You know those movie quotes that you say so often and for so long that you forget where they came from? We usually assume that we’ve invented it, and usually we’ve also modified it enough to truly be unique. This RV is brought to you by a similar feeling. Brooke, in discussing Major League, wondered why AM would reference Gabby Hoffman in relation to Field of Dreams. It was discovered that she’d never seen the more classic and more awesome baseball movie. GASP. This was a Mary Poppins situation all over again.
So Brooke, tell us why you think Field of Dreams moved SWIFTLY to the top of the list? Also: what did you think of it?
B: I mean, I’m quite positive there were two critical factors behind Field of Dreams’ meteoric rise in Required Viewing priority. First, it’s summer and we love the kind of food that makes one say, ‘MERICA! We’re talking hot dogs, chips, cherry and apple pastry with vanilla ice cream, all the classics. And because we’re great at watch parties, we always embrace the food a movie begs for, so that’s the first reason: food. The second reason is that this picture is a modern classic. As one of the most iconic sports movies of all time, it was a bit of a stunner that I hadn’t actually seen it but just knew the basic mythology. That had to be corrected.
Even though I made a point of calling out obvious plot devices and unwinding the mystery before the natural reveals (mostly to annoy Justin in revenge for the new nickname he keeps throwing at me), I was as big a sucker for this movie as anyone. I thought it was supremely watchable and sweet. And even though I care about baseball only to the point of watching Madonna in the actual greatest baseball movie and eating fun ballpark snacks, I got caught up in the nostalgia and feels of the whole affair. I didn’t cry (though I suspect that was your goal), but I felt it. Most of that is thanks to James Earl Jones, who was the MVP here, even more than my close personal friend Kevin Costner, and much more than baby Ray Liotta, who I expected to go full gangster at any moment.
Okay, AM, am I correct about why it made the list? Tell us about why you love Field of Dreams and when you first experienced it.
A: I am on record for not being a passionate baseball fan. I don’t find it entertaining on TV, but it’s pretty awesome to experience in person. That’s mostly because beer and snacks, but it’s also about the energy of a stadium, and that’s always fun.
I actually think, however, that Field of Dreams should be on my Top 25 list, because I do enjoy it that much. I don’t mind that you telegraphed reveals (it’s so supremely obvious from the get-go that the “he” The Voice refers to is actually Kevin Costner’s dad upon rewatching as an adult)… should we tell the fine folks at home what your new nickname is? And why?
I didn’t think you’d cry, but I knew that Justin would. This one doesn’t trigger me quite as much as others (Toy Story 3, I’m looking at YOU), but this one hits him right in the feels. This doesn’t play into your triggers if you accurately predict way ahead of time that Kevin’s pop is going to show up. It is wish fulfillment, so I knew that would get you a little bit.
James Earl Jones is far and away the best part of this movie, but I also find a lot of joy in Amy Madigan and Ray Liotta. Amy’s hippie attitude is classically Flower Child Now In The 80s and I love that she really just goes along with what her husband wants to do. I don’t know if I’d be that cool of a wife, honestly. That’s a LOT of crop area they plow over! And I love how Ray plays Shoeless Joe. He’s doing that dead-yet-friendly dark thing so so well. Plus, I love that he and the other guys basically run a baseball clinic for Moonlight Graham on the Field.
And back to your original question: when did I first experience this film? You can probably guess: this was a Saturday Pizza & Soda Night feature. I remember that we didn’t understand what James Earl Jones says when he’s about to call his dad to tell him he’s not missing, and we rewound it about 3 times before one of us finally got it. I’m pretty sure this was also the phase where my weekly soda was orange or grape. And pepperoni pizza, forever.
Brooke, talk to me about how you’d deal with hearing voices in the cornfield, and since you say you enjoyed this film, tell me your favorite part?
B: My first and only assumption if I heard voices in a cornfield would be that someone was there to murder me. It could be the Children of the Corn or Leatherface or some other baddie, but whatever it was, I wouldn’t consider a voice I should be in cahoots with. Nah, I would run out of that corn with a heretofore unseen level of athletic prowess. That’s probably why Iowa is a hub for Olympic gymnasts — all those tiny girls feel like they should develop some serious muscle to fight whatever is out there. Anyway, I definitely don’t think I would have built it.
My favorite part of Field of Dreams is probably that damn fine monologue from James Earl Jones, it was v. inspirational. However, I also loved when James Earl Jones just WAS NOT there for a visit from my close personal friend Kevin Costner. And not that you asked, but my least favorite moment was when Amy Madigan’s bummer of a brother flung Gaby Hoffman off of the bleachers. It felt like a plot device-y thing for Moonlight Graham to come back to his medical calling and it was poorly blocked, besides. Also, the fact that Amy Madigan/my close personal friend Kevin Coster didn’t clock Timothy Busfield for being a supreme dick doesn’t resonate. Defend your child, flower children.
AM, I need to know what you would do if you started hearing voices out there in the corn. Also, your favorite and least favorite scenes.
