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Houdini and Field of Dreams


One of the many things I love about this Houdini book I’m writing now is that people have powerfully different views of the man.

There are those who see him as the ultimate magician … and those who don’t see him as a magician at all.

There are those who think he was a hack who couldn’t even do a basic card trick with any style or grace … and those who think he, more than anyone of his or any time, captured the very essence of magic: Doing what seems to be impossible.

There are those who find him to be an egotistical boor who bullied his way to fame through his advanced understanding of public relations … and those who find his ambition, work ethic, imagination and unbreakable spirit to be an inspiration 90 years after his death.

And so on; a modern biography of Houdini is really many biographies because Houdini was so many things to many different people. Mostly, though, I think he was and remains an IDEA. One of the things that staggers me is how often Houdini, even in his own time, was referred to in jokes or newspaper one-liners or completely unrelated stories about escape from an impossible trap. As far back as 1899, long before Houdini had achieved any real level of national or worldwide fame, there were references to prisoners trying to pull a Houdini or musings about how nice it would be to Houdini our way out of some problem or other.

In so many ways, this is what my book is about: This man, who came from nothing and had nothing, not even an interesting name (he was, you probably know, Ehrich Weiss), whose father was a Rabbi without a congregation, who never made it past the sixth grade, who ran away from home at 12 with no prospects, who began working in a tie factory in the New York garment district when he was 13, who so struggled as a young magician that he tried to give up magic just months before he caught his big break — this man grabbed on to this idea that still enraptures us.

All of which brings me to Field of Dreams.

You probably know that Field of Dreams is taking a beating again. This seems to happen every so often — someone who had a visceral reaction to the movie is reminded that other people like it and so they unleash their fury, reminding everyone that, no, that movie SUCKED and was STUPID and  MADE NO SENSE and MADE THEIR TEETH HURT and so on.

And also: Whatever feelings you may have had watching that movie were manipulated … and you should feel pretty stupid for having them.

That, I suppose, is what bothers me about the anti-Field of Dreams rants. Look: It’s a lousy movie in so many ways. I know a lot of people who love it like I love it, but I don’t know a single person who avoids this obvious part. We all feel uncomfortable that the producers didn’t put at least a  couple of Negro Leagues players on the Field of Dreams. We all know that Shoeless Joe Jackson was not a righty-hitting, lefty-throwing man who sounded like Henry Hill. We all know that much of the dialogue is overbearing, and Burt Lancaster set a new land-speed record for overacting, and the plot doesn’t always follow, and the music, yikes, the music attacks you like Gremlins in the movie theater.

And we know that the Terrence Man character, who idolized Jackie Robinson, seemed a bit too excited seeing Shoeless Joe Jackson, who did, after all, take money to throw the 1919 World Series when baseball was all white.

So why do we love it? I’ll tell you why: It is because Field of Dreams, like Houdini, grabs hold of a sensation that means something to us. With Houdini, the idea has something to do with escape. With Field of Dreams, it has something to do with connection. My old teammate Craig Calcaterra writes a ferocious takedown of Field of Dreams which he builds on the premise that the filmmakers had no real father-son story to tell here and were only trying to manipulate people into buying in:

You don’t like ‘Field of Dreams’ because you never played catch with your dad!” is a common refrain one hears from defenders of the movie. My response: “This movie is not about you and your dad. It’s about Ray and John Kinsella, and they are total ciphers about whom it’s nearly impossible to care because the filmmakers decided their story wasn’t really worth telling.”

But this is exactly wrong. It was nearly impossible for CRAIG to care, which is fine, his business, I’m not telling him or anyone else to like the movie. But for many of us — many, many, many of us — the relationship of Ray and John Kinsella (and the relationship of Ray and his daughter Karin) touches something deep in us, something that no other movie really gets at, fathers and children and baseball.

Corny? Sure. The movie in unapologetically corny.

Maudlin? Sure. The movie is unapologetically maudlin too.

