After seven years in the San Diego Padres organization, infielder Cody Decker is trying to make the Kansas City Royals roster this spring. But the 29-year-old is much more than a Royals hopeful; Decker is a real Renaissance man. He starred in his high school's production of the Music Man, took film classes at UCLA, acted in an episode of "State of Affairs'' and produced some entertaining videos as a minor leaguer.
So when it comes to movies, Decker knows his stuff. With the Academy Awards airing Sunday night on ABC, we heard his take on the Oscar nominees, "Star Wars" (spoiler alert!), Spielberg and which baseball player deserves his own biopic.
What is your pick for best picture this year?
Decker: I didn't see every movie that was nominated, but I would say probably "The Big Short.'' Wait, I take that back. "Mad Max'' was the best movie of the year. It's organized chaos. I don't know how [director] George Miller shot it. From the new camera techniques that Miller came up with to taking the most basic plot ever -- basically two chase scenes -- and making it enthralling and the destruction beautiful, it was incredible. I was thoroughly entertained.
Of the movies that are more along the lines of what the Academy voters will go for, I liked "The Big Short'' the best. [The actors] really brought it, it has a good story and it was funny. It was more of a dark comedy.
"Spotlight" was well-acted, but I didn't feel like it had any story arc or any character development. You have four protagonists but you don't get much out of them. It's not that it wasn't good. But I felt like I was watching a documentary.
Who will win for best actor?
Decker: Leonardo DiCaprio will win [for "The Revenant"]. But he's not going to win for this film; he's going to win for the nine Scorsese movies he made before.
I guess you're not big on "The Revenant.''
Decker: Alejandro González Iñárritu is an extraordinarily gifted filmmaker, but the two movies I've seen of his are so far up their own a-- in pretentiousness that I just cannot get into them. As for The Revenant, he shot the entire thing during "magic hour'' (near sunset and sunrise). If I had been on that set, I would have wanted to strangle him. It must have taken nine years. The scene of Leo breathing was a nightmare. It was like, stop it -- just tell the story.
That being said, he's going to win for best director.
What did you think of "The Martian?''
Decker: Loved it. Thought it was charming and, as the Golden Globes pointed out, it was hilarious, which is how it won best comedy. I was disappointed that Ridley Scott wasn't nominated for best director. I thought he made a great movie and it almost made me forget how bad "Prometheus'' was.
Decker: Saoirse Ronan was great in "Brooklyn." It was a nice movie, and it hinged on her performance.
What about Cate Blanchett, for "Carol"?
Decker: Cate Blanchett has won too many Oscars, so she's not going to win. I didn't even bother with "Joy" because I had already seen "Silver Linings Playbook.'' If you've seen one of David O. Russell's movies, you've seen them all. He loves putting Jennifer Lawrence in his movies. I don't understand the fascination with her. Lawrence is a good actress but there is no Meryl Streep other than Meryl Streep. I want to know who Jennifer Lawrence's publicist is. I'm a good baseball player, but if I had her publicist, I would be the greatest baseball player who ever lived.
What movie should have been nominated that wasn't?
Decker: "'Creed." No question. Michael B. Jordan should have been nominated as best actor and Tessa Thompson should been nominated for best supporting actress, along with director Ryan Coogler. He also did "Fruitvale Station," another movie that didn't get the attention it deserved, and he's one of the best young filmmakers in Hollywood.
Outside of that, I didn't have any problems with any of the nominations. It was kind of a slow year for movies. I thought "Mad Max" was the best movie -- although I was shocked to see it get nominated, just because it's "Mad Max" -- and "Creed" was the second-best movie of the year. I think George Miller should get best director. He might actually get that. But they might give it to him for his whole career, like DiCaprio.
What movie didn't deserve a nomination?
Decker: I didn't see "Bridge of Spies'' ... but "Bridge of Spies.''
That actually was my favorite movie of the Best Picture nominees.
Decker: Based on how I fell asleep during the trailer, I can only imagine what the movie is going to be like.
But it's directed by Steven Spielberg.
Decker: His best work is not the slow, driven-out dramas. I love "Jaws,'' "Indiana Jones" -- not counting the last one, which we'll pretend didn't happen -- "E.T.'' I might even be the only person on earth who loves "1941.'' The man is a cinematic genius, but the one thing I cannot stand is when he's making a play in film. It's just hard to watch.
And, c'mon, it's written by the Coen brothers.
Decker: I will watch it. I promise. But under protest.
What baseball story would make a good movie?
Decker: I would really like to see the story of Jason Lane. Maybe it's just because I know him so well -- I was his roommate [in El Paso] and I got to see his story first-hand. He was a really successful big league hitter, then got sent down to the minors and couldn't get back up. He decided to become a pitcher and made it back to the majors as a left-handed pitcher.
Plus he appears in former best picture nominee "Boyhood" -- and hits a home run.
Decker: The Jason Lane story would be a great one. Outside of that, selfishly, the story of me, starring me. That would be really nice. It would be a balls-to-the-wall, action comedy movie. Think "Lethal Weapon'' meets "Diehard.''
But you wouldn't want Spielberg to direct it.
Decker: He can direct it because it's more action-based. He could do some stuff that would make it more interesting. And I have a miniature Ark of the Covenant that he could use.
Where is it?
Decker: It's not in my clubhouse. It's my first time with a new team and I'm doing my best to not be noticed for decorating my locker with something like that or my Han Solo mini fridge. The door looks like Han Solo trapped in carbonite.
What did you think of the new Star Wars film?
Decker: I absolutely loved it. I went in with high, high expectations and I think they were all met. There were a lot of nostalgic points for me. I mean, I got to see Han Solo on the screen again.
How did you feel when he was killed?
Decker: It broke my heart. It ripped my soul out of my chest. But I thought Adam Driver was so great [as Kylo Ren], and I can't wait to see the next one. It made me forget two of the three prequels. There was no Jar-Jar, and no CGI clone army for 40 minutes, there was no Hayden Christensen. I really liked the character Rey.
Do you think Rey is Luke's daughter?
Decker: I think that's what they were hinting. But it's too easy, so they'll decide to change it. I'll go to a different place and say she is a Kenobi, a descendant somehow of Obi Wan.
Maybe she's related to Chewbacca.
Decker: Maybe. Sometimes Wookies do spawn earth-like children. If so, there will be a lot of chest hair going on.