Field of Dreams: Anniversary Edition

There are many bonuses in this anniversary edition, the first since the film’s theatrical release, in 1989.

They include an episode of Bravo’s “Page to Screen,” which chronicles the film’s source material, W.P. Kinsella’s novel, “Shoeless Joe,” adapted by Phil Alden Robinson, who also directed.

It also contains a new documentary with the crew and cast (for some reason, without the star, Kevin Costner), and older footage of Costner asking baseball legends about the movie’s special meanings for them.

The narrative is rather simple. Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner) hears a voice one day, “If you build it, it will come,” prompting him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield so that he can make peace with his dead father. The ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) shows up, followed by other players who were disgraced at the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal (the subject of John Sayles’s “Eight Men Out”).

Is the movie Capracorn or Capraesque That will depend on your values and the kind of movies you like. Then and now, it’s a rare movie. In 1989, some perceived it as a magical experience, offering a rare glimpse at the vastness, goodness, and grandeur of Middle America. These days our movies are so cynical, reflecting paranoia, disillusionment and mistrust, that “Field of Dreams” is almost refreshing in its simplicity and naivet. A film without any cynicism, it demands uncritical receptivity from its viewers.

The interaction between Costner and the ghost recalls classic films like “Harvey”, in which James Stewart communicated with a six-foot invisible rabbit. Though soaked with rather basic Freudian psychology, Costner’s reconciliation scene with his dead father is moving; it affected strongly young men in similar position to Costner’s. The strong supporting cast includes Amy Madigan, Burt Lancaster, and James Earl Jones, who delivers a powerful speech about how baseball once reflected America, disregarding the racial segregation and discrimination against black actors that prevailed at the time.

In 1989, the picture touched many people in similarly emotional way as that  Frank Capra’s Depression era fables, evoking nostalgia for simpler, more innocent times.

A mystical fantasy about belief and hope in the mundane life, “Field of Dreams” is a meditation on how to regain passion for life while maintaining your conscience and identity intact. A uniquely American film (that indeed didn’t play well in foreign countries), “Field of Dreams” was typical of many 1980s movies in its peculiar blend of countercultural and traditional values. The film’s sentimental premise struck a chord and the movie became a surprise box-office hit, defying the more conventional wisdom that baseball movies are not commercial.

Oscar Context

“Field of Dreams” was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Robinson’s adapted screenplay, and James Horner’s original score. James Horner. It lost Best Picture to “Driving Miss Daisy”, which also won for Alfred Uhry’s screenplay; the score award went to Alan Menken for “The Little Mermaid”.