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Mets As Best Picture Nominees

In honor of the Academy Awards, to be televised this Sunday night. Thank you in advance for indulging me.

Johan Santana = The Hurt Locker

A fine film and my 2nd place pick for Best Picture, Locker is buoyed by the performances of Jeremy Renner as Sergeant James and Anthony Mackie as Sergeant Sanborn. Richard Corliss of Time wrote the following about Renner's character:

It's a creepy marvel to watch James in action. He has the cool aplomb, analytical acumen and attention to detail of a great athlete...

Santana and Locker each have one worry or criticism that I just can't seem to disregard. For Santana, it's the chance that his injury from last season could become a lingering issue. Yes, all reports suggest that he is healthy and raring to go, but he's a 31 year-old slightly built pitcher with a decent amount of mileage. For Locker, it's the near universal response from veterans and war correspondents that the film is completely unrealistic, especially missing the mark in combat scenes. Neither worry is significant enough to damage the experience of watching a Santana start or 2nd viewing of Locker.

Daniel Murphy = The Blind Side

The film, based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, was a crowd-pleaser and box office dynamo. Having read the book, I was skeptical that the film version would succeed in finding an audience. $250 million in box office receipts later, my skepticism dissipated. Similarly, after Murphy's subpar 2009 and considering his good-but-not-great minor league career, I expected more Met fan displeasure expressed at the prospect of the Blue Collar Blaster playing first base everyday. Instead, there were ITBSOHL type pieces from the mainstream media and a lot of fawning over Keith Hernandez's defense tutorial. Murphy is a good player and has value, but not as a starting first baseman. I suspect a large portion of the fanbase disagrees, believing Murphy to be a long-term everyday player at a non-premium position. In that vein, I guess there's something to be said about a likeable player or actress (Sandra Bullock) in a feel-good story.

Jeff Francoeur = Up In The Air

This one is a bit different. Any comparison of Francoeur to Air would be a big stretch (Note: disregard stretches made in the other nine comparisons). However, the star of Up In The Air, George Clooney, shares several similarities to Frenchy. Neither is exceptional at their job, yet they are treated as such. Frenchy has been worth 6.6 WAR in his 4.5 season career, but if you open a New York newspaper you'd think he was an established star and a sure thing heading into 2010. Clooney has an Oscar and two additional nominations, despite playing the same bland character in most movies, From Dusk Til Dawn and O Brother, Where Art Thou? notable exceptions. I charge anyone to point out differences between Danny Ocean and Michael Clayton, as portrayed by Clooney. Francoeur's candor with the media seems to be the main reason for the positive press. There's nothing wrong with being nice, but the fawning pieces this offseason have gotten a bit out of control. He has a career in public relations when his playing days are over. Likewise, I suspect but cannot prove, that much of Clooney's Hollywood popularity, especially at Oscar time, has a lot to do with his political beliefs and commendable charitable efforts. Again, there's nothing wrong with having political beliefs or leading efforts to aid Haiti post-earthquake, but hopefully left-leaning Hollywood isn't letting those "off-the-screen" efforts cloud judgment come Academy Awards time.

All that said, Up In The Air is a fine film. Just not Best Picture worthy.

John Maine = A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers are the best directors of the past 25 years. They are the auteurs behind some high profile modern classics (Fargo, No Country For Old Men) as well as some under-the-radar gems (Miller's Crossing, The Man Who Wasn't There). Their latest entry, A Serious Man, only had a limited release and almost no publicity. The plot seemed unappealing (a good-natured, middle-aged man has family troubles) but I watched anyway because of the Coen brand name -- and I'm glad I did. It's a subtlely intense film that one has to be in the mood for to watch. It's sort of depressing, but the performance of the lead actor, Michael Stuhlbarg, is quite strong and the distinctive Coen dark humor is present. Throw it on your Netflix queue but don't expect The Big Lebowski or Burn After Reading. Oh, and Maine reminds me of the main character in A Serious Man, in that he's a hard-worker by all accounts, but is constantly struggling through adversity (injuries, for Maine; divorce, potentially being fired, and problematic children for Stuhlbarg's character Larry Gopnik).

