Return To”Field Of Dreams”

Field of Dreams2

Baseball had a rare PR triumph earlier this month when it held a regular season game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox in the Iowa cornfield diamond that was the setting for the cult movie favorite “Field of Dreams.” The TV ratings were the best for any regular season broadcast in 16 years. That’s amazing, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Despite rumors of its demise, baseball still has a cultural bedrock of tradition, nostalgia and history unmatched by any other sport, professional or amateur. So many Americans would not tune in to a baseball game if they didn’t still have a flicker of affection for the sport, and if your argument is, “Yeah, but that’s just because of the movie,” the movie wouldn’t have become iconic if a lot of people didn’t care about baseball. As Terrence Mann said,

Now my confession: I’m not a wild fan of the film, nor that scene. The scene in particular is unforgivably stagey and artificial: it’s right out of the (much better) book, “Shoeless Joe,” and not even the great James Earl Jones could make it sound like anything but a recitation. I got annoyed, during the hype for the game broadcast, with “Field of Dreams” being repeatedly called “The greatest baseball movie.” I don’t regard it as that; I think it just barely makes the top five, and I could be talked out of ranking it that high.

For good reasons, many baseball writers, fans and bloggers have criticized the film over the years, and not just because it is shamelessly manipulative. But it is that. Baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, a vocal debunker of the film, writes,

“I will fully admit that a story about a father and son repairing a longstanding rift over a game of catch — with or without the magical realism elements — could form the basis of a MAJOR chills moment in an absolutely fantastic movie. The problem, as I’ve said in the past, is that “Field of Dreams” does not earn its chills moment. It is lazy in that it does not sketch out the dispute between Ray and his dad in anything approaching realistic terms — it’s dashed off in the rushed intro with almost no details — and it does nothing to explain why Ray’s moving the Earth and the Heavens to bring his dad back to that ball field is so important or why it serves as the “penance” Ray must pay for whatever reason. With no buildup or backstory, there’s no payoff.”

But worse, for me and others, is the slipshod handling of baseball history. “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was not innocent of taking a bribe to throw the 1919 World Series, he was guilty. He was not a thoughtful, wise-cracking Ray Liotta, he was just north of being a moron. He batted left-handed, and famously so, not right-handed like Liotta. When Frank Walley’s character, a magically reincarnated and youthened old ballplayer named Archie “Moonlight” Graham, whose single appearance in the major leagues was in 1905, is nearly beaned by a close pitch, he says “Hey ump, how about a warning?” Umpires didn’t warn pitchers for throwing at batters in 1905, and not for more than a half-century after that. Sloppy.

Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/10/2021: “Help! Every Ethics Story I Find Makes Me Want To Jump Into My Shredder!”

Remember that Ethics Alarms is dependent on its many scouts, tipsters, fans and friends to keep the content varied and enlightening. As it is I can’t keep up, and having to engage in principled boycotts of unethical news sources (CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Fox News, ESPN, ABC and more) has made research more difficult, since even these blighters of the culture occasionally have something useful to report. Positive stories, those that tell me that society may be heading into the light rather than slithering into the darkness, have been in especially short supply lately, or if they have not, I’m not seeing them.

Speaking of seeing, maybe one reason I am in a rotten mood is that my wife decided that the perfect way to begin the week was by watching the 2008 Canadian film “Blindness,” a smug, would-be ethics film in which much of the world is suddenly rendered sightless by a mysterious pandemic. The movie’s villain is a blind man with a gun, who declares himself “king;” Julianne Moore plays an ophthalmologist’s wife who pretends to be blind so she can stay with her sightless husband as the stricken are rounded up by the government; and the plot has developments like this (from the Wikipedia plot summary):

“A man with a handgun appoints himself “king” of his ward, and takes control of the food deliveries, first demanding the other wards’ valuables, and then for the women to have sex with their men. In an effort to obtain necessities, several women reluctantly submit to being raped. One of the women is killed by her assailant, and the doctor’s wife retaliates, killing the “king” with a pair of scissors. In the ensuing chaos, the building catches fire, with many inmates dying. The survivors who escape the building discover that the guards have abandoned their posts, and they venture out into the city. Society has collapsed, with the city’s population reduced to an aimless, zombie-like struggle to survive.”

