The Los Angeles Film Festival
*Warning: the following preview was conceived of while the author was watching the Oscars on Sunday. This is most dangerous, as he has an unhealthy obsession with metaphor and often takes it much, much too far.
The Los Angeles Film Festival, which opens on Monday, April 3rd at the Chavez Ravine Theatre, figures to be better than last year's iteration. Last year, former Festival Director Paul DePodesta put together a controversial tapestry of films only to see the equipment - screen, projector and all - break down. The result was worse than the utterly average San Diego Film Festival. DePodesta's directorial acumen was falsely impugned, as local and national media attributed the equipment failure to his otherwise stellar film choice. DePodesta has been replaced by Ned Colletti, who got out of Brian Sabean's drug-addled San Francisco Film Festival just in time.
On to the films...
Starring: Catcher Dioner Navarro
Production Cost: Minimal
Synopsis: A young catcher struggles to earn the respect of Dodger fans who have grown accustom to greatness behind the plate.
The film opens with a hilarious cameo appearance by George Steinbrenner. As the time and date, 2:37 a.m., January 11th, 2005, appear at the bottom of the screen, Steinbrenner is seen sitting on a leather chair with the lights out, focused on the television. On the television, we see an infomercial extolling the virtues of a new "male enhancement pill". Being a frequent consumer of late-night infomercial fare, Steinbrenner has the shopping channel on speed-dial. As he rests his cigar in an ashtray, he picks up the phone and accidentally presses the only other button on his speed-dial, that of Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Cashman picks up the phone and Steinbrenner, oblivious to his dialing error, exclaims "I want a Big Unit". Cashman, afraid to ask any questions, immediately hangs up the phone and sends Navarro to Los Angeles in a three team deal that brings Randy Johnson to New York.
As our young protagonist makes his way westward, he is enthused at the opportunity to begin his catching career in much more relaxed environs, away from the prying and cynical eyes of the New York fans and media. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, he learns that he must face the daunting task of living up to some great catching predecessors. He learns that, in order to please his new fans and develop a legacy of his own, he must - at the very least - match the production of Paul Lo Duca, a fan favourite and lifetime .285/.339/.417 hitter. He must emulate the plate patience and leadership of former all-star Mike Scioscia. He must learn to function in the shadow of the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, Mike Piazza. He must live up to the standard first established by the .276/.350/.500 legend who began the trend of great Dodger catchers in Brooklyn in 1949. He must become, Campanella Man.
Hustle and Throw
Starring: Infielders Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Bill Mueller and Rafael Furcal
Production Cost: $31,750,000
Synopsis: An all free-agent infield discovers that selling one's self on the mean base-paths of Los Angeles is not as glamourous as it once seemed.
Having drawn the quartet of naive mercenaries to Los Angeles with the allure of cash, Ned Colletti hopes to get a positive return on his investment.
Furcal (.284/.348/.429) is the youngest of the four and the least likely to disappoint. Having been a part of a very well-managed syndicate in Atlanta, he brings the youthful exuberance and winning experience needed to rally his teammates. In a heated locker-room scene after a crushing loss in late August, Furcal summons his co-working-men for a stirring inspirational speech that crests when Furcal shouts "we don't turn tricks, we turn double plays!".
Kent (.289/.377/.512), who arrived in Los Angeles a full year ahead of the others in the group, seems to be aging very well in a profession that rarely allows for success into one's upper thirties. At 37, however, the Dodgers got a good return on their investment in Kent as he scored 100 times in 2005. In one scene, with Kent playing second, he slaps a viciously hard tag on the helmet of a base-stealer and trash-talks, "nobody gets to second-base on me without paying the price".
Mueller (.295/.369/.430), chronically underappreciated, provides wisdom to the group. This was demonstrated in one scene where Furcal, mired in a slump, ponders confronting Colletti over the true nature of his work. Sagely, Mueller advises Furcal against it, "you must always refer to them as 'General Managers'. If a reporter hears you refer to them by their true profession, you get demoted to the minor leagues. It happened to Orlando Hudson and it can happen to you too."
The talented but oft-injured Garciaparra (.283/.320/.452) provides the film's only musical scene when he sings the laments of the difficulties of playing defence while hurt:
"You know it's hard out here with a limp..."
*Also being distributed under the names Brokewrist Outfield, Brokeshoulder Outfield, and Brokeknee Outfield.