You don’t have to buy in. I could give you a million reasons why you shouldn’t buy in. Any Field of Dreams fan can. I mean, the guy plows under his cornfield to build a baseball stadium because a ghost told him to do so. Then he kidnaps a famous writer and drags him to Fenway Park because a voice told him to do so. Then they go to Minnesota to find a dead former ballplayer who played in one game because a voice told him to do so. Field of Dreams is a cynic’s dream, it offers every opportunity to feel superior because you didn’t fall for its mawkishness, you didn’t overlook its myriad flaws, you didn’t let its oversentimental sweetness suck you in. No sucker you.

“Field of Dreams,” Roger Ebert wrote in 1989, almost 30 years ago, “will not appeal to grinches and grouches and realists. It is a delicate movie, a fragile construction of goofy fantasy after another. But it has the courage to be about exactly what it promises.”

I admit it: I cried when Ray and John Kinsella had that last catch. It made me think of the many times I played catch with my Dad. I don’t begrudge anyone who saw that scene and rolled their eyes and put their finger in the mouth in the universal “I want to throw up,” gesture. You’re 100% right to feel that way. I just prefer how I felt.


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73 Responses to Houdini and Field of Dreams

  1. Matthew Clark says:


    • SDG says:

      I’ve never seen it. I probably should.

      But after reading Craig’s critique, I don’t think Joe’s piece addresses the complaint. The problem isn’t that the movie is mawkish or sentimental or unrealistic. It’s that the father-son relationship doesn’t make sense. Why is this all-American good guy, so wholesome he’s played by Kevin Costner, lived a completely straight-arrow life, such a crushing disappointment to his father he has to atone?

      It’s also about the power of nostalgia for a past that we’re all supposed to miss. But never mind that we’re celebrating a criminal who played in a racist system – what was so special about the 1920s that these men and women will drive across the country and pay money for? I don’t know too many women nostalgic for when they couldn’t vote.

      • invitro says:

        “what was so special about the 1920s that these men and women will drive across the country and pay money for? I don’t know too many women nostalgic for when they couldn’t vote.” — The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, so women could vote for at least 90% of the 1920’s. Also: having fond notions of certain features of a time period does not imply approval of all features of the period. If nostalgia meant loving everything about the past, then nostalgia wouldn’t exist.

      • mark G says:

        Calcaterra is right in part but he’s really, really wrong overall. Yes, the film never really develops the father/son relationship beyond very sparse details. But that is in part what makes it universal. My relationship with my Dad was NOTHING like that in the movie. Truly zero similarity except for being, well, father/son. But the very lack of specificity is what helps universalize the story to all father/son duos. Which Calcaterra again misses because having just argued the film lacks specifics about that relationship, he then says in the next paragraph that the specifics it does have prevent it from being universal.
        It actually seems that the movie’s real sin in Calcaterra’s eyes is its politics, or more accurately, his understanding of those politics. It was news to me to read it is a refutation of 1960s boomer progressivism. At most it showed some boomers realizing as they mature that not everything that preceded them was worthless. That’s not the same as rejecting their own beliefs. Craig has his own baggage he brings to the movie and that’s his problem, but the growing tendency to judge everything primarily by whether it affirms your political worldview — displayed in full in his article — is one of the worst aspects of current culture.

        • SDG says:

          Just because a movie doesn’t intend to have certain political beliefs doesn’t mean it doesn’t have them. If the movie’s message is something you disagree with, it will affect your enjoyment of the movie, even without you trying to pick it apart. It’s while I recognize that The Incredibles is very well-made, the message to me is so messed up I can’t enjoy it.

          The aspect of our current culture I think annoys you is the gotcha-ness people sometimes have. Like, “I bet you thought you liked Field of Dreams, but since they have a black character extol the virtues of segregated baseball, liking this movie proves you’re racist! Ha! I am so much more enlightened than you!” That sucks.

          But that’s not what Calcaterra or Neyer are doing. They didn’t like the movie, partly because its politics (and everything, even detergent ads, has politics) affected how they felt when they watched it. It pushed different emotional buttons for them. They weren’t saying everyone who likes this movie supports the color line or hates baby boomers.

