5 Questions with...Tribune's Michael Phillips

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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

White Sox still reeling after Royals rally for comeback victory

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White Sox still reeling after Royals rally for comeback victory

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox can’t seem to stop the bleeding.

The Kansas City Royals inflicted another painful wound on Friday night as they rallied from four runs down to send the White Sox to a 7-5 loss in front of 28,508 at Kauffman Stadium. Eric Hosmer homered and drove in four runs, including a go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh inning to send the White Sox to their 12th loss in 16 games.

Melky Cabrera had a grand slam, and Todd Frazier also homered during a five-run rally that had the White Sox well positioned to win. But the bullpen faltered again as Dan Jennings, Matt Albers and Zach Duke combined to allow three runs in a four-run, seventh-inning Kansas City rally.

“It’s one of those games, not really much to say,” Frazier said. “They just kept clawing back. They came after us (in the seventh) and kept chipping away, and that’s what they do. We gotta find a way to put the fire out, and we couldn’t do it.”

The White Sox had to be in high spirits after the top of the sixth inning.

Not only did they finally crack Royals starter Danny Duffy, who retired the first 16 batters he faced, they broke the game wide open.

Those warm and fuzzy feelings didn’t last very long.

White Sox starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, who celebrated his 32nd birthday Friday, gave up an opposite-field solo homer to Hosmer in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 5-2 game. Gonzalez, who retired 16 of 19 after he allowed a pair of singles to start the game, exited after Brett Eibner’s one-out double in the seventh.

Then all hell broke loose as the White Sox used five pitchers to navigate the inning.

Jennings walked Jarrod Dyson, and Albers entered and allowed an infield single to Alcides Escobar to load the bases. Rookie Whit Merrifield followed with a two-run single to make it 5-4. After an umpire review, Escobar — who originally was ruled out — and Merrifield advanced into scoring position when Albers uncorked a wild pitch.

Albers struck out Cain and gave way to Duke, as the White Sox opted to face Hosmer with first base open. Duke jumped ahead 0-1 in the count, but Hosmer, who also had an RBI groundout in the first, dumped a slider off the outside corner into left for a 6-5 lead.

Nate Jones entered and recorded the final out of the seventh. He allowed an insurance run in the eighth.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he preferred to face Hosmer with Duke versus loading the bases for Salvador Perez and calling upon Jones.

“You consider it,” Ventura said. “I mean you load it up, you don’t give Jonesy much to work with there. Dukie has had some good numbers against Hosmer.”

The White Sox had a chance with two on in the eighth against Kelvin Herrera, but he struck out Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton. Wade Davis pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out.

Duffy looked content to extend a recent miserable run by the White Sox offense.

Working on a pitch count of 75 to 80, Duffy’s start looked special for 16 outs.

He overpowered White Sox hitters early, striking out four of the first six batters he faced. Rarely did he go deep into any counts, save for at-bats by Austin Jackson and Abreu, both of which resulted in fly ball outs. And none of the contact Duffy induced was hard, either.

Then they woke up.

Trailing 1-0, Avisail Garcia singled to right with one out, and Dioner Navarro dumped a single into shallow right. Jackson also singled to right to load the bases for Cabrera, who jumped on the first pitch he saw for a grand slam — his first since July 29, 2011, when he played for Kansas City. Frazier gave his team a four-run lead with a 413-foot homer to left, his 15th.

But all it added up to was another deep cut inflicted by the Royals.

“It’s tough,” Albers said. “We’re battling. We’re not giving in. There’s nobody hanging their heads. You’ve got to battle. It’s tough. Long season. It’s never fun going through these stretches, but you can’t let it get you down, can’t let it change the fun part of the game, going after hitters, for me especially. Just get ready for tomorrow and try to get some more outs.”

Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

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Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

Kevan Smith has had a roller coaster of a month, and it's back on the downfall. On Tuesday, Smith returned to Triple-A Charlotte after missing about a month due to a back injury. But after the game, Smith went back on the DL with an undisclosed injury. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run.

