“The Good Lie”

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The Good Lie *** (out of *****)

I’ve long followed the harrowing journey of “The Lost Boys of Sudan” and their lives subsequent to their 1,000 mile walk to safety. Maybe one of the most powerful books I’ve read, and certainly one of my favorite reads a few years ago, was What Is the What, by Dave Eggers. It’s a novel that reads like a true story. Actually, it’s based on the real life story of a Sudanese refugee, a young boy separated from his family during the Sudanese Civil War. (If you’ve never read it, add it to your ‘to read’ list.)

When I heard about the film The Good Lie, I knew I would see it. Then I learned that it was not a documentary but a Hollywood film starring Reese Witherspoon. Still, early reviews said it was true to what occurred in Sudan and what happens when some of these refugees are brought to the US.

The good news is if you don’t know anything about these events, you will learn from this film, both what happened in Sudan in 1983 (and maybe happening again now) and what happens to four young ‘refugees’ who make it to the US. It is their story. (Aside, three of the four actors are, in real life, Sudanese refugees. Also, one of the best child soldier story I’ve read is the terrific memoir by Emmanuel Jal, War Child. Jal plays one of the refugees in The Good Lie.)

The bad news is that Hollywood has cleaned it up and put Reese Witherspoon on the film when it’s not really ‘her’ film. The result is a ‘prettified’ story that starts off strong (in Southern Sudan), and while it tells an important story, ultimately, at least for me, it gets weaker and weaker as it follows the four refugees to the US.

Still, if you don’t know much about the subject matter, and/or if you want to know more about “The Lost Boys,” consider it.

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Two Free Sunday Cinema Club tickets available for the asking.

As we cannot attend, we have two tickets to this Sunday’s (Oct.19) showing of a film at the DC Cinema Club. It begins at 10:30 AM at DC’s Avalon Theater and is usually a worthy film from one of the recent Film Festivals. You will not know what you’re going to see until you arrive. But we generally have enjoyed all of the ones we’ve seen. They are most often documentaries or foreign films, not yet publicly released or may only be released for a short period of time.

You need to let me know if you want the tickets immediately, before Thursday noon. You can leave a note in the Comment section of this post or send me an email. Let me know your phone number so I can arrange to get the tickets to you.

Another Baseball Contest Winner

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2014 MillersTime Baseball Contest #3: What will the Washington Nationals’ record be this year? Tie Breakers: Will they make the playoffs, and how far will they go?

Six contestants were close — Ed Scholl, Peter Shimm, Tiffany Lopez, Nick Nyhart, Steve Begleiter, and Nelson Romerez – missing the Nats’ regular season record by one game.  Not bad.

However, four contestants got the season record, 96-66, exactly: Dan Fischer, Elizabeth Tilis, Nick Fels, and Bill Trost.

Dan said they’d lose in the NLCS. Elizabeth said they’d lose in the 1st round. Nick said they’d lose in the World Series. Bill said the Nats would lose to the Dodgers.

So, Elizabeth Tilis (that’s a ‘familiar’ name, someone, no doubt, who benefited from good parenting) wins and gets two tickets to a 2015 Nats’ game of her choice.

For the other two contests, we will have to await the conclusion of the World Series.

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Meanwhile, two more terrific articles to draw to your attention, particularly for those of you whose teams are no longer in the WS chase. MillersTime readers tipped me off to these articles:

The Dead Ball Century: Why Is Baseball Always Dying? – by Brian Curtis, Grantland/The Triangle, Oct. 7, 2014 (Thanx MWK)

Managers Are Playing Less Small Ball Than Ever – by Ross Benes, Deadspin/Regressing, Oct. 6, 2015 (Thanx BT)

 

Why the Nats’ Season Is Over

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Why did they lose three out of four games to the Giants after having the most wins in the National League in 2014?