          • mark G says:

            I’m not saying the movie is entirely apolitical. I’m saying you can draw your political boundaries wide and look for allies and converts, or draw them narrowly and look for heretics. A generous left-wing view of this movie is that it fits within the left/liberal tradition, albeit in a quirky way that might have been improved. That was my view as a young man of the left in 1989 and was shared by pretty much everyone I knew. Calcaterra, IMO, draws those same lines much more narrowly — as I think many do today — and pronounces the film outside them. So it’s not exactly the same as the problem you mention (and it’s probably my fault that you thought that was what I meant). I do think there is a synergy between the 2 problems. Anyway, enough of this somewhat OT topic. If you care to respond feel free, and I will read it but I won’t respond so it can be put to bed. Cheers.

          • HenryEmmett says:

            Rob Neyer is a movie critic now too? Now he’s another guy like Craig C and Joe Pos here-writers I enjoy and then some. But his criteria for being a critic is the same as my dog’s for being an auto mechanic. Just no.

          • Dan says:

            What was the message in The Incredibles?

      • GaryW says:

        Maybe see the film before you offer an opinion on the film?

    • Rob says:

      I have watched this movie over 100 times and I cry every single time! Best movie ever!

    • hrl says:

      OK, I’ve never looked at a blog, don’t follow them, and just wanted to see what Houdini had to do with “Field of Dreams”. I cried the first time I saw it ( I cry every time I watch). When it ended the first time I saw it I called my dad (probably around 1989) (he and mom were still alive)and said “hi” and he was immediately handing the phone to my mom and I said “no, I called to talk to you”. He said “is there trouble”? I said “no, I just wanted to tell you that I love you”. He responded that he loved me too. My dad had never played catch with me, he was a railroader and was gone a lot of the time. The movie still means much to me because it is about boys (men) loving their dads and telling them so before it’s too late and you don’t get the opportunity. Do it NOW!

  2. Dave says:

    Strangely enough I had not heard about the backlash to the movie. It touched me and that is all that matters.

    • SDG says:

      It’s not so much backlash as everything, no matter how popular, has critics. (Except Star Wars). And the things that are the most beloved, the most meaningful to some people, inspire the most distaste on the other side. It’s probably a good thing. Better to loathe a movie than to not care about it.

      There are certain beloved movies that some people really hate. Love Actually is a big one – every December there are a million thinkpieces about why it blows. (Which I agree with. It really does). Or Garden State. It’s movies like those which invoke a response, because for the people who love them it’s emotional, not intellectual, the way you might like The Godfather. And that’s probably why Field of Dreams articles are such reliable clickbait. People don’t mess around when it comes to their feelings.

      • invitro says:

        “Except Star Wars” — I guess you mean just the original movie? Because all the others, after Empire, have plenty of critics. (I might even sort-of criticize Star Wars the 1st movie, by noting that it’s a children’s movie, and it’s pretty silly for adults to care deeply about it for other than nostalgic reasons.)

      • invitro says:

        “intellectual, the way you might like The Godfather” — Well… to an intellectual, the way that movie idolizes the mob probably seems pretty revolting.

      • Jim Walewander says:

        Glad you mentioned Love Actually. I happen to love it, much like Joe does Field of Dreams. They’re both fantasies, so it’s best not to apply them to reality. They’re also both retroactively embarrassing in some respects.

        But if you’re going to let your emotions be manipulated, these films do it pretty effectively.

        • SDG says:

          That’s it, though. I don’t care about the fantasy elements of the movie. I don’t care that the movie has a guy who delivers sandwiches living in a gorgeous loft in central London. I don’t care how realistic it is. I dislike the movie because of my emotional reaction to it. I think it’s hateful and cruel.

          I assume you don’t want me to go into why 🙂

          • Jim Walewander says:

            Well, I told you why *I* liked it…but I don’t suppose either of us will change the other’s mind.