Amusingly and predictably, the movie was attacked by organizations representing the blind.

It made me wish I was blind while I was watching it.

1. Wow…the New York Times really is sticking with the debunked “1619 Project” narrative! Nick Rojas writes this in a Times news story:

The Three-Fifths Compromise, an agreement reached during the negotiations in 1787 to create the United States Constitution, found that, for the purposes of representation and taxation, only three-fifths of a state’s enslaved people would be counted toward its total population. It is regarded as one of the most racist deals among the states during the country’s founding.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was not racist, and it is only notorious to the historically ignorant and those who have deliberately misrepresented the facts to advance Critical Race Theory. Giving full representation to slaves in the Southern states would have vastly increased the slave states’ power, and made it more difficult to keep slavery from spreading. Historians are mostly in agreement that the compromise was ultimately in the long-term interests of black Americans and began the process leading to emancipation.

Continue reading

Feminist Popular Culture Progress Report: Women Weenies Mostly Banished; Now About That Screaming…

It is remarkable how frequent the “women as helpless weenies” appears in movies and TV shows. A man is engaged in a life-and-death struggle with a criminal, a murderer, a maniac, a wild animal or a monster, and the woman, often a young and healthy woman, just crouches in terror doing nothing more useful than wimpering. I remember this bothered me when I was a child. My mother wasn’t like that; indeed, I’ve never known a woman like that. It’s not just cowardly to be a bystander, it’s stupid. If “her man” loses the fight, what does she think will happen to her?

Over the last several decades of this trope has faded away, and thank goodness for that. It was insulting to women, and to the extent that popular culture influences gender roles in society, the representation of women as helpless damsels who could only wait and pray that their champion prevailed was archaic. The cliche was also boring. One of the better feminist role-models was Marion (Karen Allen) in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” She could throw a punch and knocked out a German (using aircraft wheel blocks) when he was about to shoot Indiana Jones as he fought off a Nazi goon. Now the woman coming to the rescue of an imperiled man is pretty much standard, even very young women, as in the “It” and the Netflix movie, “Enola Holmes.”

Good. It’s about time.

Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Justice For The Nicholas Brothers”

I last posted this 2012 article in 2015. I should post it every year, at least. This re-post was sparked the same way the last one was: a Nicholas Brothers admirer contacted me. Today, new commenter Geronde commented on the original,

Here, here! …I just watched “The Pirate.” The film is awful, but I perked up when I immediately recognized the brilliant Nicholas Brothers. Even in their bad clown makeup, their style was unmistakable. I sure wish there was a way to digitally insert their names into the original credits. There is some small consolation in knowing that the brothers were very famous in the African American community, and fortunately, You Tube and the internet has exposed them to new generations of dance fans….Perhaps fans should lobby the Academy or SAG for a highly publicized posthumous award. This calls for ACTION! This a also good time to do it because there’s a focus of BLM and African American culture. I’m going to start today..I have contacted both SAG and the Academy asking them if they have ever publicly bestowed a posthumous award on the Nicholas brothers, and strongly urging them to do so if they have not..

I promised put up the post one more time. It probably won’t be the last.

As I noted in one reply to Geronde, my now-defunct theater company showed the video above during a concert version of Rodgers and Hart’s “Babes in Arms” at the point in the show where the brothers has a specialty number in the Broadway production. The audience was stunned: most of them had never seen Fayard and Harold, or had forgotten just how amazing they were. (Cab Calloway wasn’t too bad himself!)

Here is the post…

***

At the Sun Valley Lodge, there is a television station devoted to playing the 1941 film “Sun Valley Serenade” on a loop. It is a genuinely awful movie, starring John Payne of “Miracle on 34th Street” fame, Norwegian ice skater Sonia Henie, and Milton Berle, although it does show the famous ski resort in the days when guests used to be towed around the slopes on their skis by horses. Last time I was in Sun Valley to give a presentation, I watched about half the film in disconnected bites, since I never can sleep on such trips. This time I finally saw the whole thing. At about 3 AM, as Glenn Miller was leading his band in the longest version of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” in history, Fayard and Harold Nicholas suddenly flipped onto the screen, and “Sun Valley Serenade” briefly went from fatuous to immortal.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2021: Twitter Makes You Stupid, But So Many Other Things Will Too…

Mount Vernon morning

This isn’t worth a post, but it drives me crazy. Movies, which are primary cultural fodder, especially when the government is forcing the public into solitary confinement, have an obligation not to make society stupid. This is especially important when society’s educational system is dysfunctional, as ours is. Thus I find it both annoying and insulting when a supposedly serious film deliberately abandons all logic and expects audiences to swallow it.

