Cubs

5 Questions with...Tribune's Michael Phillips

316613.jpg

5 Questions with...Tribune's Michael Phillips

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled "5 Questions with..."

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, it's our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This week's guest, one of the most respected film critics in the nation whose no-holds-barred movie reviews have become a must-read for Chicago Tribune readers from coast to coast, the next few months will definitely keep this guy occupied to say the least with a busy holiday film schedule on tap, not to mention Oscar season right is around the corner, without further adieu, here are "5 Questions with...MICHAEL PHILLIPS!"

BIO: Michael Phillips is the film critic of the Chicago Tribune and was co-host of the long-running nationally syndicated TV show "At the Movies" in its final season after filling in for Roger Ebert off-and-on since 2006. He covers movies for CLTV and can be heard most Fridays on WGN-AM. This summer he guest hosted the popular filmspotting.net podcast (broadcast on WBEZ-FM) and has been a guest on everything from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," "Entourage," "The View," "Charlie Rose," BBC radio, MSNBC and locally on ABC 7.

In his former life as a theater critic, he wrote for the Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Dallas Times-Herald. He has chaired the Pulitzer Prize drama jury and is a three-time Pulitzer drama juror. Born in Kenosha, Wis., raised in Racine, Wis., Phillips is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and lives on Chicago's Northwest Side with his wife and son and two dogs. One of the dogs is a good dog. The other one's improving.

1) CSNChicago.com: Michael, thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend a few minutes with us. Lets get right to it ... as of this moment, from the movies youve seen so far in 2010, who do you consider to be the Oscar front-runners for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture?

Phillips: Screw it, who cares about the Oscars?

No, I kid. Im kidding. I care deeply about the Oscars, though not as much as I care about The Oscar (1966), which is one of the paragons of terrible melodrama. Its the one in which Stephen Boyd plays the unscrupulous weasel willing to do nearly anything to win an Academy Award. You should see it sometime if you havent.

Now, back to the real world:

With the Best Picture nomination list reconfigured last year to include 10 films, instead of five, the Oscars have made plenty of room for profitable mediocrities, along with films of actual quality. The Social Network and The Kings Speech are the front-runners and, whatever happens, both films will likely dominate the nominations in major categories. Theyre both good, too, which is nice.

Best Actress: I loved The Kids Are All Right, so Id be heartened to see both Annette Bening and Julianne Moore nominated. Natalie Portmans gripping in Black Swan. And I suspect Jennifer Lawrence from Winters Bone will get a nomination.

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The Kings Speech. Jesse Eisenberg will likely get (and deserve) a nod for The Social Network, but itll be Firth.

Its important to remember that the Oscars are simply trivia, which doesnt mean theyre not entertaining. The awards show is just the company picnic for an industry in flux. But I will say that the notion of marginalizing the honorary Oscars portion of the event, so that the Old People dont clutter up the telecast, makes me a little crazy.

2) CSNChicago.com: What would you say is your biggest film(s) disappointment so far this year and what films did you go into with somewhat low expectations and ended up truly enjoying?

Phillips: My biggest film disappointment so far this year? How about the entire summers worth of meh sequels (Iron Man 2), gargantuan headaches (Knight and Day) and 80s retreads (The A-Team)? No wonder Inception made waves, as well as making money, especially with younger audiences: at least its mind-games had some real movie-making going for them.

On the other hand: Nice to see a DreamWorks animated feature like How to Train Your Dragon make a virtue out of the 3-D format, in a year when so many films lazily repurposed for 3-D (The Last Airbender, etc.) did not.

And mainstream indies along the lines of Winters Bone and Get Low gave mainstream indies a very good name indeed.

3) CSNChicago.com: This debate will go on forever (especially in our office), but since we have you here, the question has to be asked. Name your top 5 favorite sports-themed movies of all-time.

Phillips: The Set-Up (1949). Great boxing drama with Robert Ryan.