            Perhaps we can agree on another film?

            3000 Miles to Graceland was bad.

  3. Nick says:

    I was 8 or 9 when the movie came out, and I loved it because I played little league and loved anything baseball. Every Friday my sister and I were allowed to rent one movie each at the grocery store (back when it was a normal thing for grocery stores to have a movie rental section), and I probably rented FoD half a dozen times if not more. I didn’t get any sentimental warm and fuzzy feelings at that age because sentimentality is a completely foreign emotion to an 8 year old boy. I do remember really enjoying the magic and mysticism of it all, however.

    Then as I became an adult I loved it for all of the same reasons PLUS for it’s absurdly unapologetic cheesiness. Make no mistake, FoD is just so ridiculous. But you, and the makers of the film, absolutely know that. You suspend disbelief with this film, just as you do with any fantasy film. FoD is laughably corny. I don’t care. I’m happy every time I watch it.

  4. Kael says:

    I really enjoy Field of Dreams, but I find it so distracting when Costner says “Hey Dad- wanna have a catch?” and the other guy doesn’t respond “‘Dad?!?!’ Why are you calling me Dad? You weirdo, you’re my age!”

    I know it’s a strange thing to get hung up on in a movie about voices from the ether and dead players coming back as ghosts who play ball in a cornfield. But we could have had nearly the same emotional impact (while *completely* eliminating the distraction) if Costner had said – delivering the line with the same cadence, vulnerability, and break in his voice – “Hey- wanna have a catch?”

  5. Yellowdog says:

    After a dozen or so viewings, I still cry when Moonlight Graham must make the decision to save the girl, and I still cry when Ray asks his dad if he wants to have a catch. Every time. Hate on it all you will, but this has been and will continue to be my favorite movie of all time.

  6. Steve says:

    I STILL tear up at that last scene. Yes, it’s corny and manipulative, but for anyone who grew up in a baseball family, especially if your father is no longer with you, the idea of wanting to just have one more catch with your dad is powerful.

    (Oh, and it settled an argument with friends of mine 30 years ago – you “have a catch” with your father, you don’t “play catch”)

    • frightwig says:

      Where I grew up, near Seattle, it was always “play catch,” but it may be one of those regional things like pop/soda/coke.

      I think Craig Calcaterra is right on my of his points–and even Joe concedes that “it’s a lousy movie in many ways,” but he still cries at the end because it reminds him of his own father. And that’s where I think Craig gets it wrong. The ending of the film works precisely because there isn’t too much specific detail to the relationship between Ray and his dad. You’re invited to project your own feelings about your father (or mother, maybe) into that scene. Whether your were close to your dad and wish you could have just one more day playing in the yard with him, or it hurts to think about how you never had that, it works either way.

      • BillM says:

        ” And that’s where I think Craig gets it wrong. The ending of the film works precisely because there isn’t too much specific detail to the relationship between Ray and his dad.”

        Yeah, CC found all the needles but he missed the haystack.

  7. Jim Murray says:

    Joe, I agree with you about how the movie made you feel – me too. It’s great that folks should have different points of view about such things. To me the draw of the film is the longing in the characters, the irrational need in Roy to build a ball field, the longing in Lancaster’s character to play with his heroes on this mystical Field of Dreams. The movie is a story to remind us that longing for something more in our lives leads us home. Sometimes that means irrationally, intuitively going into the unknown (and risk being the fool) regardless of what others may think. Sound like how most great historical human endeavors started!

    Thank you for writing about the Houdini like “magic” of the film.

  8. Clark Addison says:

    Read the book, or any of the baseball stories by WP Kinsella. Brilliant stuff.

    • invitro says:

      Having Joe Jackson as a hero is decidedly less than brilliant…

      • Dan says:

        As I recall the book, Joe was the dad’s hero, not necessarily Ray’s (or the author’s). He is acknowledged to have accepted money from gamblers, but was given a chance for redemption by Ray building the field. I think he’s more a vehicle for the father/son emotional connection than anything else.