My wife wanted to watch “The Pelican Brief” again, so we did. The film of the John Grisham legal thriller is pretty good, and it has a scene that is supposedly in Georgetown Law Center (it’s not), and has my colleague and sometimes partner Paul Morella in the role of a sinister lawyer. The ending, however, is ridiculous and insulting. Juilia Roberts is a law student at Tulane who ends up being hunted and shot at because she has stumbled upon the reason two Supreme Court Justices were assassinated and who orchestrated it in conspiracy involving law firms, the White House and a billionaire. She ends up bringing down all of them with the help of courageous investigative reporter, then leaving the country for her own safety. Her name, Darby Shaw, is on the reporter’s bombshell news story that exposes the plot. Yet the movie ends with the reporter (Denzel Washington) being asked in a TV interview (by real news anchor )Edwin Newman, who looks like a fool)whether she really exists. The woman is 24 years old. The news media has her real name. She was enrolled at Tulane. She’s paid taxes. The slightest effort by any news organization would have uncovered her entire life history.

1. Neera Tanden (cont.) The divisive, dishonest, hyper-partisan and uncivil nominee for Budget Director was a dead nominee walking since February 18, when Sen, Joe Manshin broke ranks and said he would vote against her. The responsible move would have been for Tanden to withdraw then, but instead she waited two weeks, finally pulling her name (or being forced to) yesterday. I guess this gave Democrats a chance to claim Republicans were against her because she was “of color” and a “strong woman,” which indeed they did, but the fact is she should never have been nominated.

Continue reading

Bee Ethics: A Brief Addendum To Today’s Ethics Warm-Up…

swarm-main

I meant to have this as the opening to today’s first post, but the painting of Joe hugging Kamala while dead anti-Trump icons looked down from heaven shorted out my brain.

I believe I may have discovered the beginning of American society’s ruinous capitulation to claims of being offended and organizational submission to contrived complaints of coded prejudice and bigotry. I found it, of all places, at the end of the terrible 1978 Irwin Allen (“The Poseidon Adventure;” “The Towering Inferno”) disaster movie “The Swarm.” For some reason, TCM devoted last night to famously bad movies, like John Wayne’s hilarious “The Conqueror,” in which the Duke played Genghis Kahn for producer Howard Hughes. Many critics said at the time it came out that “The Swarm” was the worst movie ever made; I don’t know how they could say that when the sequel to “The Exorcist,” “The Heretic,” came out just a year before. I don’t think “The Swarm” is even the worst big all-star cast movie ever made: I’d give that distinction to “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Continue reading

“Predator,” “White Christmas” And “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”: Among Other Benefits, Freedom Of Expression Is Just A Lot Easier Than Creating And Enforcing Taboos

arnold-mud-face

We were watching “Predator” over the weekend, and saw Arnold Schwarzenegger color his skin black—using mud—to escape the deadly alien’s heat-based vision. Now, why doesn’t this qualify as blackface, thus threatening Arnold with “cancellation” and the film, an action classic, with permanent shelving? Don’t tell me it’s because there is a good reason for Arnold, who is as white as you can get, darkening his skin. We have been told that intentions don’t matter when it comes to this crime against racial justice. Fred Astaire wearing dark make-up to honor his black tap teachers in “Top Hat” is per se racist. Wearing black make-up to portray a black historical character in a private Halloween party is racist. Lawrence Olivier wearing dark make-up to play Othello is racist. Robert Downey, Jr. wearing dark make-up to satirize actors who go to excess to get in character for their roles is racist. Where is the “Exception for someone trying to avoid being killed by a hunter from outer space” written down?

Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion,Chapter 4: Is Kris Crazy, Or What? [Corrected]

Miracle-on-34th-Street-2

(The Introduction is here.; Chapter I is here.;Chapter 2 is here; Chapter 3 is here.)

