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Episode 142 - Driving Miss Daisy vs. Field of Dreams (w/ Russ Fischer)


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Poll: Episode 142 - Driving Miss Daisy vs. Field of Dreams (w/ Russ Fischer) (24 member(s) have cast votes)

Which film should enter The Canon?

  1. Driving Miss Daisy (6 votes [25.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 25.00%

  2. Field of Dreams (18 votes [75.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 75.00%

Vote Guests cannot vote

#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 09:10 PM

Amy and Russ continue Oscars Month this week with the 1990 Best Picture winner “Driving Miss Daisy” versus runner-up “Field of Dreams.” First, they take on “Driving Miss Daisy,” discussing Morgan Freeman’s breakout role as Moke Colburn, Jessica Tandy’s sublime unlikeability, and Hans Zimmer’s polarizing score. Then, they talk about “Field of Dreams” and its use of nostalgia, conflicting themes, and prime Kevin Costner.

#2 Film Explorer

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 09:41 AM

I’m in an interesting position on this vote. If I’m voting on performances then I go with Driving Miss Daisy. But if I’m voting on overall enjoyment then I’m going with Field of Dreams. I don’t particularly care for both of these movies, but at the very least I like Field of Dreams. I personally found Driving Miss Daisy kind of boring even though the performance are better. If I could vote for nether I would, but I guess I gotta go with Field of Dreams.

#3 SilverShade

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 11:56 AM

Very tough since I don't think either of these movies are particularly important in the long run, but it wouldn't be a good Vs. episode of The Canon if it was an easy choice. I watched Field of Dreams for the first time a few weeks ago in preparation for the voting. I was born in the 90s, I'm not a farmer, not a baseball fan and not American, yet I found myself caught up in the magic of the movie. I like the idea of modern American myth making through sports legends and could relate to Ray pining for these glory days that he grew up hearing about but could not experience for himself. Even though history shows these days not being that glorious in actuality, the desire to rebuild what they were supposed to be or what they should be remembered as is very human. For that reason I felt a more emotional attachment to this film than to Driving Miss Daisy.

#4 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 03:11 PM

I don't think I had seen either of these films since their original theatrical release. It was a very interesting experience revisiting them. I have a lot more history with DRIVING MISS DAISY, as years ago I worked tech on a theatrical production of it. Perhaps the reason I never felt the need to revisit the film was because I was sick of hearing the dialogue after 50+ performances. In addition to being a great lover of film, I also am a big advocate for live theater, but I will say that I might disagree with Amy's thought that a live production of DRIVING MISS DAISY might be superior to the film experience. Having worked on the production once, and again seeing a Broadway revival of it a few years back, I find the experience of this particular play to be even more lacking in subtlety than the film. Tandy, Freeman, and Aykroyd are able to play to the camera, while a recent production with the incredibly talented Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones, reduced the actors to broad, loud, cartoons, an unfortunate necessity in order for the elderly patrons in the last row of the highest balcony to be able to hear what they were saying. Seeing that production made me long for some quiet close ups, and while the technical merits of this film aren't all that noteworthy, it somehow gets the job done. Alfred Uhry's story is an intentional simple one, and I think Amy and Russ might have thought more about the deeper meanings of it than Uhry ever did, but somehow it gets the job does. It's a pleasant and sweet stroll through civil rights that plays it safe so that its target audience can keep smiling through it. I don't think that the material is all that stellar, but I do think that the film is a pretty solid adaptation of the play. I think a large part of that is thanks to the cast, particularly Tandy, who I too was big fan of at such a young age. (Someday, Amy, perhaps I can present to you my theory about BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED being an allegory for the AIDS crisis in New York) I do think she's rather wonderful in the film, and I appreciate that a studio film was anchored by an actress nearly 80 years old, something you almost never see now. Maybe the Canon could use some octogenarian representation. This movie was especially personal to me at a young age because I was dealing with a grandparent with dementia, and the final scenes of the film hit me HARD. I remember coming home from the theater, running to my room, and sobbing into my pillow. I think there are better films that deal with this subject matter, but this one struck a personal chord with me.