  9. Dr. Baseball says:

    It was the Field of Dreams that allowed me to have one of the most magical times with my own father (and mother).

    The essence of story is about a father and a son having a catch and breaking down all of the other things in life that get in the way of the special relationship that exists between a parent and a child.

    Field of Dreams is a magical movie. Even more, the Field of Dreams site is a place where magic can still happen. Even today.

    You might enjoy my blog post prior to our trip to Iowa…

  10. usemok says:

    Me: I love Big Macs.

    Friend: What?! Big Macs are objectively horrible. Dry meat, stale buns, wilted lettuce…how can you like that stuff.

    Me: You’re right. They’re horrible. But it makes me happy when I eat em. You’re loss.

  11. Dr. Baseball says:

    By the way, yes, I always cry when the last scene comes on.

    “Hey, Dad, wanna have a catch…”

    Gets me ever time – ever since I saw it in the theater as a college kid.

    Also the book by Dwier Brown (the actor who played the dad), “If You Build It…” is outstanding. He tells the true story of his own relationship with his dad, but more, how people would see him, recognize him from the movie and share their own life stories. The movie struck them at their hearts.

    The movie resonated with many because of the timeless theme about a father and a son…

    That’s what it means to me – and always has.

    I love the movie. (The original book is very good as well.)

  12. HenryEmmett says:

    Craig Calc is a fine writer, but on this, he’s full of crap. The movie works very well, and frankly, Burt Lancaster is one of the better things about it. There seems to be this knee jerk overreaction to a film like his because it brings up the Afterlife, and making right what went wrong with a dearly departed. So okay, the kid playing young Burt isn’t believable, and okay, you don’t have Rube Foster or Spotswood Poles in the OF, and okay, Calcaterra would rather be home watching Seinfeld repeates. That’s all well and good. Having lost a significant amount of family the past decade now, I can assure you, this movie hits way more than it misses where it matters most, and as far’s the baseball part–want the real thing? Watch the Mud Hens or whatever. This works really well for what it is. Even if that guy with all the Money Kats from Ohio doesn’t think so.

    You want an overrated Costner baseball flick? Easy. Bull Durham. Bag THAT one and ship it to the CD factory please.

  13. Frank says:

    Field of Dreams is one of my favorite baseball movies. I just like it – a lot. It entertains me. When I watch the movie, I never think of politics or racism. It’s baseball. (I bet that’s what Buck O’Neil would say – he’d have had no problem with Terrence Mann’s soliloquy late in the movie.)

    When I go to the movies, or watch a movie on TV, I don’t get overly analytical and look for nits (hard to avoid, since I’m a practicing lawyer, but I try). I just want to be entertained. Arch Campbell, long-time movie reviewer in Washington, DC, didn’t go into great detail about cinematography and production values. Arch just told his audience whether he liked the movie. Whether it entertained him. That was good enough for me then (40 years ago), and it still is good enough now.

    Bull Durham is full of flaws, too, not the least of which is guys wearing jacks and seeing their breath in the middle of a Carolina summer. But I don’t care. That’s also one of my favorite baseball movies.

    (In case Craig Calcaterra is reading this, I also love the song “Centerfield”. I have told my wife and my minister that I want that song played as the postlude to my memorial service.)

  14. Up2Drew says:

    Two questions:

    One, who says, “Have a catch?” I’m not being snarky here, I played baseball till I was thirty, mostly in the Midwest, and never once heard this phrase before watching this movie. Is this a regional colloquialism?

    Two, did anybody else find a Amy Madigan’s character as annoying as I did? Kinsella’s wife absolutely made paint peel off the wall for me.

    • BillM says:

      “One, who says, “Have a catch?”

      Probably the same people who call fastballs “speedballs”…

      That said, I have heard “have a catch” before but not for decades.