When we last saw Kris Kringle, he had become a big hit at Macy’s by sending shoppers to Gimbel’s, and even was making inroads on young Susan’s precocious skepticism after she heard him speak Dutch. The story really begins going off the ethics rails at this point.

Doris decides that it would probably be responsible to have Kris checked out by the company psychologist, Mr. Sawyer, since her Santa is, after all, nuts. Yah think? In truth, it is per se irresponsible for Macy’s to knowingly employ a Santa Claus operating under the delusion that he is really Santa. The first authority a store would consult in real life, yes, even in the 1950s, would be a member of the legal department. If anything happened to a child in Macy’s store while sitting on the lap of a man who openly claimed to be a mythological figure, the lawsuits would write themselves. Thus the story really takes a turn toward an indictment of capitalism and corporate ethics: Macy’s is willing to put children at risk for some extra profit. Luckily, nobody has noticed in the past half-century.

Here we have a famous breach of competence by the screenwriter, George Seaton. While boasting to Doris about all the mental acuity tests he has passed, Kris says,

“I’ve taken dozens of them. Never failed one yet. Know them by heart. “How many days in the week?” Seven! “How many fingers do you see?” “Four!”….No damage to the nervous system! “Who was the first President of the United States?” George Washington! “Who was Vice-President under John Quincy Adams?” Daniel D. Tompkins! I’ll bet your Mr. Sawyer doesn’t know that!”

He doesn’t know that because it isn’t true. Tompkins was Vice-President under James Monroe, the fifth President, not Adams, #6. It drives me crazy when Hollywood allows historical misinformation to pollute the minds of the historically ignorant public, because there’s no excuse for it. Even before the internet, this fake fact could have been checked using any dictionary or encyclopedia. Nobody cared enough to bother. To make the mistake worse, John Quincy Adams’ VP was, unlike Thompkins, an important historical figure, John C. Calhoun.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Marilyn Monroe Statue

MM statue

Alternate title: “At Last A Statue Everyone Can Get Behind!”

At least this statue ethics controversy has nothing to do with the Civil War.

Palm Springs, California’s City Council voted last month to place a giant sculpture of Marilyn Monroe, her white skirt blown up above her waist and her mouth poised in the semi-erotic smile everyone remembers from the classic movie moment, in the middle of the city. For three years, 2012 to 2014, the sculpture by Seward Johnson enlivened downtown Palm Springs, and now it will be coming back with financing from a local hotel consortium. The 26-foot high “Forever Marilyn,” turned up as a short-term tourist attraction in other cities in the intervening years (many visitors enjoyed posing for photographs between MM’s feet, looking up) but now Palm Springs is offering it—her?— a permanent home.

Ah, but all statues are controversial now. Marilyn will stand across from the entrance to the Palm Springs Art Museum, and its executive director Louis Grachos objects. “You come out of the museum and the first thing you’re going to see is a 26-foot-tall Marilyn Monroe with her entire backside and underwear exposed,” Grachos pointed out to the council. “We serve over 100,000 school-age children that come to our museum every single year. What message does that send to our young people, our visitors and community to present a statue that objectifies women, is sexually charged and disrespectful?” The museum’s previous three directors, Elizabeth Armstrong, Steve Nash and Janice Lyle, designer Trina Turk and others issued a joint op-ed in The Desert Sun condemning the statue as “blatantly sexist.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is...

Is Johnson’s statue of Norma Jean unethical public art?

Continue reading

List Ethics Case Study: “The 25 Greatest Actors Of The 21st Century (So Far)”

Lists are fun (that’s why “The Book of Lists” was a runaway best seller); they also drive me crazy. Unless the lists are based on incontrovertible statistics and identifiable features (American League batting champions since 1900; states that begin with the letter “N”) they are essentially a stranger’s arbitrary opinions misrepresenting themselves as facts. I’ve posted about this a couple of times, first in 2011. That one concluded (in part), “I know these lists are all intended in good fun. When one is dealing with history, however, fun doesn’t excuse advancing misinformation at the cost of enlightenment.”

The list in question today involves subjective aesthetic judgments, not history, but it still has ethical problems. It was compiled by the New Your Times film critics—you know: experts!”—and purports to show us the “25 greatest actors of the 21st Century (so far).” That’s a lie. I guarantee that the authors themselves do not believe these are the 25 greatest actors by any standards.

Let’s look at the list:

Continue reading