My "Top Posts" highlights continue in anticipation of my 5th anniversary this July. Each day I will be posting an intro with a link to one of the pieces I consider my best. Today I'm featuring an in-depth analysis of "Field of Dreams", focusing on its relationship to the 1960s and the baby boomer generation.
As always, please don't link to or attempt to comment on this intro page, which is a temporary bump and will be deleted when a new "Top Post" is featured tomorrow. You can link to, comment on, or recommend the original post, also linked below.
Yesterday's Top Post, if you missed it, was "The Big Picture: The Movies & me", a memoir of my love affair with cinema.
“Ray Kinsella, child of the sixties, builds baseball field and at end of movie meets his dead father.”
-Japanese tagline for Field of Dreams, paraphrased by writer/director Phil Alden Robinson
Beloved for its family drama, revered for its sporty caché (at least among those who can forgive a rightie Shoeless Joe), Field of Dreams is generally less recognized for its cultural-historical importance. It was one of the crucial films signifying a late 80s trend: the ascension of the baby boom generation to Hollywood's height of power, accompanied by a burst of 60s nostalgia which helped (re-)define the era for a generation. Preceded by "thirtysomething" and "The Wonder Years" on TV, big hits like The Big Chill and smaller films like Running on Empty (among others) in the cinema, as well as cultural events like the 20th anniversary of Woodstock and the release of the Beatles catalog on CD, Field of Dreams arrived at a crucial crossroads. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was crashing down and a new world was being born - for many in the West, the first time such a sensation had arisen in two decades. Meanwhile, the baby boomers were all hitting or approaching 40, many heading nuclear families and holding professional jobs they never would have foreseen, or so we were told.
The Reagan era, encapsulating a strong reaction to the 60s counterculture and New Left, was coming to an end, with President Bush half-heartedly promising "a kinder, gentler America." As the Wall crashed, and conservatism tentatively relaxed its hold on the American consciousness, pop culture experienced a renewed burst of creativity. New filmmakers like Spike Lee and Oliver Stone emerged to point a light at the country's darker aspects; TV suddenly grew adventurous and subversive with "Twin Peaks" and "The Simpsons"; postmodernism exploded from an academic subculture into the dominant media approach; meanwhile, a reversion to authenticity in mainstream rock was just around the corner. At the center of all these phenomena (except for the last) were baby boomers, who after plugging away and working their way up had finally emerged as mainstream trendsetters. Not only did they point the way forward; they also looked back at their own history, which was ripe for mythologization and nostalgia after a decade in the "dated" bin. Field of Dreams, with its attempt to synchronize America's National Pasttime and the Age of Aquarius, its yearning to fuse youthful dreams, old traditions, and adult responsibilities, may be the quintessential film of this moment.