Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'Field of Dreams' Open Thread

  What did you think?


  1. This is one of my all time favorite movies. The story of a young man, disturbed by the image of his father's hero, and the haunting voice that drives him on to try to put right what has been made wrong so many years before. It is beautifully done. The score draws you in and holds you to a dream of life, where what is not earthly possible, becomes possible.

    Watching it again I realize that Ray's father was a part of the story from the very first, but it is disguised and shrouded in the mist of baseball's past. Like many of us, there were things that were not right, things that troubled Ray, things that went right to the core of who Ray was. The way I interpret the story, Ray is not able to come at it directly. It's too hard for him. And so it is his father's hero that plays on Ray's mind... Joe Jackson.

    It was a beautiful field, and so many of the shots of the Iowa sky were just breathtaking. I loved that there was a long wait between the building of the field and the point in time when something happened. A long fall, long nights, a long cold winter, and an empty field that held nothing but Ray's hope, his belief and his faith in following the voice. And as the finances start crushing in, there is little Karin telling him:

    "Daddy, there's a man on your lawn".

    I loved that, the little girl phrasing.

    And then, out in the dark, stands the solitary figure of Shoeless Joe Jackson.

    Joe's comments on the game, the things that he remembered, the smell of the fresh cut grass, the feel of a baseball sinking into your mitt, the well oiled leather of a well worked glove, the sound a bat makes when you connect, that good solid feel when you got the sweet spot of the bat on it, getting all of it. Any of us that have played baseball or football or any of a number of games can recall those types of things about the games of our youth. Things of times now put aside, times that we dearly loved, when we could hang out with our teammates, play hard, enjoy the simplicity of those younger days, to play with all your heart and to master the simple fluidity of the game. And behind all of it, for most of us, there is the memory of starting out, with that first catch with our Dad. It's all a part of it.

    When Joe recounts it all, shakes his head in regret and says:

    "Shoot... I would have played for nothing"

    I can relate to those words.

    Well, anyone can jump in here. I'll have more to say a little later.

  2. I really enjoyed the various elements of the story, and how they wove together into the main story of Ray Kinsella. Doc Graham, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, was a great story by itself. It was a true story that W.P. Kinsella had dug up while researching for characters he might use in his book - a guy that had only played one inning, and had no at bats. As a minor leaguer he had hit .334 in the year he was called up. The idea of getting to the majors, getting to play and then never getting a chance at bat, that had to be extremely disappointing. Moonlight was on deck when one of his teammates popped up to end that inning. The disappointment of coming that close to a dream and then having it slip beyond your reach, and how that might effect a man, that was a good story. In the case of Doc Graham, he went on and lived a remarkable, valued and rich life, where the lives of those around him that he touched was his mark of success. I loved how Burt Lancaster played his part. His ease with this young stranger, the ready invitation into his office - that was all well done. And the discussion he had in his office, his description of his love for the fun of playing the game, that was an excellent moment.

    Ray's offer to take him back for a chance at all that, and Doc's reply that he was already in the most important place of his life was a solid affirmation of the larger picture that the show was about. It was hard to see at the time, but it was. Baseball and the games of our youth can be a part of our time here, but it is all really a part of the backdrop. The most important things are the people that we love and care for over the course of our years here. The stories of Joe and Terrance and "Moonlight" Graham gave apparent meaning to the phrases the voice whispered to Ray. Underlying it though was the deeper more essential story that goes to the core of each of us, which neither Ray nor we traveling along with him could guess at.

  3. I wasn't going to admit this, but when I saw Field of Dreams in the theater, lo those many years ago, I didn't particularly like it. Mostly, I think, because I didn't "get" it. And it's proving to be one of those movies I can't figure out how to write about. (It's not helping that Jim's comments have been so great.)

    The structure reminds me of the fairy tales I read over and over growing up. There is a hero who accepts a mission from a mysterious being, and asks for nothing for himself but to be allowed the adventure. He completes a series of tasks, collecting companions on the journey, never knowing that each step, taken for someone else's benefit, would lead finally to his being granted his own heart's desire.

    Of course, this is far from the fairy tale world of Anderson or the Brothers Grimm; no kings or castles, dragons or witches (with the the possible exception of the book-banner at the PTA meeting.) And only the battles that we all know in our own lives, in the "real" world, must be fought: regrets and self-doubt, the mistrust and derision of others, the difficulties in balancing one's own needs and desires with the responsibilities already taken on.

    And just as fairy tales play on familiar fears and sorrows, Field of Dreams is a story built around losses we all recognize, and a hero with whom we can identify. It offers a warning to those still young, and a happy ending for those old enough to carry sorrows of our own.

    Regrets regarding relationships that we have hurt, or even broken; the pain of relationships damaged by the ones we love; the wish to have another chance to set things right -- whether it will renew the relationship, or simply allow a proper good-bye -- are universal. The movie acknowledges that, simply and tenderly, and reminds us we aren't alone in these sorrows.

    And the story itself is charming -- this tale of a man undertaking seemingly senseless tasks in order to bring comfort to others; the lessons he learns from the people he meets along the way; the deeper, more joyful appreciation he has for his family as he sees the love and support they offer him.


  4. (Continued)

    I especially love the scenes where Ray and his daughter watch the players from the past emerge from the corn and expand into the new ball field -- Karin with the quiet enjoyment of experiencing a new treat; Ray with the awe of witnessing something marvelous, fantastical, transcendental. And just those moments of that little girl with her dad, happy in each other's company, experiencing something special together.

    Each character is drawn lovingly, and altogether human. Both James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster bring wonderful combinations of mature seriousness and bits of humor and joy. I loved Doc Graham's contentment and quiet satisfaction with the life he made, his honest understanding of the value his life had been to others. And Terence Mann's progression from a self-professed has-been to a man delighted with his new adventures into unknown territory, inspired after years of isolation to explore something completely new and wondrous to share with the world.

    I think Amy Madigan's best moment is when she is laughing with delight, watching the transformation in her brother as he begins to understand the significance of what he is seeing in the ball field. And young Gabby Hoffman is quietly engaging as a happy, well-loved child, bringing child-like acceptance of each new wonder to her Karin.

    It was wonderful watching Ray Liotta's "Shoeless Joe" take in his surroundings, as mystified as Ray, but so profoundly happy to realize that he would be able to play ball again.

    And I enjoyed Kevin Costner more in this than anything I can think of. I really liked his ordinary-man-in-extraodinary-circumstances, his basic humor, his flashes of anger or frustration, his moments of near defeat when he struggles with seeming dead ends to supernaturally appointed missions. And his resolve to continue on his unexplained quest in spite of challenges and setbacks.

    Sometimes it's hard to watch other people's happy endings, but this is a fairy tale, a story of real world concerns cloaked in magical impossibilities, in which virtue is rewarded, and the hero just may live happily ever after.

    Happy sigh. :)

  5. Hey, I think it's my turn to pick a movie...

    My best friend is going to Italy in about a week. I think we should, too. How about (the rather girly) "Enchanted April'?

  6. Yeah... 'Enchanted April'.

    That would be great!

    Okay, a couple of days.

  7. One of my favorite moments comes at the very end, when Ray is speaking with his father, John, and John is telling him

    "I was sure this must be heaven"

    and Ray looks around him, back to his wife and daughter sitting on the family porch together, and you can hear little Karin utter a laugh, a happy, giggly laugh full of fun, and with his Dad standing next to him and a look of wholeness and contentment on his face, Ray replies

    "Well, maybe this is heaven."

    That was perfect.