Bull Durham (1988). Ron Shelton knows both comedy and sports, and its his best film.

Sugar (2008). Too few people know about this fantastic slice-of-life about a Dominican baseball players introduction to America. Its beautiful -- sad, but full of life, and truth.

Hoop Dreams (1994). A true Chicago story, and a documentary that forces the viewer to reckon with the good, the bad and the bittersweet in-between that comes from any pursuit of sports excellence.

Boxing Gym (2010). I guarantee you have not heard of Frederick Wisemans documentary, entirely free of narration or title cards or the usual trappings. But its a beaut.

4) CSNChicago.com: If you werent a journalist, what profession do you feel you would excel at the most?

Phillips: Im a critic, which is a form of journalist, but I have as much in common with a good metro reporter as I do with a brain surgeon or a chef. I dont know, maybe ... psychologist? Professor? The great thing about being a film critic is youre both, to varying degrees.

5) CSNChicago.com: Our beautiful city has been captured on film in hundreds of movies over the years. What Chicago based movies stand out to you the most that truly captures the essence of this city?

Phillips: Chicagos such a marvelous camera subject! The key Chicago movies, to me, arent the ones everybody thinks of first (The Blues Brothers, Ferris Buellers Day Off).

Id vote for Underworld (1927), which wasnt filmed here and in which Chicago is never mentioned by name -- but its the seminal Chicago gangster picture, the forerunner to the great early sound era gangster classic Scarface and the film that helped cement in the public mind Chicagos image as a glorified morality play, written in blood and bullets.

Then Id vote for Call Northside 777 (1948), which WAS filmed here.

Then, two from the 60s: Mickey One (1965), strange, unsteady New Wave-inspired Arthur Penn movie starring Warren Beatty as a mobbed-up Chicago nightclub comic (great location footage of nightspots long gone), and Medium Cool (1969), in which the grim Democratic National Convention clashes of the year before become part of the film itself.

And I love how Christopher Nolan made familiar Chicago sights look eerie and new in The Dark Knight.

BONUS QUESTION CSNChicago.com: Anything you want to plug Michael? Please share it with us

Phillips: A.O. Scott and I had a ball co-hosting the final season of At the Movies. We heard from so many people, all ages, who appreciated us bringin the nerd back to film criticism. Meantime, we thrive (thank God, and our respective media organizations) as critics online and in print. And who knows what the future will bring?

Phillips LINKS:

Chicago TribuneMichael Phillips movie reviews

Michael Phillips on Facebook

Michael Phillips on Twitter

The bullpen's rough stretch continues as Cubs blow two saves in series opener

The bullpen's rough stretch continues as Cubs blow two saves in series opener

Sound the alarm, the Cubs’ bullpen issues are back. 

Friday afternoon’s culprits were Brad Brach and Steve Cishek, who together allowed three earned runs on five hits over 2.2 innings of work in the Cubs’ 6-5 loss. It was the second blown save of the season for both pitchers. 

“I was locked in today, I really was,” Cishek said. “It was just a lack of execution. I’m not going to make any excuses.” 

After spending much of the last six weeks being one of baseball’s most reliable groups, the Cubs’ bullpen has hit a rough patch of late. Over the last two weeks, only the Red Sox have more blown saves than Chicago. In that span they rank 21st in ERA, 16th in FIP, and most foreboding of all, 4th in BB%. 

“The last couple times around we’ve had shorter outings from our starters, and I think that’s kind of caused us to use them more recently,” Joe Maddon said. “But they’re fine. They’re fine. It’s just one of those days, man.” 

It’s true that the Cubs’ bullpen is still relatively fresh; they’ve pitched 168.2 innings in 2019, more than only eight other teams. Over the last two weeks, however, they’ve pitched 48.2 innings - which is 8th most in the league. They came into Friday’s game shorthanded, as Maddon noted that they were looking to avoid using Brandon Kintzler, Carl Edwards Jr., Tyler Chatwood, and Kyle Ryan. 