    • moviegoer74 says:

      I think most people in the northeast say “have a catch.” That’s what I grew up saying on Long Island and I never heard anyone say “play catch” until I went elsewhere. Familiarity aside, I have always liked “have a catch” better than “play catch” for 2 reasons: 1) catch is not a game – there are no rules, no object…it’s just not something you “play;” 2) a catch is an interaction between 2 people. You “have a catch” in the same way that you “have a conversation” This is particularly true in the case of FoD, in which the the catch takes the place of conversation between father and son.

  15. Poseur says:

    Field of Dreams hits me square in the gut. I know I’m being manipulated, and I know the father/son dynamic is told in broad strokes precisely because the director wants me to fill in my own details and see my self as Ray, but… I don’t care.

    My dad played pro ball (minor leagues). We had a rocky relationship because I was a wise-ass young punk who knew everything. And he died when I was still a young man, before I grew up, had a family, became an adult, and had a chance to apologize.

    I watch that final scene and I want so badly to play catch with my dad. And yes, to atone.

  16. Robert Rittner says:

    I think we have to distinguish between liking or disliking a movie and evaluating its worthiness as a work of art-which I think Joe does. I like a lot of movies that I know objectively are not very good or are even pretty bad. I remember reading a Pauline Kael critique of “West Side Story” (Shakespeare without the poetry) and while I still enjoy the movie agree with some (not all) of her criticisms. Similarly, although I found the last half hour or so of “Sound of Music” unbearable, I generally was entertained by much of it, but was quite happy to read her view that if such tripe was popular, maybe we should all just give up.

    So with “Field of Dreams”, I not only did not tear up, although I do at some really awful “Lassie” movies (and when Holly Golightly finds Cat), but found it boring, heavy handed, long-winded, pretentious and dull. I don’t think someone whose reaction was more positive is stupid or mawkish or anything else, but I do object when people assume that because a movie touched their emotional core it must be a good or great movie and then make up all sorts of artificial arguments why it must be so. There are standards, maybe not fixed or certain, but standards that are reasonable, that can be used to judge whether a movie is good art and can distinguish between “Field of Dreams” and “Bull Durham” just as you can enjoy Mickey Spillane but should recognize that Tolstoy is the greater writer even if you don’t like reading him. (By the way, I am not suggesting “Bull Durham” is a movie Tolstoy.)

  17. Jim G says:

    If you don’t tear up at the end of Field of Dreams, you’ve never been a father or a son.

  18. Jake says:

    My reasoned, unbiased take is that Field of Dreams is marvelous and if you don’t like it you can go die.

  19. :-) says:

    We are all entitled to our opinions. I enjoyed Bull Durham and For Love of the Game–Other Costner baseball Movies. I didn’t enjoy Field of Dreams as well. What I didn’t realize, but learned from this article, is that there is a fairly decent sized population of others who also were not fans of the movie. I kind of thought most everyone but me liked it.

  20. Len says:

    No fictional movie captures baseball better than the original Bad News Bears. For me at least.

    • BillM says:

      Yup, I was the exact same age as the kids when TBNB was released and, with the obvious liberties taken, youth sports was pretty much like that back then.

  21. Robert says:

    There has come a time in our existence where many people find it an automatic reflex to hate on something others enjoy or hold valuable. It’s a shame, but that’s how it is. The internet lives on this. So, whichever opinion you happen to have about the film (I like it with reservations) hold on to it and let the others with the contrary mouths go and shout elsewhere. What should it matter to you what it matters to that kind of person? They should find a life which doesn’t touch on yours.

    • BillM says:

      I actually think that’s a fairly common part of human nature, sadly. Allows one to feel superior, and all that leads to.

    • invitro says:

      “What should it matter to you what it matters to that kind of person?” — Why should it matter to a “Field of Dreams” fanboy if a few people don’t like it?

  22. BillM says:

    I remember liking FoD when first released but also rolling my eyes a few times even then. I can’t imagine watching it now. I did get a bit dusty at the end (I had little relationship with my father & we certainly never played catch together). I would probably say now FoD got to the right place but in the worst way possible (the Terrence Mann character is inexcusable).

