the situation than setups and punchlines. Even the lead character can’t believe the situation he’s in. Overall, it’s well worth watching as an overlooked gem by Scorsese.
It’s hard to day to think of the legendary Martin Scorsese as a struggling director, but by the early-eighties, he was. The hits of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Taxi Driver were offset by two box office flops—New York, New York and The King of Comedy, and one critical darling that did “meh” business at the box office, Raging Bull. (Both of the flops also got mostly positive reviews, but that led to little business.) Scorsese’s next film was to be his passion project (pun intended), The Last Temptation of Christ. But shortly before filming was about to start, Paramount pulled plug on The Last Temptation, worried about the cost and the negative reaction from religious groups. (He would return to Last Temptation later with a new cast at Universal in 1988.)
Angry and depressed at the cancellation of his dream project, Scorsese decided that he needed to do something, anything, to take his mind off of his problems. He decided he needed to go back to his roots and do a small, independent film. He ended up being offered a student screenplay from Joseph Minion, who was in the screenwriting program at Columbia University. Actors Griffin Dunne (who plays the lead) and Amy Robinson owned the rights and were in talks with a hot young director looking to direct his first feature film, Tim Burton. Burton stepped aside when he heard Scorsese was interested in the project. He went on to direct Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure instead. I think things turned out all right for him.
Honestly, After Hours and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure would make an interesting double feature. They’re both about men on a mission who run into a collection of characters along their way. But whereas Pee Wee is sunny and silly, After Hours is dark and disturbing.
The film is also a portrait of the seedier side of New York, which is the one thing that really identifies it as a Scorsese film. It’s also a picture about New York in transition. Griffin Dunne stars as Paul Hackett, a yuppie IT specialist who meets Marcy, an attractive woman played by Rosanna Arquette, in a coffee shop after he leaves work. There’s clearly something off about Marcy, but because she looks like a young Rosanna Arquette, Paul calls Marcy up later in the evening under the pretense of being interested in one of her artist roommate Kiki’s (Linda Fiorentino) bagel-and-cream-cheese paperweights.
This invitation leads Paul through a dark journey in pre-gentrification SoHo. (Light spoilers for a 36-year-old movie.) All the cash Phillip had on him flies out the window during a wild cab ride to SoHo. After his meeting with Marcy doesn’t go well, the rest of the film is about Paul trying to get home for the evening. Like Homer’s Odysseus, Paul runs into difficulties along the way with a series of women (and one bartending man), who offer to help him out at first but turn on him or make things worse in the end. Julie (Terri Garr) is a cocktail waitress who hates her job, Gail (Catherine O’Hara) runs an ice cream truck and offers to drive him home until she realizes that Paul is suspected in a series of robberies. June (Vera Bloom) is an older artist that offers to shelter her from the lynch mob after Paul, only to hide him by encasing him inside a plaster and papier-mâché sculpture. She then leaves until the real burglars, played by Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, show up to steal him.
Scorsese and his collaborators had a lot of debate about how the film should end. Acclaimed British director Michael Powell (of Black Narcissus and other films), who was an advisor to the film and was about to marry Scorsese’s film editor, insisted that Paul could not die a the end of the film, as Scorsese had originally intended. Instead, he suggested a development that Scorsese ended up going with: The statue, in which Paul was encased, would fall out of the back of Cheech and Chong’s van, cracking open and allowing Paul to escape. The sun had come up, and Paul, covered in plaster and papier-mâché, slowly walks back to work to start the next day. He never made it home. (Spoilers over)
I love the ending they went with.
There isn’t any particular point to After Hours other than a man having a really terrible day. But there are a few things that stick out. One is the contrast between a yuppie East Side New Yorker and the grimier, more bohemian character of SoHo before it gentrified in the years since. It’s a portrait of a city in transition and while the yuppies are going to win in the end, Scorsese lets the (un)common people get a victory this time. Although we do have a lot of sympathy for Paul, who really has had one awful night.
Another interesting thing is the way that all of the stories of the people that Paul meets along the way come together throughout the film. Paul is constantly circling back to old situations—he never can escape this world he’s descended into. Paul has become a rat in a cage, and the film even shows us a mouse caught in a mousetrap to drive that point home.
Many critics have also seen Scorsese’s personal struggles reflected in Paul’s struggles. Like Paul, Scorsese had found lots of people in the film industry willing to help him, only for them to turn on him later. Some have also seen some misogyny in this part of the film, since five of the six major characters he encounters along the way are women. There are also allusions to castration here and there.
The film’s absurdity has been called “Kafkaesque” in the way that Paul is trapped in a world where the rules seem to offer no possibility of escape. Scorsese emphasized this is a scene that is a recreation of Kafka’s famous “Before the Law” parable as Paul tries to enter a night club.
The cinematography of this film deserves some special credit. After Hours is an important work in the Scorsese canon if only because it is the first time he worked with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who would go on to do the cinematography for Scorsese in The Color of Money, Goodfellas, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York and The Departed. The film was shot almost entirely at night and on location. Ballhaus increases the tension of the film by allowing the camera to ominously linger on things which are often inconsequential to the plot. But we don’t know that at the time. There’s also a tracking shot of a falling set of keys from a window that wasn’t easy to pull off in the pre-digital days. The Ted Lasso episode played a lot with falling keys in their homage episode.
If you’re a fan of Scorsese, then After Hours is definitely a must-watch. If you’re in the mood for a dark comedy with a lot of absurd situations that just get nuttier and nuttier as things go on, then After Hours is also probably up your alley. If you just want to see a mid-eighties yuppie get psychologically tortured, then After Hours is definitely for you.
Here’s the official trailer from the film, which takes the scene where Paul explains what has happened to him over the course of the film (and he realizes that no one is ever going to believe him) and sticks in scenes from earlier in the film to flesh out the description.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
The season is almost over and I think that every Cubs fan would say that 2021 has been a disappointment. Sure, there have been some great moments (We will remember Javy getting in a rundown between first and home forever) and Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel have been pleasant surprises that no one saw coming.
But is it the fault of the coaching staff? I don’t think there’s any question that manager David Ross is going to be back next year and I’d imagine most or all of the coaching staff will be back too. But should they be? Is any of this their fault?
So tonight I’m asking you to grade the coaching staff, from manager David Ross to bullpen catcher Chad Noble. OK, you probably don’t actually have an idea of how well Noble has been doing his job, but you probably do have some thoughts on Ross, bench coach Andy Green, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and hitting coach Anthony Iapoce. Probably base coaches Willie Harris and Craig Driver as well.
So what grade would you collectively give the coaching staff? If you think the Cubs collapse this season was their fault, you probably don’t rate them very highly. But if you think none if it is their fault and that things would have been even worse had they not been in charge, then you’re probably giving them the highest grade.
So what grade do you give the 2021 Cubs coaching staff?
What grade do you give the current Cubs coaching staff?
Thank you again so much for stopping by. I’ll have the valet bring your car around. Please come in again tomorrow when we’ll have our short version of BCB After Dark.