FIELD OF DREAMS, on the other hand, did not make me cry. I was looking forward to revisiting it because I had memories of enjoying the matter of fact magic elements of the film, and my love of BULL DURHAM just somehow convinces me that Kevin Costner baseball movies are all great, though I don't think he ever topped his first outing in the field. It was helpful to hear some of the plot's context in how it relates to the novel, because the James Earl Jones subplot never made a lick of sense to me without the J.D. Salinger connection. The film seems to really struggle to even provide a reason why this reclusive author would want anything to do with baseball, up until the moment when Jones reveals that he lied about not mentioning baseball in an interview he did, once. I like the premise of this film a lot, and the early scenes at home with the family watching the field come to life are very pleasant, but the film seems to take the long way to get to its inevitable conclusion. I don't know if leaving the farm was ever necessary. I don't know if we need a bizarrely villainous Timothy Busfield providing conflict in a movie that should just feel like a leisurely game of catch. I do really like seeing Burt Lancaster on screen, older but still with a gleam in his eye. His decision to leave his fantasy and appreciate his life as a doctor carries the most emotional weight in this film for me. There's a few Lancaster films I'd love to see brought to The Canon, (THE SWIMMER, ELMER GANTRY, THE TRAIN, ATLANTIC CITY), but let's face it, this is the one that's going to get in.

Before rewatching either of these films, I suspected I was going to vote FIELD OF DREAMS just because of how beloved it is to so many people and how it seems to have a longer lasting legacy than DRIVING MISS DAISY. I would never argue against someone's love for the film, but I just don't feel what everyone else feels. I played catch with my dad. It was fine. I'm sure the votes will favor FIELD OF DREAMS, but I'm going to pick DRIVING MISS DAISY, because even with its sights set low, I think it delivers a more complete film. Neither film should have won Best Picture that year. Obviously that honor should have gone to DO THE RIGHT THING, or, if we must limit ourselves to the nominees, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. Perhaps neither film should have been up for Canon consideration, but this was an interesting examination of what the Academy was moved by at the end of the 1980's, before the boom of 90's independent cinema changed everything.

#5 MSUBear

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 06:53 PM

An uncle of mine wrote his college thesis on the psychology of sports movies. In his, somewhat expert, opinion he defines Field of Dreams to be transcendent of its time, genre, and plot to tell the rare American version of the magical realism stories so popular around the world. Although my even my favorite Kevin Costner baseball film (Bull Durham), Field of Dreams holds a special place in my heart. After driving 150 miles to the still standing set and playing catch near the bleachers where a young Gabby Hoffman choked on a hotdog, you realize that while Driving Miss Daisy tried to tell a human story in a human world, Field of Dreams reveals more about humanity by creating its own world of ghosts, strange voices, and miracle pilgrimedges to almost heaven Iowa

#6 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 08:09 PM

I agree with those who claim that neither film is quite Canon-worthy (I like them both fine, but as cinema they're nothing remarkable), but I throw my vote to Field of Dreams based on cultural impact. I think you very much have to see this movie in order to understand endless jokes and references to its various tropes, particularly the whispery voice telling our protagonist what to do and the magical cornfield where ghosts appear. If you're a baseball fan, this is easily on the shortlist of Top 5 movies you absolutely HAVE to see. I know baseball is declining in popularity these days, but it's still a major part of American history and, by extension, of its cinematic history. This is definitely in the Baseball Movie canon.

I'm not sure there's anything of cultural import in Driving Miss Daisy you're going to MISS all that badly if you haven't seen it. Most of what it does has been covered in other films (often in better ones). It's a reasonably well-executed version of its story, but not terribly deep or challenging. I agree with the podcast hosts' claims that the performances do a lot to elevate it, Morgan Freeman especially, but whatever subversion or interesting depth you get there isn't carried through in the on-screen presentation, which largely feels like a big, warm hug from start to finish.

I acknowledge that Field of Dreams also feels like that, but at least there's some storytelling invention along the way.

#7 robert-cop

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 09:34 AM

Honestly, I don’t think either of these movies are Canon-worthy, but I feel like Feild of Dreams has had a bigger cultural impact. “If you build it, he will come” is one of the most well-known (and misquoted) lines in cinema, so that’s why I’m voting FoD.

#8 Taylor S Cole

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 10:59 AM

Field of Dreams no question. For purely nostalgic reasons. Cut and print.