A: I would assume I had gone completely crazy, and also I’d be pretty mad that the Voice wasn’t specific. Build WHAT? WHO will come? WHY??? Kevin had to have a vision in order to understand (erroneously, it turns out), that if he builds a baseball diamond RIGHT THERE, then Shoeless Joe can come back from the dead and play baseball. Honestly, they should have made the connection way sooner (like Brooke did), that this was never about Joe or baseball. It was about mending a relationship between a father and son. Would I have built it? Probably not, but I bet you the Voice wouldn’t have given up.
The James Earl Jones baseball monologue is one of the best in history, I’d argue, and also among my favorites. But my favorite part of this movie is when they’re in Minnesota, before the time hop to the ’70s. I adore the newspaper archivist lady and her sweet memorial of Doc Graham, and I equally adore the personal anecdotes about blue hats that comes from the guy at the bar. Best of all? When the archivist doesn’t make any mention of James Earl Jones being a famous writer, but it turns out that she knows with her “So are you” response and pat on the hand to his compliment about her writing skills. I don’t know why I find that so damn moving, but I do.
I have to agree that the hot dog choking is purely there to get Doc back in old-age form and to show what happens if the baseball ghosts cross the line. I remember being utterly devastated when I was a kid that he can’t go back, but I think we’re meant to understand that he didn’t really need to. He took advantage of his second chance, and it allowed him to go back to heaven (I guess?) with that extra resolution. It goes back to what Doc said in the ’70s time travel, that it would have been a tragedy if he’d only gotten to practice medicine for a short while. I’m less offended by the plot device nature of this scene, but it’s still my least favorite. Even with adult understanding, it’s tough to watch someone give up their dream, even if it’s to save a life.
Brooke, what do you think: Did Shoeless Joe really throw the World Series? We haven’t talked much about him, but what are your thoughts on this character? Does he appear purely as a device to get Kevin back with his dad? Or is there something else here?
B: Shoeless Joe isn’t definitely a plot device at his core, but he’s also a metaphor and a handy bridge between the then and now of the film, so he makes a lot of narrative sense. I also like that he’s one of the real figures who plays into the fictional world established in the film. Now, while I hadn’t seen this picture, I had seen Eight Men Out, so I did know all about the hot goss around Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 World Series.
From what I saw there, he absolutely took part in fixing the the series along with his teammates, and that lifetime ban they were given took a real toll, as Shoeless Joe, at least in that film, would go on to spend his days playing semi-pro ball under assumed names. He’s painted as maybe the best all-around player of all time, so there’s a certain kind of poetry that comes with bringing this guy back to play the game once again. The Order Muppet in me is rather conflicted that he should get that prize when he turned his back on the integrity of the game he’s meant to love, but then again, forgiveness is a huge theme in this picture, so again with the poetry. I mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again, I had a hard time settling into Liotta’s Shoeless Joe because the Liotta of that look and that era is firmly ingrained in my mind as Henry Hill — and Henry Hill just isn’t the guy you cheer for.
AM, where do you land on the case of Shoeless Joe, and tell me, if you heard about a field in Iowa with ghost baseball players, would you do as The Voice and James Earl Jones predict and go there without knowing why? Also, what do you think the rules are for who can see the players and who cannot? It seems to have something to do with faith or an open heart or some such, but I don’t think we got any firm guidance there.
A: Liotta brings a lawlessness to Joe that does make him slide more toward “bad guy,” especially since you know he did cheat. I take his presence at the field as a way of making up for the wrong that he did, and he seems genuinely remorseful. Not quite as remorseful as John Candy gets in Cool Runnings, but all the same, Shoeless Joe likely regretted that his team threw the series. I’d say it falls in line with all the ballplayers of the late ’90s using copious amounts of steroids. It doesn’t make it right, exactly, but it does slightly even the playing field if EVERYONE is using it.
I think to see the ghost players, you have to have a certain amount of faith in the unknown and unexplained. Timothy Busfield (who you don’t love because you haven’t seen The West Wing yet) stumbles upon the truth of the situation only after Doc Graham steps off the field, so maybe the scare of Gaby choking forced him to see it? It’s not explained, but that makes some kind of sense to me.
I actually have been to Iowa, and my family indeed visited the farm and baseball field. It was sort of curious; the family owned the farm but didn’t own the baseball field, so there were two gift shops, one owned by the family and one owned by (I think) the film studio. They had the usual plaques up describing the filming of the movie, and you could play baseball on the field if you threw them some additional money. At least that’s my long-ago memory of the situation. And it was about 100 degrees with 80% humidity, so my bet is that we didn’t stay long. It was still a cool place to visit, if sort of expected for an Iowan cornfield and farmhouse.
So yes, in short, if you build it, I’ll probably show up, especially if we can listen to James Earl Jones give us life advice.
B: Wow, I have been to Iowa many times and didn’t know that was a thing, but I’m willing to wager that regular, creepy cornfields are more inspirational than one that is being used as a tourism cash grab… unless James Earl Jones is on hand.
We’re coming back to the present, and our wheelhouse for the next entry, a 2018 gem called Love, Simon.