    But so what. Doesn’t hurt me if people love it. I mean, I got choked up watching the TRAILER to Where The Wild Things Are. Joe’s previous article on it & this one should be the final words on the topic.

  23. Brad says:

    My father helped me move to Iowa in July of 1989. After unpacking the truck, we went to a movie, FofD, not knowing anything about the film. It resonated with both of us, as we had spent most summer evenings of the previous fifteen years playing catch and going to Royals games. It also marked the end of that part of our relationship. He drove home the next day while I started my adult life. A few years later we took my boys to the FOD site in Dyersville, a short drive from where I live. It was nice, three generations throwing around the ball. We never called it “having a catch”, it was always, let’s play catch. Must be a Midwest thing.
    Some people love the movie, some hate it. That’s the beauty of film. We all see different things. I for one, am a Costner fan. I think he’s one of this generations underrated actors. Tin cup, Silverado, Bull Durham, the postman, Mr. Brooks, A perfect world, dances with Wolves, the untouchables. Hell, I even like Waterworld, which is universally panned as one of the worst movies ever.
    I also like the grumpy Mann character, especially his lines, “peace, love, dope!” and “someone got a learning disability?”
    James Earl Jones has such a great voice, he could probably entertain people by reading the NYC phone directory.

  24. KHAZAD says:

    Movies are very personal for people. There is something for everyone, like in food or music. For me, Field of Dreams was fantastic on first watch, but is not as good in repeated viewings. I am not sure if this is because there are parts which don’t hold up when you think about them more or because I am older or a combination of those things. If you have watched it many times and still feel the same about it, more power to you, but for me, there are several movies that came out that year (It was a very good year – and decade – for entertaining movies. Trying to find as many good ones in any recent year would be difficult) that I will re-watch from any point if I come across them while channel surfing, but FOD is not one of them.

    For those who are younger that saw it later, I don’t expect them to like it as much the first time. First, it may have been recommended by someone who loves it creating unreal expectations. Secondly, I don’t think it is the same watched on your TV with distractions as it would be the first time in a theater. Third, I think some younger people have problems with slow paced movies (which is fine – I don’t have any affinity for the latest comic book CGI movie or Fast and Furious whatever number it is either)and want more action and movement in their movies today.

    • SDG says:

      You know that slow, serious, and/or sentimental movies still exist now, right? Several of them are getting tons of critical praise and award nominations. And back in the 70s and 80s there were dumb explodey comic book movies as well as sentimental slower movies as well as serious issue movies.

      I understand the common beliefs that millenials don’t have feelings because of social media or something. But it’s objectively false. I do suspect (although I really don’t know one way or another) that if you aren’t a baseball fan (and young people today increasingly aren’t) then maybe this movie doesn’t push your emotional buttons. That’s different than saying young people can’t appreciate this movie because their brains are stupid and they don’t have the capacity to feel.

  25. Paul O says:

    I like the movie, and after seeing it and reading a few other things about its origin, began reading W.P. Kinsella, who wrote Shoeless Joe, the novel it was based on. He wrote a lot of baseball stories as most of you likely know and they’re all worth reading.
    Kinsella died last year and that made me feel much more genuine emotion than the movie did. His last few years were rough; he stopped writing for a long time after a car accident. His writing is unapologetically sentimental and mystical, just like the movie. I’m pretty sure he didn’t care if you didn’t get it.

  26. Al Michaels says:

    I’m sick of this “rewriting of history” because we all have to be politically correct.

    Joe writes, “We all feel uncomfortable that the producers didn’t put at least a couple of Negro Leagues players on the Field of Dreams.” Um, no, not so much. Doesn’t bother me a bit. In fact, I never even thought about it before now and I watch the movie a couple times each year.

    Some commenter writes above that he doesn’t know any woman that feels nostalgia towards the 20s because women “didn’t have the right to vote.” Really? That’s what it comes down to? Find me a woman that is a big baseball fan and I bet she would LOVE to see Babe Ruth in person.

