Saturday, May 3, 2014

Field of Dreams

It has been well over a decade since I last watched the 1989 classic baseball movie, Field of Dreams( trailer). Since we are a few weeks into the new season of America's past time, it gave me the perfect reason to dig this movie out of my backlog box. Damn me for remembering this of all things, but I recall our family owned this on VHS because it was one of a few movies along with Wayne's World, and I want to say Adams Family Values that we got for free at McDonald's with the purchase of a value meal for a promotion they ran in the early 1990s.

In case you do not remember the premise behind, Ray Kinsella (Kevin Kostner) is just your average Iowa farmer, until he hears a voice in his cornfields inspiring him to build a baseball field over his crops so he can get a visit from banned baseball player, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta). Somehow Ray convinces his wife (Amy Madigan) to support him on this journey which also leads to him tracking down retired writer Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) and former ball player Moonlight Graham (Burt Lancaster).

This came out when I was obsessed about baseball, and a huge A's fan back when the Bash Bros. were ruling the diamond and before the strike of '94 that turned me off of it for nearly 20 years. I remember watching this many times before I was 10 and being utterly confused at which members of the cast were dead, who were alive, who were ghosts, etc. Seeing this movie for the first time since I was a child made things a lot clearer to follow this time around. Part of me was thinking the whole silly-on-paper concept of creating a baseball purgatory would not hold up, but I am still loving this movie all these years later.

Part of the reason why I still dig this movie is because I am a country boy at heart, and I love the whole "baseball diamond in the middle of a farm field" aesthetic the film is going for. Another reason is because there is a stellar amount of performances provided by all the actors. Kevin Costner is in his prime here as the innocent farmer just going with his gut instincts and Amy Madigan is fantastic as the super supportive, do-not-mess-with-me wife (Nazi Cows anyone?). I have not been a huge Ray Liotta fan this past decade, but he is priceless as Joe Jackson in here. Burt Lancaster absolutely nails it as the cup of coffee ball player who just wants one big league at bat in one of his final roles, and James Earl Jones nearly steals the entire movie away from everyone else with his unforgettable "People Will Come" speech. Almost anytime someone says the word baseball, I usually instantly hearken back to Jones' vintage, deep voice saying it with the right amount of candor like no other in one of sports films all-time classic scenes.

Another reason to watch Field of Dreams is that it is not your stereotypical baseball movie. It is not about the cliché underdog team that rises through the ranks for a feel good victory at the end. To me, it is about going with your gut and doing the right thing at all costs, no matter what obstacles are in your path and whoever is telling you otherwise. If you are lucky, you may find what you are looking for at the end of that journey, and for Ray Kinsella, well, it was making peace with his dad (Dwier Brown) in another classic scene to end the movie.

I have seen a few different editions of this video in retail. From what I have gathered, the BluRay release has a few more extra features, but the DVD I own has its fair share of extras too. There is a commentary track with director Phil Robinson and director of photography John Lindley. Phil Robinson also introduces all the deleted scenes, which actually have some decent background on the supporting cast and flesh out a few other details in the movie, so make sure to give these a watch. Finally, there is a 38 minute feature "From Father to Son: Passing Along the Pastime." It is a well put together documentary on the making of film, going over how much of an impact all the cast members made, and interviewing current MLB players about some of the film's memorable moments. It really is an insightful watch, but for whatever reason, Universal could not track down Kevin Costner to interview for this. They got nearly the rest of the entire cast, including Liotta, Madigan, Earl Jones and they even tracked down Dwier Brown for a touching story on his involvement from his small, but vital part in the film, so I am baffled as to why Costner did not contribute to this.

I have seen countless movies about baseball, but Field of Dreams will rank among the best because it is like no other. The only movie that tried to somewhat replicate it was Angles in the Outfield and that was absolute trash, but Field of Dreams is a classic and probably ranks easily somewhere in my top three baseball movies of all time along with Major League and Moneyball.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

21 Jump Street
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Fighter

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