Jose Reyes = District 9

Reyes and District are both excellent -- until the ending. For Reyes, the months of September and October haven't been kind, possibly due to wearing down over the course of the season while playing a grueling position. District falls apart in the final act, eschewing the originality and characterization of the first 3/4 of the film for Michael Bay-esque action (not that there's anything wrong with Michael Bay; I was just hoping for something deeper in District). Maybe Jose should take it down a notch with the stolen bases this season, hopefully preserving some energy for a late season playoff push.

Nick Evans = An Education

I've never heard of either.* 

David Wright = Up

Up earned the distinction of being only the 2nd animated film nominated for Best Picture, the other being Beauty and the Beast. It appeals to people of all ages, with senior citizens and adults relating to the Ed Asner-voiced curmudgeon Carl Fredericksen and younger viewers enjoying the funny little fat kid and talking puppies. The same can be said of Wright, the face of the New York Mets who is nearly impossible to dislike. Yes, he gives vanilla interviews but so do most players not named Jeff Francoeur or Billy Wagner. If Wright's team wins a few rings, he'll be regarded as highly as fellow bland interviewee Derek Jeter.

Mike Pelfrey = Precious: Based On The Novel "Push" By Sapphire

The myth of Pelf's major 2009 regression has been covered ad nauseum. With a better defense backing him, he would have had a much better shot at repeating his 2008 ERA. Much life Pelf, titular character Precious is let down by her family, enduring abuse from both her mother and father. The film isn't altogether depressing, as Precious finds support in the form of a social worker and nurse. Hopefully the return of Reyes, a bounceback year in the field from Wright and better defensive positioning by Luis Castillo will help Pelfrey "rebound" in 2010.

Carlos Beltran = Inglourious Basterds

The Mets' best all-around player is on par with the year's best all-around film. Offense, defense, baserunning, position -- Beltran is almost always in the black when it comes to WAR components. Script, acting, cinematography, soundtrack -- Basterds does everything well. The performance of Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa is already iconic, and Melanie Laurent and Michael Fessbender are also strong in supporting roles. The opening scene alone clinched the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Waltz and the tavern basement standoff is one of the finest scripted/directed scenes you'll find in any film. Most criticism of the film is due to director Quentin Tarantino being too self-indulgent with violence, music and homages to other films. Maybe these criticisms are valid but if you are a fan of Tarantino you probably don't mind a little self-indulgence on his part.

Basterds improves with multiple viewings, much like appreciation for Beltran increases the more you examine his statistics and accomplishments. If you haven't seen the film, please do. And if you haven't looked at Beltran's WAR page, do it now. 54.6 WAR and he's (hopefully) still going.

Francisco Rodriguez = Avatar

I wanted to hate Avatar. I'm not entirely sure why -- James Cameron is an immense talent and his films are generally well done. So I entered the theater with a negative attitude toward the film, but unexpectedly left with an overwhelmingly positive one. It is a landmark achievement in filmmaking and deserves all the Special Effects awards which are up for grabs. However, the script and acting leave a lot to be desired and render the film unworthy for Best Picture. The Pocahontas-meets-Colonel Kilgore storyline threatened to ruin the visual experience at times, as did lines of dialogue such as these:

  • "This is gonna ruin my whole day" - A character after being shot
  • "And that's how you scatter the roaches" - psycho Marine colonel after a bombing run
  • "Nothing's over while I'm breathing" - psycho Marine colonel again

Actually, the psycho Marine colonel played the biggest role in damaging the movie, with the over-the-top businessman played by Giovanni Ribisi (and his precious "unobtanium") a close 2nd. Frankie seems like an appropriate comp. On the surface, he is a star player worthy of his massive price tag. The saves record is superficially impressive and his energy on the mound makes him fun to watch. Digging deeper we see that he may already be declining. His ridiculous vesting option might tie up $17.5 million in a pitcher who accounts for ~60 innings of work a season. This isn't to say he's a bad pitcher -- just like Avatar isn't a bad movie. He just isn't worthy of superstar treatment, much like Avatar isn't worthy of the Best Picture Oscar.

* - This isn't a slight to An Education -- it's just the only nominated film I haven't seen. I have vague memories of Evans playing in the last game at Shea but can't remember seeing him in 2009.