Sunday, June 29, 2008

Field of Dreams

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I just got finished watching Field of Dreams for the first time. I realize for a girl who watches over 200 baseball games a season, regularly checks baseball stats, reads baseball literature in the off season, and has a slight obsession with baseball history, that the fact I'm just now watching this movie is beyond shameful. I have no excuse, so I'll offer none, but I do apologize profusely to the baseball gods.

I've seen lots of baseball movies. In fact, there are very very few that I haven't seen. I can't think of one that is better than this one. Your first reaction may be a clanging duh, but in an online poll taken during the Sox/Astros game, Field of Dreams was slaughtered by Major League! Believe me...I was as shocked as you! But this movie...

At the heart of this movie was all things great about the game. There was the magic of the game that only those who want to feel and see are able to experience. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer who are wanting to feel baseball's magic these days. There is the history -- the minute history of the game. The black sox are allowed to play again and are captained by Shoeless Joe.* Those who didn't last in the majors were called up again. And a son was able to play catch with his dad. What isn't there to love about that? I realize that Ray had no idea who was coming to play on his field when he built it, but I can tell you that if I knew that I was spending every single penny I had building a baseball field where I would get to play catch with my dad again...I'd do it in a heartbeat without even remotely thinking twice. And I'd ignore your scoffs while doing it.

Of course, there can't be a movie that delves into the history of baseball that doesn't involve Fenway, despite the fact that not one Red Sox player played on Ray's field. I was blown away by how much Fenway has changed! Seeing the changes little by little, year by year, it doesn't seem that different. But to look at what it looked like in 1988 totally blew my mind. There were, of course, no seats on the Monster, but the Monster was also missing it's Billboards (which may have been due to production, copywrite laws and finances or maybe not), but the most obvious was the missing Jimmy Fund kid. It also blew my mind that Ray was able to show up in Boston and get two tickets to that night's game without having to mortgage his house (which is good cause he was about to lose his house) or sleep on the concrete.

And how many wives would support their husbands through something like that? I'd like to believe more than we would think. Look at how many wives support their husbands who are away from home from February until September at the earliest, and if they're lucky October for the love of the game (or more probably for their husbands' love of the game). Before you throw the money signs in their eyes cop out to me, let me remind you that minor leaguers are paid peanuts, and their wives make the same sacrifices.

This movie covered it all, and it did it without crossing over into cheesy. I decided to share with you some of my favorite quotations from the movie. So, here goes:

"Don't we need a catcher? Not if you get it near the plate we don't."

"Hey -- is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa."

"Is Fenway the one with the big green wall in left field?"

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like a army of steamrollers; it's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again."

This movie reminds us of all that once was good and can be again. It reminds us of the good in baseball without focusing on what is wrong with the game. It's been awhile since sport fans have been reminded of the good in the game, and baseball has sufferred for it. But Field of Dreams brings baseball fans back to the point where we realize that the game, baseball, our game "once was good and it could be again."

If it's been awhile since you've seen it, go back for a second portion. If, like me, you haven't seen it before, watch it! Grab your glove, sit back and watch this movie (another upside is that with some hand work or a little oil you can have your glove broken in by the end of the show). Then go out and play catch with someone you love.

*I'll spare you a speech here about who should (ahmm...steinbrenner) and should not be baned from baseball and who should and should not be allowed into Cooperstown (a separate entity completely from Major League Baseball which for some reason upholds the bans given out by MLB), but I will say that anybody willing to look at the stats of that World Series can tell you Shoeless Joe in no way contributed to throwing those games. He did quite the opposite. His stats for the series were amazing!


I’m not very good at setting goals and making them happen. That probably sounds odd coming from a PhD student, but I see that as my job – or at least a means to a job. But goals don’t usually work for me. It’s not that I’m not driven; it’s just that life usually intervenes and makes the goals obsolete. However, ten years ago I set a goal, and a diligently worked at achieving it. When I first started I had no idea it would take as long as it has; it seemed like a goal that was easily achievable.