Starring: Jayson Werth, Jose Cruz, Kenny Lofton and J.D. Drew
Production Cost: $18,050,000
Synopsis: The story of four courageous outfielders who fall helplessly into injury and struggle to maintain their dignity in a world that may not be ready to accept them.
The film begins with a four-way split screen, ala 24. In each frame is a Dodger outfielder getting surgery. As each outfielder is approached by the all-too-familiar tip of an anaesthesiology needle, they turn their heads toward the scalpels on the tables beside them. Before drifting off into unconsciousness, they simultaneously utter in the direction of their respective scalpels, “I wish I knew how to quit you”.
Lofton, who underwent surgery to remove debris from his knee in late October, 2005, is the least injury-prone of the bunch and purports to be in game-shape. He was great in 2005, going .335/.392/.420 in 110 games for the Phillies and figures to begin the season in the starting lineup in lieu of the injured(!) Jayson Werth. Werth underwent surgery to repair his wrist in November, 2005 and does not figure to be ready for opening day. Werth, who missed substantial time last season, has shown some promise, particularly in 2004 when he slugged .486.
Jose Cruz suffered through a sore back in 2005, costing him two months worth of playing time. When healthy, however, he was very productive at .251/.364/.473 with Arizona, Boston and Los Angeles. J.D. Drew, the ‘brokenest’ outfielder of them all, had surgery on his wrist and shoulder in 2005 and has fought injuries throughout his entire career. Drew has only achieved 500 at bats in a season once since first being called up in 1998. The most tragic thing about Drew’s frustratingly consistent injury problems is that he is so damn good: .287/.393/.514 for his career.
(Don’t) Walk the Line(up)
Starring: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko, Jae Seo
Production Cost: $26,830,000
Synopsis: Five pitchers work their way to fame and glory with impeccable control.
Derek Lowe was stellar in 2005. He walked only 55 batters in 222 innings. Lowe was finally cured of the Fenway Prison Blues, trading in the formerly porous Red Sox infield defence for Izturis and company. The move played a large role in shaving nearly two runs off of the notorious groundballer’s earned run average.
Brad Penny, who has had enough injury problems to qualify for a spot in the Dodgers’ outfield, has been known to exclaim I Was There When it Happened whenever somebody mentions the Florida Marlins 2003 World Series victory. Penny has a better than 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio and a 4.00 earned run average for his career.
Odalis Sang Bass for the Dodgers’ rotation in each of the past few years. Perez provides alternating good and average seasons that, in the aggregate, add up to an above-average starting pitcher humming along in the background - he is necessary and of positive value, but he garners little acclaim. He has consistently good ratios but alternates between 3.00 and 4.50 earned run average seasons. This figures to be a 3.00 year.
Brett Tomko, The Wanderer, will be suiting up for his sixth team since 1999. He is a serviceable fourth or fifth pitcher, but at 33 and four years removed from his last 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio season, there appears to be little upside.
A Boy Named Seo figures to be the fifth starter. Jae Seo, who is with teammate Hee Seop Choi on the Korean entry in the World Baseball Classic, was very good in 14 starts with the Mets last season. He posted a 3.7:1 strikeout to walk ratio and a 2.59 earned run average in 90 innings. If that is the true Seo, the Dodgers will be lucky to have 29 year-old in the rotation for years to come.
The sad part: no opportunity for a George Brett Ring of Fire joke.
Good Night and Good Luck
Starring: Eric Gagne, Yhencey Brazoban, Danys Baez
Production Cost: $13,050,000
Synopsis: Gagne et al. work to allay the McCarthy-style paranoia with which Dodger fans approach late-game leads.
Eric Gagne, hailing from that great Communist haven to the north, has been the inspiration for Dodgers Stadium t-shirts bearing his scraggly visage and the words ‘Game Over’. Though he missed most of 2005 with injury, Gagne is ready to go for opening day of 2006. The Montrealer is an elite closer with elite ratios when healthy.
Yhencey Brazoban (21 saves, 5.33 earned run average) and Danys Baez (41 saves, 2.86 earned run average) will provide adequate and occasionally brilliant setup for Gagne, especially if the former can cut down on the walks and gopher balls just a little. D.J. Houlton (5.16 earned run average in his 2005 rookie year) will spot start when Penny gets hurt. A stellar supporting cast is comprised of Franquelis Osoria, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jonathan Broxton, Lance Carter, and Tim Hamulack.
It figures to be a division-winning festival this year, barring equipment failure similar to last season’s. Any actor who does not perform well will be, as is always the case with failed young actors, banished to (AAA) Las Vegas.