…he will come.”
Twenty-five years ago today saw the first general release of the movie “Field of Dreams”. It was a big hit, received an Academy Award nomination, and became a staple of movie channels yearly around opening day. Roger Ebert, when asked to comment on the year’s Academy Award nominations said (and I paraphrase here) that it wouldn’t win, but that fifty years from now it would be the one movie from the year that people would still watch. Well, we’re half way to fifty.
It’s an interesting movie. A lot of people hate it. They think it’s too sweet, or too much a hymn to the 1960s. That last group deserve to be told the same thing that Ray Kinsella’s wife (Amy Madigan) tells Beulah the angry housewife (Lee Garlington) they had two fifties and moved right on to the 70’s. Others complain that it gets its baseball wrong. That Shoeless Joe (Ray Liotta) hits right-handed in the movie and throws left-handed, when the real Shoeless Joe was just the opposite. That’s too much focus on minutiae. It’s like dismissing “Casablanca” because you really didn’t need a special exit visa to leave Morocco in 1941. Others complain it’s too benign toward the Black Sox (and it is). Those things all miss the point of the movie.
Because it’s not really a flick about the ’60’s or about baseball. It’s a movie about family and dreams, not about on which side of the plate a man stands when he bats or about the influence of the works of Terrance Mann (the fictional author played by James Earl Jones) on the childen of the 1960s. It’s about fathers pushing their own dreams off on their children as John Kinsella (Dwier Brown) does with his son Ray (Kevin Costner). My son will tell you I’ve done it to him and if you’re honest you’ve probably done it to your own child. It’s about setting aside your own dreams for you family. Ray Kinsella gives up his dreams so he can run a farm in Iowa because that’s what his wife wants him to do with his life. I’ve pounded my head on the wall more than once because I had to give up something to make my wife happy. So have you. It’s about finally getting a chance to repair damage. The cornfield ball yard is the family’s chance to repair the damage done to Jackson and his teammates. It’s a chance to let Doc Graham (Burt Lancaster in his last movie) fulfill his dream and at the same time to know that it was much more important that he hadn’t been able to fulfill it earlier.
Some criticize it for not being a “baseball” movie. But then most good sports movies aren’t really about the sport, but about the people involved. “Pride of the Yankees” isn’t about baseball, it’s about Lou Gehrig and his relationship to his family, later to his wife, and finally to his disease. He just happens to play baseball. And “Field of Dreams” centers around a baseball diamond, but is about a family who happens to build a ball diamond.
I know very few men who can watch the final scene with Ray and John Kinsella playing catch without a tear. The key male figure in my growing up was my grandfather, not my dad, but I’d give a lot to throw the ball around with him. He never met my son, although he did meet my wife. We hadn’t played catch in years (he was in his 80s when he died and just wasn’t capable of doing so anymore) and he was never able to play catch with his great-grandson. I’ve played catch with my son and he’s played catch with his.
So if you have a copy of the flick around, take a couple of hours to sit down and reacquaint yourself with an old friend. And take just a second to savor my favorite line from the whole movie when James Earl Jones says “Peace. Love. Dope. Now get the hell outta here.”
FYI I’ve just undergone an eye operation. My Doc called it “minor”. I reminded him that a minor operation is what the OTHER guy has. It was successful, but my body has not taken it well (headaches, cramps, etc.). So I’ll be on hiatus around here for a while; until my bod decides it was ok to get a cataract removed. That means I can read your stuff, even comment on it, but the effort necessary to research and then write coherently is currently beyond me (some may feel the coherent part is always beyond me). I have a couple stockpiled, but don’t expect much for the next couple of weeks. So do me a favor and don’t trash the place too bad while I’m out of kilter. 🙂
Tags: Field of Dreams