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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

 

Fields of Dreams and Fantasies

Continuing the baseball theme of the last post, I happened to see yet another showing of the Kevin Costner baseball fantasy, Field of Dreams, on cable last night, to which Roger Ebert, obviously in a charitable mood, assigned a four star rating back in 1989 when it played in theaters. The first time or two that I saw the movie, viewing various segments, not necessarily from beginning to end (how else to "get into" a movie that does not instantly appeal) I wondered at the overt sentimentality and also how Director Phil Alden Robinson actually got these big name actors to say those goofy lines without breaking up laughing. Since the movie runs on cable ad nauseum, I have seen it a number of times over the years, and I must say, for reasons not fully understood, I have found that I have come to appreciate the flick quite a lot. Last night was pretty much a beginning to end viewing, and while I will never quite understand the fantasy (which the movie makes no attempt to explain, other than that it fulfills the Costner character's pennance), I think I am starting to come to grips with why this is such a popular movie that it eventually even draws those of us predisposed to avoid it.

First, there are a few really good performances. James Earl Jones brings his charisma and talent to the screen as usual. Amy Madigan, as Coster's wife, has this infectious positivity throughout, and really stands out in contrast to the mainly brooding Coster. Even Tim Busfield manages to play the heavy, such as there is one, with a pleasant likeability. Finally, though only in two scenes, there is Burt Lancaster. He had to be one of the truly underrated actors of his generation. Starting his career as a muscleman beefcaker, teaching a generation of American moviegoers what fun you could have on the beach (From Here to Eternity) even in wartime, he graduated to a breakout role in Elmer Gantry that perfectly suited his over the top, intense style of (over)acting. There followed the pieces with Kirk Douglas, especially Seven Days in May, where his brilliance comes across in more measured levels of intensity and then, as an older actor, the transformation to perfectly underplayed roles as in Atlantic City, the Louis Malle classic with Susan Sarandon. His work in Field is of the same quality - understated perfection.

Another likeable aspect of the movie is that we get to watch the ghosts play ball just for the fun of it and it's kind of refreshing. Reminds me of playing every day as a kid with my friends on the Rossiter Estate or those old pickup softball games at the Y.

Though Coster's monotone has never made him my favorite, he has a few great moments in this picture. Twice he is asked (once by Shoeless Joe's ghost and then by his father's) if his field is in heaven. "No, it's Iowa" he replies simply. I love that line and the way he delivers it. Also, the theme of how adolescents' leaving the nest can be so cruel and crude (since most are naturally rebellious and terminally self-centered at that age) and the main character's need for redemption because his father dies before they can reconcile, is a worthy one, and we can feel Costers' character's pain. Though his redemption scene overdoes the pathos/bathos, I have to believe it strikes an adult chord especially for those who have experienced both sides of those awkward years in the parent/child relationship.

How much better is this movie than that other baseball fantasy, The Natural, where there is this gaping hole in the story that is never explained, and frankly, who could care less? If it weren't for Kim Basinger and Wilford Brimley, would anyone ever make it through to the silly conclusion?

Well enough baseball. Although, if the blog's hit counter keeps going up the way it has, maybe this should become a baseball blog. Doubtful. Election day is next Tuesday, so when I get back from Dallas, politics should again be the dominant sport.

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On 10/30, I sold 100 shares of KDN at 42.46. Since this was in the taxable account, it's another lucrative transaction for Washington and Albany. The shares were purchased for 25.16 on 4/2/01.

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