It wasn’t their pitching. (Nat’s ERA – 1.23, Giants – 1.60)

It wasn’t their fielding. (Each team made one costly miscue -Nats’ Fielding Pct. – .993, Giants – .994)

It wasn’t the managing (Despite what you read or think about Game 2 & 4).

Here’s why:

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Back to the Movies

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Baseball has been consuming much of my time recently, but I haven’t totally ignored my interest in the movies. We’ve seen two films this fall in our Cinema Club, one worth putting on your list, the other one, not so much.

Force.MV5BMjQ4NzY0ODg0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjY3OTc2MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_Force Majeure ***

A story about a family on a ski vacation in the French Alps. When a ‘controlled” avalanche occurs, there is a serious disruption in the family, which plays out over the balance of this two-hour film.

I’m not sure I can put my finger on what it was about Force Majerue that I found lacking, but this story about a marriage and a family never quite seemed real to me, tho parts of it were both funny and insightful.

Our movie club audience gave it a 70% rating (good or excellent) and 78% would recommend it for others to see. I’m not in that 78%.

Too many better films are either in the theaters or soon will be.

Rudderless.MV5BMjQwNTI2MTA0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODc1NzkzMjE@._V1_SX214_AL_Rudderless ****

Here is one that is worthy of your attention.

It’s the story of a father whose life has been suddenly shattered by the death of his son.

Unable to come to terms with what has happened, Sam (wonderfully played by Billy Crudup) checks out of his life as an advertising executive and lives a largely isolated existence until he discovers songs that had been written by his son.

Good acting and good music combine to make Rudderless an engaging film about a subject that most of us, fortunately, don’t have to face.

Rudderless opens nationwide next week.

DC Short Film Festival

I made it to two 90 minute showings of short films, ranging from six minutes to about 20 minutes each. At least a third of the 18 ones I saw were good or excellent (to use the categories from our Cinema Club).

However, I have lost the program booklet where I made a few notes, and as I even have trouble remembering longer films, I cannot remember those titles.

But I will mark my calendar for this DC Film Festival for next year and plan to attend the two final showings of the best of the shorts. I will try not to lose my notes.

Philadelphia Film Festival

With encouragement from a childhood friend who lives in Philadelphia and loves films, Ellen and I will attend the first weekend of the 23rd Philadelphia Film Festival (Oct. 16-26).

Although I did attend the Miami Film Festival last year, I only saw four films there in 26 hours (A Fantasy Partially Fulfilled). Now, my intention is to see three or four a day for three days. Judging from the catalog, there are many good choices.

Any suggestions from those of you who have attended film festivals about the best way to approach a film festival?

“Nobody Knows Anything” – Tyler Kepner

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Is it me or has this October baseball already given us some of the most wonderful baseball in a long time?

KC vs Oakland – Wild Card game: Royals score in the bottom of the 9th to tie and down by one in the 12th, score two to win. Fans can hardly believe it.

KC vs LAA – First two ALDS games: Royals score one in the 11th and hold on to win the first game away. Then, in the third extra inning game in a row, the Royals score three in the top of the 11th to beat the Angels again, this time 4-1. KC fans believe it it. Angels’ fans stunned. K-C up 2-0.

O’s vs Tigers – Other first two ALDs games: Baltimore scores eight in the 8th, and the power hitting Tigers lose the first one 12-3. Camden goes wild. Then, in the second game, the O’s are down 6-3 in the 8th and score four in that inning to win 7-6. Fans go nuts, again. O’s up 2-0.

Giants vs Pirates – Wild Card game: Giants get a grand slam in the fourth (first ever by a shortstop) and four-hit the Pirates to win surprisingly easily, 8-0.

Dodgers vs Cards – First two NLDS game: Probable 2014 Cy Young & MVP winner Clayton Kershaw gives up eight runs in 6 2/3 innings, and the Cards win it 10-9 in the bottom of the 9th. Second game, Dodgers eke out a 3-2 victory, after some terrific pitching, thanks to a home run by Kemp. Series tied 1-1.