    As far as James Earl Jones’ marvelous speech at the end and people commenting that a black man was nostalgic for segregated baseball. 1) The nation was segregated, why is baseball always picked on? 2) Listen to his speech and tell me anything that’s false in that speech. 3) We’re talking about baseball here. The line from Cy Young to Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth to Joe DiMaggio to Willie Mays to Willie Stargell to Robin Yount to Barry Bonds to Mike Trout. That is a beautiful thing how everything is connected and no matter what happened in this country, 2 World Wars, the Depression, Assasinations, Watergate, 9/11 (yes, I know this happened 12 years after the movie came out) to Isis, baseball has always been there.

    • SDG says:

      This has nothing to do with that useless, meaningless, politically-correct phrase “political correctness.” Babe Ruth has nothing to do with women voting or black people playing baseball. But the specific line from the movie is “It reminds us of all that once was good. And that could be again.”

      It’s not even about specific political issues. If you do nostalgia wrong, it’s some horrible Andy Rooney moment where a cranky old man (or woman!) is whining because rap music exists and no one wears poodle skirts any more and IN MY DAY no one ate yogurt or ethnic food. The people who dislike the movie are making the assertion that, due to the movie’s artistic ineptness, the nostalgia isn’t warm and comforting, or meaningful, or connecting you to something deeper. Instead, it’s a cranky old man complaining about facebook.

      You’re free to disagree with that, of course. But at least understand the argument.

      • Al Michaels says:

        I understand it fine.

        Joe wrote “We all feel uncomfortable because the producers didn’t put in at least a couple of Negro Leaguers” and a poster up above said that women don’t feel nostalgic towards the 20s because they couldn’t vote.

        You say I don’t understand the argument, at least I can read English. THAT’S what I was commenting on.

  27. Crout says:

    This most unbelievable thing about Field of Dreams was when a majority of the townspeople voted AGAINST censorship.

  28. Tampa Mike says:

    Field of Dreams is a very flawed movie, but I love it. People can criticize it if they want, I don’t care. I think part of it’s power is that it is illogical.

    I completely disagree about the complaint that there are no negro league players. Why would there be, those guys never played together so there is absolutely no reason for any of them to be there. Ty Cobb wasn’t there because he wasn’t invited. So Shoeless Joe is going to find Josh Gibson and ask him to play because he feels bad for him? That was the system in 1919 so that is how he would still behave in modern times.

    • SDG says:

      I’ve found people pick apart logical inconsistencies when the movie doesn’t work for them as a movie. I mean, we’re already talking about the supernatural and ghosts and the practical issues in turning a cornfield into a baseball diamond. It misses the point to try and figure out of Shoeless and Josh Gibson hung out in the afterlife and bitched about Landis. (OK, now I need someone to make THAT into a movie). I mean . . . baseball ghosts.

  29. Randy Monk says:

    I like Field of Dreams quite a bit, but not as much as I can’t stand Charles Pierce’s writings.

  30. Mort says:

    Never liked the movie. My father did like it. Didn’t much like playing catch with him past the age of ten. He wanted to play catch until the day I left home. I guess it helped him forget certain things about our relationship. He was never really a loving man, but more a man who wanted everyone to love him. And I got tired of playing that role.

    But, naturally, I played catch with him when he insisted. And I’ve never told him I don’t like the movie. I guess it’s the job of some people to experience the magic, and other people to bring it.

  31. Ron Kitchell says:

    I liked the movie for a very simple reason. I would love a real Field of Dreams where I could go watch Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, and many others. I don’t care the movie’s not Shakespeare and I don’t care if it fits my politics or not. It gets my imagination going and that was good enough for me.

  32. Nutmeg says:

    I don’t know why, but the final catch scene never hit me emotionally. I am a middle-aged man who played catch with my dad all the time and he is still alive. It is when Moonlight Graham chooses to cross the foul line and save the little girl that gets me every time. I tell this to friends and they think that I am nuts and am missing the point by getting emotional at the wrong point.

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