DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on “Field of Dreams” and Father’s Day

Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams

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Sunday is Father’s Day, which naturally made me think of my own dad and the times we’ve spent together. And to my surprise, my mind went to a movie I haven’t thought about in a while. It was “Field of Dreams,” a film I can imagine probably resonates with a lot of fathers and sons. But for me, its impact is far more complicated — and has changed greatly over time.

“Field of Dreams” opened in limited release on April 21, 1989, and because I grew up in a small town in downstate Illinois, I wasn’t able to see it right away. But then again, I had other things occupying my mind at the time. I was finishing up junior high and was going to be starting high school in the fall. That summer, though, I went away for a few weeks to a special program three hours away in Chicago for advanced students. (Yeah, I was one of those kids.) This was the first time I was going to be away from home for a significant chunk of time. I’ve lived halfway across the country from my family for half my life now, but there was a point in my childhood when the idea of being away from them seemed terrifying. And so I spent most of my time at this summer academy utterly homesick. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that I’d see my folks soon; they were going to visit me on campus the forthcoming weekend. When they got there, we spent a lot of time running around Chicago. But to tell you the truth, I can’t remember a thing we did — except for seeing “Field of Dreams.”

If you’ve never seen the movie, “Field of Dreams” tells the story of Ray (Kevin Costner), an Iowa farmer who’s having trouble staying afloat financially. He has a happy family with a wife and young daughter, but he seems to be in the throes of a midlife crisis, terrified that he’s going to become as boring and staid as his father. Ray and his old man used to be close — they bonded over a shared love of baseball — but Ray grew distant from his father over their differences about cultural and political issues in the 1960s. By the time Ray’s father died, they weren’t speaking, and Ray has never quite forgiven himself for hurting his dad by disparaging his favorite ballplayer, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was a part of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox team that took money to lose that year’s World Series. Long story short, Ray hears a mysterious voice that starts giving him instructions — first, to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield and, then, to go on a cross-country journey to help different baseball-loving individuals. And in the process, he manages to reconcile with his father.

I’d love to know how I’d feel about “Field of Dreams” if I saw it for the first time now as an adult and as a professional film critic, but the teenage me absolutely loved it. And part of the reason was because its message about the power of baseball and the bond between fathers and sons profoundly resonated with me. My father and I had not had the falling-out Ray and his dad had, but we definitely shared a love for America’s Pastime. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and that’s because my dad grew up in St. Louis. (My dad’s dad worked for the Cardinals for a time.) It’s a baseball love that extends to a love of family, and those roots are deep. Especially being far from home for the first time, reconnecting with my dad while watching “Field of Dreams” proved to be a pretty powerful emotional experience. A new family favorite was born.

For several years after that, I still thought “Field of Dreams” was a great film, even though there were plenty of folks who disagreed. (Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers picked it as the worst movie of 1989.) It was a movie my dad and I could always bond over. (My father read “Shoeless Joe,” the W.P. Kinsella novel that the movie was based on, and one of my proudest moments was giving my dad an advance copy of Kinsella’s 1998 novel “Magic Time” long before it was published.) But eventually, I got older and went off to college. My dad and I stayed close, but I started having my own experiences and adventures, and I started seeing lots of other films. And the more I did, the more I realized that while “Field of Dreams” was good, it wasn’t nearly as astounding as I had once thought. Foolishly, I mentioned this once to my dad, commenting that parts of the film are a little hokey. He disagreed, and I found myself wanting not to bring it up ever again. “Field of Dreams” was our thing, and I felt like I was tarnishing it.

But one aspect of growing up is forming your own opinions and worldview beyond that of your parents’, and that can be a difficult thing when you’re a film reviewer whose job it is to critique movies, even ones people close to you love. And so began a long process of disagreeing with my dad about films — not because I was trying to be a contrarian but because our tastes were simply different. For instance, I very much disliked the Oscar-winning “Crash,” but my dad loved it. I think Woody Allen is a great filmmaker, but my dad can’t get in to him at all. More significantly, we don’t share an interest in talking about films. Because I love movies and have devoted my life to them, I can discuss them endlessly and really enjoy a lively conversation on their relative merits. By contrast, my dad is like a lot of people: Movies are just something he sees on occasion. And so we tend not to have more than two sentences of discussion about them. He’ll like something or he doesn’t, and that’s kind of the end of it. I wonder if that’s how Ray felt with his dad: You can be so close to someone, and yet there are those differences that just can’t be helped.

For a long time, I let those differences bother me. In part, it was because my dad means the world to me, and so my passion for movies is something I want to share with him. (I’ve always been this way: In high school, I used to record my favorite CDs onto blank cassettes so he could hear them in his car when he’d drive to and from work. My hope was that he would love “Nevermind” and “Achtung Baby” and “Automatic for the People” as much as I did. For the record, “Achtung Baby” was a hit with him, “Automatic” was deemed “too depressing,” and the less said about “Nevermind” the better.) But my passion for movies also means a desire to dissect them and get to the heart of what makes them tick. That’s not how my dad operates, which created a problem: I wanted to talk about “Field of Dreams” as something that had evolved for me — just like a father-and-son relationship evolves over time — but it felt like a betrayal of the warm shared memory we’d had seeing it when I was young.

But just like Ray finally learning to let the past go and reconcile with his dead father at the end of “Field of Dreams,” I’ve realized that, really, those differences just don’t matter. I now view “Field of Dreams” as an affecting, albeit occasionally manipulative male tearjerker, but that doesn’t change the feeling I have about that movie in relationship to my father. I have my opinion of the movie, but that doesn’t mean he has to have the same one. And, honestly, I think I prefer the way my dad views that movie: He just thinks it’s great. And, you know, it is — because it has my dad all wrapped up in it. And, like a lot of sons, I get pretty emotional at the end of the movie. But I don’t think I’m crying about Ray and his dad having one last catch. I’m remembering the 14-year-old kid watching that movie in the summer of 1989 who really needed his dad. That kid still does.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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