And then Giants vs Nats – Other first two NLDS games. Aging Peavy out pitches the young Strasberg, and the Giants beat the Nats 3-2 in Washington. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, after getting 20 out in a row, Nats’ pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (his previous game a no-hitter) walks a batter and is pulled. The Giants then get two hits off closer Drew Storen (remember him from two years ago not being able to hold a two-run lead in the playoffs?) to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th. Eventually (after nine more innings), the Giants win it with a home run in the 18th inning (longest game, time wise, in playoff history). Giants up 2-0.

Ten games. Seven decided by one run. Four in extra innings. One in the 18th inning. One in the bottom of the 9th. And even the three that were not close we’re surprising victories.

And we’re only part way into the Division Series playoffs.

Maybe it’s just that my beloved Red Sox are not in it, and so I can watch and listen differently.

And another observation: So many good articles about these games, some written within the hour that a game finished.

Check out this morning’s NYTimes‘ Tyler Kepner’s In October: Exceptions Rule, Most of the Time (“Nobody knows anything…”).

Or Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell’s, Washington Nationals Discover How Tough the SF Giants Can Be in October, which begins with “Losing to the San Francisco Giants in October is like being beaten to death with wet noodles.” And it just gets better.

Or how about Boswell’s post this morning, Could Jordan Zimmerman Have Made History in Game 2? We’ll Never Know ?

You’ve probably seen other good ones (pass them on to all of us in the Comment section), but the best ones seem to take what happens and push our thinking further.

Why You Need to Read the MillersTime/GoSox Blog

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Why?

Beyond the obvious — you think you can win one of the MillersTime Baseball Contests, you’re going to see me in a few days and don’t want to be embarrassed when I refer to something I wrote, you’re looking for free tickets to a Nats’ game, you’re a member of my family and want to humor me — there is the possibility that once or twice a year I might have something useful to say about baseball.

I was reminded of this last reason this morning (Wed.) when I saw on the front page of the NYTimes the headline, “Many Strikeouts, Fewer Runs/As Pitchers Gain Upper Hand.” Having written a post on this very topic, Sluggers’ Slump: What’s Going on Here? I was curious to see if the author of the Times’ piece, John Branch, had anything new to say (or anything I didn’t say).

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Announcing Three 2014 MillersTime Baseball Contests Winners

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With the end of the regular 2014 MLB season and the beginning of the playoffs (wasn’t that a terrific game at KC last night?), I can announce three winners of this year’s MillersTime Baseball Contests. The remaining three contest winners, #1, 3, & 6, will not be chosen until the end of the playoffs.

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Final At Bats……and Much More: Ted Williams & Derek Jeter

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On September 28, 1960, for his final at bat in Fenway Park, Ted Williams hit a home run in the 8th inning of a game the Sox eventually won. Fifty-four years later, for his final at bat at Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter hit a single, driving in the winning run for the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th.

Neither of those at bats could change disappointing seasons for the Sox or the Yankees.

Yet both of those at bats will long be remembered.

John Updike, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, described what happened in Fenway in his superb Hub Fans Bids Kid Adieu. If you’ve never read this piece, you’re in for a treat. If you have read it and chose to reread it, you’re also in for a treat.

And although there has been massive coverage of Derek Jeter’s final Yankee Stadium at bat and retirement in general, I offer an equally wonderful and worthy essay about Jeter, The Final Walk Off, written by another Pulitzer Prize winning author, J.R. Moehringer, that was published just a few days ago by ESPN.

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Our Increased Life Expectancy: Two Views

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The October 2014 issue of The Atlantic has two articles that focus on the issues raised by our increased life expectancy. Though they seem to come to different conclusions, each author and article gives the reader much to consider:

Gregg Easterbrook: What Happens When We All Live to 100:  If life-expectancy trends continue, that future may be near, transforming society in surprising and far-reaching ways.

Esekiel J. Emanuel: Why I Hope to Die at 75: An argument that society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.