What I'm really here posting for, however, is to propose a subcanon of 80s Oscar contenders with god-awful synthy scores. Put both Driving Miss Daisy and Field of Dreams in there along with Terms of Endearment.
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Nope.

#9 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 11:49 AM

View PostTaylor S Cole, on 20 February 2018 - 10:59 AM, said:

Field of Dreams no question. For purely nostalgic reasons. Cut and print.

What I'm really here posting for, however, is to propose a subcanon of 80s Oscar contenders with god-awful synthy scores. Put both Driving Miss Daisy and Field of Dreams in there along with Terms of Endearment.


You know, I'm going the other direction on this. I don't mind the synth scores. I think that at this point they are an interesting stylistic choice from a particular era. Aside from being synth, I don't think the Zimmer score for Driving Miss Daisy is out-of-step with the movie's general tone.

Is the Chariots of Fire score also awful? When is a synth score appropriate and when is it not?

#10 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 07:09 PM

I don't think either of these films is Canonical. Field of Dreams probably had the bigger cultural impact, but it's empty schmaltz that's mostly forgotten and even displaced as THE boomer movie by Forrest Gump (which is in the Canon). Driving Miss Daisy, in contrast, is admirably restrained and doesn't try to make you like the titular Daisy, but merely avoiding potential missteps isn't enough to make it especially good. Perhaps it functions better as part of Alfred Uhry's "Atlanta trilogy" of plays. Sometimes "none of the above" is the correct answer, and this is one of those times.

#11 Dale Cooper Black®

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 08:37 PM

My vote goes to the movie that isn't sentimental treacle, so, uh... looks like I'll have to abstain again.

I have to admit, I do not understand this "Oscars month" thing. If the point is to right specific wrongs of the past, then the travesty of 1989's Best Picture category was already covered in episode 29. If anything, adding either of these movies to the Canon will only diminish Do the Right Thing's place in it. And if the point is to hold a referendum on the actual nominees, wouldn't it have made more sense to pit all five films from a given year against each other?

Isn't the Canon already a kind of referendum on the status quo--and by extension the Oscars--anyway? And does anybody really give a shit about the supposed authority of the Oscars anymore? (To be honest, I would've rather suffered through an entire month of Kevin Costner baseball movies than to ever hear "Everybody's Talkin'" again.)

Far be it for me to chime in without adding anything to the discussion, however, so let's revisit this idea of "cultural impact." Driving Miss Daisy isn't merely Morgan Freeman's "breakout" film. (If anything, that distinction goes to Street Smart.) Rather, Hoke Colburn is the template for our very idea of Morgan Freeman--the wise angel who speaks in melliflous tones, with a wry smile and a touch of sass.

This is the movie where we, the audience, decided to let Morgan Freeman grace us with his magic moonbeams forever and ever. Whether this is a good thing or not is open to debate, but there's no denying the cultural impact.

#12 Matt_will_

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 07:34 AM

I think the hosts both had a fundamental misunderstanding of FIELD OF DREAMS. They mentioned they had a problem with the fact that James Earl Jones' character, Terrance Mann, was opining for a time when black players were not allowed to play in the Major League. However the movie makes it clear that he grew up a Brooklyn Dodger fan and was crushed when they moved away - which happened in 1957. Meanwhile Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. Mann was longing for a time back when America was still in its innocence, during his youth and up until the Vietnam War era, not simply the 1920's, which he most likely wasn't even alive for. He described baseball as the cultural touchstone that remained throughout the eras and still was around in 1989, making it not only a national pass-time, but also a way for men of different generations to bond. Basically he was summing up the theme of the movie in one little package.

#13 bleary

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 02:38 PM

I'm probably on board with the general tone of the thread so far, in that neither of these films would be a slam dunk pick for the Canon in solo episodes. I agree with Russ that the character of Miss Daisy is a real tough hang, and also that Bull Durham would be a more surefire Canon pick than Field of Dreams. But I also disagree with a lot of the criticism levied at Field of Dreams in the episode.