As someone who has always been amazed by the Oscars, I settled into the bed of my dorm room to watch the 70th anniversary of the Oscars. Ten years later and ten years of Oscar celebrations later, it’s still the greatest telecast the Academy has ever put on. It highlighted the classics and brought on stage every living actor/actress who had won best leading and supporting role Oscars. It was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to “Old Hollywood.” It was magical for me. I decided that night that when summer came I would take home my TV and VCR (yes, VCR) to spend the break watching old movies. At some point between February and the end of the semester, I happened upon the AFI’s list of 100 greatest movies of all time. I knew it was the perfect guide to my education in classic film. I started from scratch ignoring the fact that there were about 15-20 of the movies that I’d already seen. They would have to be re-watched to count.

Over the past ten years the journey of reaching my goal has been amazing. I remember walking downstairs to the kitchen of my Momma’s house after watching Casablanca for the first time. I was still numb from the experience. Jeff was down there watching TV and was busting at the seams to know my reaction. There wasn’t much of one. I just watched the greatest movie I’d ever seen, and I was simply in awe. I stayed in awe for several days. My reaction to Citizen Kane (which tops the list) wasn’t so great. I remember cutting off the TV, sitting there in silence for a moment, then saying, “Wow! Casablanca was ROBBED!” When I watched Sunset Boulevard I loved the scenes where Joe and Betty are on the studio set writing after hours. As someone who had for years dreamed of being a screenwriter, these scenes were fascinating. A few years later when I was in California and walking, late at night, on the sets of Brooks Institute, I felt a deja vous that took me back to the movie. I actually said out loud, "I feel like I'm in Sunset Boulevard;" it was the closest my life will ever come to converging with Old Hollywood, and it was amazing! The most recent great moment came last summer while watching Giant. When it was over I wanted to talk to somebody who had seen it. There was so much commentary to be made, but no one had even heard of it, let alone seen it.

As of now, I have about a dozen movies to go.* And, as I said, life has a way of screwing up my goals. Tonight after hearing a movie reference on Numb3rs I couldn’t remember which movie it was. I decided to consult my list. I recently bought a new hard drive and transferred all of my documents to it. My computer was hooked up to my TV and not the hard drive, so I had to consult the internet for the list. What I found was the tenth anniversary of the list. It first blew my mind that it’s been TEN years since I started this pursuit. Then I realized what I had was an updated 10th Anniversary list. Several new ones were added while some (most of which I have seen) were removed. After throwing up my hands in resignation, I decided to go all out with it. I figured I’m in it this far…why not? I’ll watch all the movies on both lists – making my list of 100 several more. I was surprised by the changes in rankings. The Godfather moved ahead of Casablanca while Citizen Kane remained atop the list. On the Waterfront was shamefully taken out of the top ten while Raging Bull jumped 20 spaces into the top 10. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Brando over Deneiro any day of the week – especially On the Waterfront Brando (sigh!).
So, while most of my goals don’t come to fruition – actually because most of my goals don’t come to fruition, I’m sticking with this one. I’m hoping to have the list (both versions) finished by the time I finish school. I started the list my freshman year, it seems appropriate for the goal – my classic film education – to end with my formal education. But if I don’t finish by May (the list…I’m finishing the formal education or I’m going to go insane), I’ll finish it next year. But, rest assured, this goal will be met.

*And before you say, “What the crap is taking you so long?!” remember that in that time I’ve gotten 2 and 4/5 degrees. I’ve also kept up with the newest movies, including seeing all Oscar nominated films. Also, the fact that I pay more in rent than I make a month puts a serious cramp on my Blockbuster budget. I’ve viewed every one Butch has at the Video Shop on both DVD and VHS. Many of the movies are four hours+, and several are silent. How many silent movies have you watched in the last 10 years? Some of the silent ones are amazing, but there are some that will put you to sleep. Trust me, this has been a bigger feat than you would think.