This Is Discouraging…Unless You’re an O’s Fan

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Last night I was looking through the submissions for the 2014 MillersTime Baseball Contests (I really need to get a life) and came across these predictions, sent in on Feb. 25, 2014 by someone named Chris Eacho:

#1 – Red Sox in last at the AS break and trade 4 of their opening day starters at the deadline.

#2 – Orioles 103-59, World Series Champs

#3 – Nationals 92-70, lose to Os in WS

#4 – Yankees 66-95, Red Sox 65-96, series split 8-8. 19th game is rained out and not made up

#5 – Chris Davis .287, 119 RBI, 43 HR

#6 – Orioles over Nats in 6 games; Chris Tillman MVP with 2 complete game shutouts

Actually, I think I know the individual who submitted these outrageous and amazingly prescient (lucky?) predictions. He’s an Orioles’ fan (obviously), a Sox and Yankee hater, and belongs to the millennial generation (I think). I hope he’s wrong about the WS, but he seems to know something the rest of us don’t.

Harumph.

Sluggers’ Slump: What’s Going on Here?

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(Jacob deGrom Ties MLB Record, Strikes Out 8 Straight. Pix-USA Today)

Have you noticed how it seems hitting has been trumped by pitching in baseball, not only this year but for a number of years now?

With Red Sox in last place, 26 games behind the AL East winner Orioles, I have had a good deal of time to think about more than just my beloved team and their miseries. While I have enjoyed the Nats’ good season, it’s not the same as rooting for Boston.

Looking at some box scores a few weeks ago, I was struck by what seemed to me to be low batting averages, even of the best players for the best teams in baseball. In fact, when I looked at the six leading teams in all the MLB Divisions, only two clubs had anyone hitting over .300 (one of those two teams just had one player hitting .301, and he is now below .300).

I began looking at other statistics, going back as far as 2000. Here are just some of the things I found when I looked at every year from 2000-2014 (being retired and having a losing baseball team allows for spending time on such matters):

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“Last Days in Vietnam” – Mesmerizing

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Last Days in Vietnam ****1/2

Like many people of my generation, the Vietnam War was a major part of my late adolescence and young adulthood. For at least 10 years, rarely did a day go by without it occupying some part of my thinking about politics, about war, about my country, about my own role vis-a-vis the war. (I chose to go into the Peace Corps as a way of serving my country and followed that with high school teaching.)

Thus, I thought I knew a good deal about many of the aspects of that war, including the final days of the conflict.

And so I was quite surprised recently when I saw Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam.

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Three Dilemmas. Please Advise.

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unnamed(Not shown: Multiple Red Sox tickets to win the 2014 Pennant & World Series.)

Dilemma #1:

The Facts: The Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles secured playoff positions last night in their respective MLB Divisions (NL East and AL East). Thus both have a shot at winning the 2014 World Series. I have been a Nats’ fan (a distant second, of course, to being a Red Sox fan) since they arrived in DC. I have rooted against the O’s for years, except when they play the Yankees. I hold two Las Vegas $10 bets. One for the Nats (payoff $110) and one for the O’s (payoff $260).

The Dilemma: Whom do I cheer for to win the World Series?

(Note: I also hold three $10 tickets for the Nats to win the 2014 Pennant. Total payoff for the three tickets, $145.)

Dilemma #2:

The Facts: On my Orioles’ WS ticket, I have written the name “Nelson” in the upper right hand corner of the ticket. Nelson is a friend who roots for the O’s and rubs it in when they beat the Sox. Nelson does not know I bought this ticket with him in mind.

The Dilemma: Do I inform Nelson I have the ticket, and do I give it to him?

Dilemma #3:

The Facts: I also bought a bunch (I’m embarrassed to say how many) of Sox tickets for them to win the 2014 Pennant and World Series. (If either the Nats’ or the O’s win the World Series, I can recoup the cost of most of my foolish Sox bets.)

The Dilemma: What do I do with all my useless Sox 2014 tickets.

Please advise.