First off, even though the beginning and ending focus on the relationship between Ray and his father, I've always thought of it less as a "father-son" movie and more as a "family" movie. When I first saw it on VHS as a child, it wasn't just with my father, it was my father and mother and brother and sister all together in the living room. Hell, it was probably my mom's idea to buy the VHS in the first place. (Costner's got that mom-appeal!) I think the film backs this up in a couple of ways. First, Amy Madigan takes what could be a bland cliche wife character in other stories and gives it so much strength and life. Even though Ray is the one driving the plot, I totally buy the idea of Annie as an equal partner in that relationship. She's plausibly enough of a hippie that she's generally willing to indulge Ray's mystical journey, and equally plausible as being pragmatic enough to voice her objections at times. Secondly, I think it's important that Ray has a daughter instead of a son, and I love the depiction of their relationship. I don't have any children, but I'm fascinated by the transition of a child from impulse monster to an actual conscious entity capable of considering the humanity of other people, and I'm touched by Karin's interest in learning about her father's passions for the first time and by Ray's eagerness to share it with her. And thirdly, schmaltzy as it may be, when told that heaven is a place where dreams come true, Ray focuses not on his baseball field or even his chance encounter with Ghost Dad, but on his family, laughing on the porch swing, as he admits, "Maybe this is heaven." (Yeah, it's overly sentimental, but so is Spielberg sometimes.)

It also seemed like Amy had some issues with not understanding the rules or motivations of the magical elements, but I think this is a critical part of the story. I love that Ray and Annie and Terrance Mann don't understand any of it either, don't search for any consistencies, and just let things happen, whether it's voices in the cornfield, or a shared dream of Fenway Park, or a stroll back in time in Chisholm MN, or finally when a teenage Archibald Graham hops in their car. Costner and Jones play this last moment so well, with a mix of incredulity and complete acceptance of the absurdity of it all.

I'm fine with the fact that they changed the author character from a fictionalized version of J.D. Salinger to a completely fictional character. For one thing, I'm sure that in 1989, more people saw this movie than had read any Salinger, a reality not lost on the author, who has said that many book readers thought J.D. Salinger was entirely his own creation. I would imagine that mostly anyone who would get the namecheck would also recognize that the character of the once-lauded author who disappeared from the world's view is an allusion to Salinger anyway, regardless of his name. Furthermore, fictionalizing Salinger into Mann more seamlessly allowed for the casting of James Earl Jones, which brings me to the next thing I love about this movie.

James Earl Jones. If this were a solo episode, and there were one thing that were to vault this film into Canon-worthy territory for me, it's James Earl Jones. His performance makes me buy into so much in Field of Dreams that might have made me cringe in lesser hands. Everything from his delivery of "It's your finger!" to sell the gun joke, to his nervous/gleeful laughter as he fades into the cornfield, he makes things better than they should be. Crucially, this includes the grand monologue he delivers at the end, which, as Russ points out, is complete bullshit as written as on the page. For one thing, the idea that baseball has marked the times through America's turbulent history ignores the fact that the game wasn't played in the US until 70+ years after the Declaration of Independence, and no professional league existed until a decade after the end of the Civil War. The idea that it reminds us of all that was once good ignores the shameful history of segregation in the major leagues. And that's to say nothing of the cynical idea that the solution to their problems is to sell happiness and nostalgia for $20 a pop. Yet James Earl Jones recites this pile of lunacy with such conviction that it absolutely works for me! I can recite the whole speech by heart and some parts have even entered my normal lexicon. (Whenever considering a purchase of something I want but don't need, I tell myself that it's money I have, and peace I lack.) One could argue that making the author character a black civil rights advocate instead of a white J.D. Salinger makes it even more absurd for him to sweep past baseball's ugly history (and having Jones himself deliver this is an extra bit of irony, since he famously portrayed Troy in "Fences" for years on Broadway, in which his character's anger largely stems from narrowly missing his window for the integration of the majors). But like I said, Jones makes this work so much better than it should. In baseball statistics parlance, his WAR is off the charts for this monologue, and quite high for his work in the movie as a whole.

In a lot of ways, the biggest problem about the film is that it involves baseball at all, given that its ignorance of segregation and glorification of a player who accepted money to fix the World Series (regardless of whether the film, or anyone else, thinks Jackson was or wasn't actively trying to lose, he's still guilty for taking the money!) are the most problematic aspects of the story. But at the same time, I'm glad it does. That's probably because I love baseball. I love the scenes where the players scrimmage and interact with each other, including that dig against notorious racist asshole Ty Cobb. I love seeing Jackson crush Ray's curveball. I love that Moonlight Graham was a real person, who played one inning in the major leagues and never had an at bat. If there's a case where sentimentality sways me on this film, it's less about the father-son stuff and more about how much I love baseball. (But at the same time, the baseball is as good or better in Bull Durham, A League of Their Own, both versions of Angels in the Outfield, and even possibly in the underrated For Love of the Game.)