Smith was promoted to the main roster on April 24 to replace catcher Alex Avila, who went on the 15-day DL with a sore hamstring. The following day, Smith suffered a sacroiliac joint dysfunction injury during warm-ups without making his MLB debut.

Nate Jones returned to action last week after missing a few games due to a bruised foot caused by a line drive. Jones made three consecutive appearances from May 21-23. In those games, he pitched a combined 1.2 innings and only allowed one hit while striking out three.

Jake Petricka (right hip impingement) and Daniel Webb (right elbow flexor inflammation) are still on the 15-day disabled list. There's no timetable for their returns. On Saturday, manager Robin Ventura said Petricka was still battling soreness in his hip. 

CUBS

The Cubs dodged a serious injury bullet a week ago when Jason Heyward crashed into the wall in San Francisco. The Cubs outfielder wound up missing just three-plus games and returned to the lineup Tuesday against his old team in St. Louis.

Heyward went just 1-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts in the final two games against the Cardinals, but his re-insertion into the lineup has helped create a butterfly effect with the Cubs lineup. Heyward did make his one hit count — a two-run double in the Cubs' 9-8 victory Wednesday.

The Cubs got more positive outfield news when Matt Szczur was activated from the disabled list Saturday and has looked completely over his hamstring issue.

Szczur has appeared in every game since his return, going 3-for-6 with a triple, two RBI and two runs scored. He his now hitting .389 with a 1.089 OPS on the season.

'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

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'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

"Yay me!"

That's how David Ross announced his presence to the Chicago media Friday afternoon, almost four hours after hitting his 100th career homer.

Ross' three-run blast in the fourth inning (before a pair of rain delays lasting 93 minutes) helped lead the Cubs and Jon Lester to a 6-2 victory Friday.

"It was just my personal thing," Ross said. "It was nice to have a nice, round number. One hundred in The Show is pretty cool for me. But it affected the game and impacted the game, so it's even better. It wasn't just a blowout or a meaningless homer when you're down a bunch."

The Cubs have been counting down to 100 since last season and finally got to celebrate with "Grandpa Rossy," who sported a Papa Bear T-shirt after the game.

Joe Maddon gave Ross a bottle of wine and Lester gifted his personal catcher a bottle of champagne in a box signed by everybody on the roster.

"The boys were excited. I was excited," Ross said. "I think my favorite part while all this has been going on is rounding second base and looking in the dugout. Makes me smile every time seeing everybody so happy for me and counting down for me.

"They're as happy as I am, so that makes me feel good."

As soon as Ross made contact, he knew it was gone, slowly walking a few steps and uncharacteristically admiring it a bit before beginning his trot.

He got a curtain call, too, and he acknowledged hitting his 100th blast was extra special coming in front of the Cubs fanbase.

"I run down in the outfield before the game and ever since I hit 99, that's all I hear: 'Hit a homer, Grandpa,' I mean, nobody even knows my first name anymore," Ross joked.

"It was cool. There was even a David Ross sign a little girl had today. I mean, who doesn't like seeing that? Stuff like that is just really cool."

It was Ross' fourth homer of the season and he now has 17 RBI and an .828 OPS. Compare that to the 39-year-old's one homer, nine RBI and .519 OPS last season.

"It's awesome," Lester said. "Obviously, going into last year, we all knew where he was. I did. He'll admit: He didn't swing the bat like he wanted to last year.

"It's just nice to see him feel comfortable and be the old Rossy. I'm glad he did it. It's kinda nice he did it the day I was pitching to add a little bit to it."

Ross' 100th homer ball wound up glancing off the Nuveen sign in left field and wound up on Waveland. The fan that ended up with it only asked for a photo with Ross in return.

"Who wants a picture of me?!" Ross laughed. "I'm surprised he didn't ask for [Kris Bryant] or [Anthony Rizzo] or something like that. Again, yay me!"