In the early eighties, Jessica Lange became the darling of the film community. She was nominated for two Oscars in the same year in 1982, winning for Best Supporting Actress in “Tootsie”. Within three more years she had two more nominations for Best Actress, including this lachrymose piece of save the farm themed drama. She is also a producer on the film which makes it a little surprising that it did not get a Best Picture nomination, that is until you see the movie. Then you will understand why she is the only person given any kudos for the film, and also why the far superior Sally Field performance was the winner this year.
This is the second of the three farm based prestige pictures of the year. It is also perhaps the dullest, with a plot driven by accounting rather than action, and a pace that sometimes feel glacial. It is a sincere effort to examine the impact of financial pressures on rural families, but the result is depressing and takes down one rising career to advance another. Continue reading →
In the early 1980s, there were virtually no films featuring America’s pastime. The previous most successful baseball themed movie had been “the Bad News Bears”, a comedy about Little League baseball and a drunken coach played by Walter Matthau. That film came out in 1976. In 1984, Barry Levinson delivered “the Natural” and in the next ten years, there were more than eighteen films featuring the game of baseball. Do you suppose that is a coincidence? I’ve read a few criticisms of “The Natural” as a movie in the last couple of months. With no disrespect to those who have a different opinion, I’d have to say that “The Natural” is one of the most influential baseball films of all time, and that it may be one of the most beautiful movies ever made.
Many defenders of “the Natural” have gone as far as to say that the movie is not really about baseball. There are scholarly attempts to explain it through the prism of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. There are allegories and direct references to mythology and the gods. I can’t say that any of those thoughts are wrong, I can say however, that the movie is about baseball more than anything else and regardless of the inspirations or literary roots, baseball is the source of it’s strengths.