Most of the other high notes of the film have already been mentioned, but it's worth noting again that it was Burt Lancaster's final film and Gaby Hoffmann's first film, and the fact that the climax centers around an interaction between the two of them is such a nice idea in hindsight, in a story about generations.

Meanwhile, Driving Miss Daisy is so bland. It's fine. It's well-acted. But I can't imagine anyone arguing passionately in favor of this film. If its largest cultural impact is that it made more people aware of Morgan Freeman (which was going to happen anyway with Lean On Me and Glory both coming out that same year), it's not a film of lasting importance. As mentioned by someone else above, the magical realism in Field of Dreams is something different, if nothing else. I don't think it should have won Best Picture, but it should win this matchup.

#14 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 04:05 PM

View Postbleary, on 21 February 2018 - 02:38 PM, said:

(Yeah, it's overly sentimental, but so is Spielberg sometimes.)


I couldn't help but think about how much Spielberg's direction would have elevated Field of Dreams, possibly to legitimate slam-dunk Canon status, as opposed to the workmanlike competence we get from Phil Alden Robinson.

#15 Clint Barton

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 04:42 PM

As an Iowan that buried my father this week, I've got to go with Field of Dreams.

#16 Amy Nicholson

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 07:28 PM

Oh Clint. I'm so sorry. Hugs to you and your family. I've been there. Take care of yourself. XO.

#17 rickyssofake

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 03:31 PM

My vote goes to Driving Miss Daisy, (i) because it's the better movie, and (ii) because the canon should be used for vindication purposes. As Amy mentioned, this movie is more interesting and complex than people like to remember. Yes, it tried to tackle race in America in the same year as Do the Right Thing and yes it pales in comparison, but as a result people misremember it. This movie's not a "warm embrace" that makes people feel comfortable with the state of race relations, like The Help - it doesn't provide any resolutions, it doesn't let the audience look back and say "well good thing we're not like that anymore." In fact, it acts as a criticism of those who refuse to reflect on their relation to race relations (like fans of The Help). It's a subtle portrait of racial hierarchies at play in everyday life, both ones that the characters are aware of and not.

On the other hand, my dislike for Field of Dreams possibly comes from being outside of the culture it tries to create nostalgia for; my parents only immigrated to America in the late 80s, so a love for baseball wasn't passed down to me. I had no problems with the magical realism, but what I couldn't get over was how quickly Amy Madigan conceded to her husbands insane and expensive whims.

To people who are voting for Field of Dreams based on its cultural impact: I think this is a poor use and understanding of what this podcast is/can be. If the point of this podcast is to re-assess older movies, shouldn't we be trying to evaluate movies without the weight of opinions/baggage an older movie carries? Otherwise, if we're just restating popular opinion, what's the point? I think voting in Driving Miss Daisy would be a great example of what this podcast should be: a re-evaluation of a movie that has developed an unfair reputation overtime.

#18 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 03:52 PM

View Postrickyssofake, on 22 February 2018 - 03:31 PM, said:

To people who are voting for Field of Dreams based on its cultural impact: I think this is a poor use and understanding of what this podcast is/can be. If the point of this podcast is to re-assess older movies, shouldn't we be trying to evaluate movies without the weight of opinions/baggage an older movie carries? Otherwise, if we're just restating popular opinion, what's the point? I think voting in Driving Miss Daisy would be a great example of what this podcast should be: a re-evaluation of a movie that has developed an unfair reputation overtime.


I see the "cultural impact" argument as a way of looking outside myself. I'm not going to act like my personal interpretation of a movie is the only "correct" one. If a movie has clearly had a shelf life with lots of other people beyond my personal feelings about it, then that should count for something. It's not the only criterion, of course, but in a choice between evenly-matched movies (as I think these are) it can be a handy tiebreaker.

Your voting priorities are fine too. I think the concept of the Canon means different things to different people, but it all shakes out in the voting.