“[Cishek] probably didn’t have a full tank,” Maddon said. “Probably ¾ maybe. So the stuff wasn’t as clean or crisp.”

Cishek declined to comment about how energy he felt he had on Friday. Only Tyler Chatwood has thrown more relief innings than Cishek over the last week, and both Chatwood and Kintzler rank among the top-20 most-used relievers going back to mid-May. 

“Those guys always get it done,” Kyle Hendricks said. “They’ve been being used a lot in the last few days, so they can’t come in every time and get the job done. But they’re making their pitches, and attacking, and there’s nothing more you can ask for. We know they’re going to be there for us, and they have been all year.”

Late innings have been especially difficult to navigate over the last few series. After the two blown saves today, the Cubs are now 9-for-20 in save situations on the year. There are internal reinforcements coming, though, as Pedro Strop is close to returning from his hamstring injury. 

“It’s more experienced guys coming back into the fold,” Maddon said. “Guys that have done that.

“When Strop comes back, then all these guys get pushed back. It’s just lengthens your bullpen. It lengthens it. By having him there, with what he’s able to do in the last inning or two. Stropy will lengthen us out.”

And while the noise to go get another proven reliever grows, and the date that signing Craig Kimbrel without losing a draft pick nears, the Cubs are confident that a few rough outings from a good group, going through a tough stretch, is no reason to panic. 

“I still think we’re in a good spot,” Cishek said. “As the fans ride the roller coaster, we do too. There’s ups and downs throughout the long season. We started off slow, then we rode a hot streak for a long time. It’s going to happen again, we’re going to be fine.”

High-flying Brandon Clarke looking to jump into top-10 of 2019 NBA Draft

brandon_clarke.jpg
USA TODAY

High-flying Brandon Clarke looking to jump into top-10 of 2019 NBA Draft

We see this type of story every year. A player who received little attention during the college basketball season parlays a strong finish and impressive athletic testing results into a rapid climb up NBA draft boards.

Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke is one of the players making that kind of jump this year. The 6-foot-8 Clarke was projected as a second round pick at the start of the season, playing in the shadow of his more acclaimed frontcourt mate Rui Hachimura as the Zags won another West Coast Conference title and advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament.

Clarke started receiving some first round buzz late in the season and really caught the attention of NBA scouts with a 36 point, eight rebound, five block performance against Baylor in a second round NCAA tournament game. His numbers for the season are impressive: 16.9 points per game on 68.7 percent shooting from the field, 8.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. And, he followed that up by testing out No. 1 at his position at the NBA Draft Combine with a 34 inch standing vertical, a 40.5 inch max vertical, and a 3.15 second three-quarter court sprint.

Still, in today's three point centric NBA, some teams are concerned about Clarke's limited shooting range, with most of his points coming within 10 feet of the basket. Clarke says that won't be an issue when he gets a chance to work out for teams over the next four weeks.

"Honestly, it's really just about getting a lot of reps," Clarke said. "I've been getting up so many reps with the NBA ball, from the NBA three, and I've been shooting it really, really well. I'm really hoping that teams get to see that, and know that I've been working on it, and taking pride in getting better every day. If I can just keep on getting better, and teams can see that, I think it will help me out a lot."

Clarke is now considered a possible top-10 pick, with several mock drafts having him going to the forward needy Washington Wizards at No. 9, ahead of Hachimura, who may have received a promise from the Timberwolves at No. 11. There's no question Clarke is an explosive leaper who should have an impact at the defensive end from Day 1.

"Blocking shots is something that pretty obviously I'm good at. I was top 3 in the country last year for college basketball," he said. "So, with that being said, I think I'm only going to get better at it. Just something I can bring to any team I get drafted to pretty quickly."

Just about every college player has to adjust to facing bigger and stronger players once they get to the NBA. It’s one thing to dominate against the likes of Pacific and Pepperdine, but can Clarke succeed against some of the elite power forwards in the NBA? He understands the importance of hitting the weight room this summer.

"That’s something that I would love to do. Obviously, the guys are bigger in the league, so I’m going to have to be bigger too," he said. "There are so many players who have changed their bodies once they got there, so I’m not really nervous about that. I'm just looking forward to playing against bigger guys and better competition."

Would the Bulls consider Clarke at No. 7? There is a need for an athletic power forward to play behind Lauri Markkanen, but Clarke's skillset is eerily similar to all-time Bulls draft bust Tyrus Thomas, and that in itself will probably drop him on the team's draft board. Unless the Bulls trade down, their pick will likely come from a group that includes Coby White, Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter.

Like so many other players in the 2019 draft, Clarke falls into the risk/reward category, with his ability to develop a consistent outside shot critical to his long term success. Still, it's been a remarkable climb for a player who was lightly regarded by most NBA teams just a few short months ago.

Around the association

You couldn't help but feel a little bit sorry for Golden State All-Star guard Klay Thompson, who was informed after practice on Thursday that he failed to make one of the three All-NBA teams, potentially costing him $30 million on a max contract this summer.

With so many talented guards in the league right now, it's hardly a slight that Thompson failed to finish among the top-6 in media voting. Who would you leave out among the guards that made it? Steph Curry and James Harden were the first team choices, with Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving on the second team and Russell Westbrook and Kemba Walker third team selections.

An obviously agitated Thompson didn't appreciate receiving the news from the media, and openly questioned how Golden State's run of five-straight Finals appearances didn't carry more weight with the voters. Thompson said it wasn't a big deal, and he would rather win a championship than make an All-NBA team. But knowing how much money he just lost had to be a painful pill to swallow, especially considering a guard from a non-playoff team like Walker was voted to the third team, making him eligible for the super max contract Thompson just lost.

Speaking of Walker, will that All-NBA honor wind up being his ticket out of Charlotte? Hornets' general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team will do everything possible to keep the three-time All-Star, but the price tag for a max extension is now a lot higher, and the small market Hornets may decide they're better off not committing huge dollars to their 29-year-old point guard.

Charlotte has been unable to build a consistent winner despite a number of high draft picks and the ill-fated five-year contract given to Nicolas Batum. Bringing Walker back on a super max deal would lock them into the current roster for the foreseeable future, and given the fact Charlotte has missed the playoffs in four of the last five years, is that really the best strategy? If the Hornets decide to move on from Kemba, teams like Indiana, Dallas and the Clippers will be waiting with ample cap space to offer Walker a four-year max contract.

As we've seen with the explosion of quarterback salaries in the NFL, it seems like every offseason brings a new record contract. How about this factoid from ESPN'S NBA Insider Bobby Marks, who tweeted; earning All-NBA for a second consecutive season now has Giannis Antetokounmpo eligible in the summer of 2020 to sign the largest contract in NBA history. The five-year extension starting in 2021-22 would be worth $247.3 million and carry a $42.6, $46.0, $49.5, $52.9 and $56.3 million cap hit.

There's no question the Bucks will gladly offer that super max extension to a 24-year-old superstar who still has room to grow as player. Giannis is expected to win his first MVP award this season, even though the current playoff series against Toronto is showing how badly he needs to add a consistent jumper and improved free throw shooting to his game. Antetokounmpo's freakish skills and Mike Budenholzer's offensive system have made small market Milwaukee a legitimate championship contender, which is no small feat in a star-driven NBA where players routinely make decisions about their futures based on factors that have very little to do with basketball. Right now, Giannis is happy in Milwaukee and the Bucks are lucky to have the best young player in the game.

Of course, NBA teams wouldn't be paying those kind of salaries if the league wasn't making record profits. Business is good, especially after the new TV deals that went into effect a few years ago. And, with the advent of legalized gambling potentially opening up even more revenue streams, NBA owners will see the value of their franchises continue to soar.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.