Wednesday, July 31, 2013

68. Back to the Future (1985)

Code-name: DeLorean

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Type: Sci-fi, 80's, comedy, drama

Notable Awards and Nominations:
OSCAR- Best Sound Editing
nomination- OSCAR- Best Original Song- "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis & The News
nomination- OSCAR- Best Sound
nomination- OSCAR- Best Original Screenplay- Robert Zemeckis and Bob Hale
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Original Song- " "
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Original Screenplay
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actor (comedy/musical)- Michael J. Fox
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Picture (comedy/musical)
nomination- Grammy- "Best Album of Original Score written for a motion picture or TV special"

(it's moments like these where I wonder why I bother to list all the nominees... let's face it: none of my favorite movies will be the ones that SWEEP all the awards, lol)

Marty McFly- Michael J. Fox
Doc Emmett Brown- Christopher Lloyd
George McFly- Crispin Glover
Lorraine Baines McFly- Lea Thompson
Biff Tannen- Thomas F. Wilson
Mr. Strickland- James Tolkan
Jennifer- Claudia Wells

Notable music: Alan Silversti



When it comes to the 80's, it doesn't get much more iconic than this.
Ironically, most of it takes place in 1955, but I guess you could say the filming style is purely 80's.

One thing particularly noteworthy was the music.
Alan Silversti is noted for a lot of various films, most of them happen to be paired with the director, Zemeckis... everything from Forrest Gump to The Polar Express, he was a part of. But the triumphant theme of this movie is his most memorable work for sure.

Then there's Huey Lewis.
My first introduction to him was the music video of "I want a new drug."
Of it, I remembered him dunking his head into a sink full of ice water while singing, being on a speed boat, and ample use of saxophones and other brass instruments during one of the solos. (Interestingly, Huey once commented that the "Ghostbusters" theme song deliberately plagiarized this song... listen to the two back to back, I think he's got a case).

Huey Lewis & The News has to be one of the best bands from the 80's... and one of the few that's still around and doing what they do SO well. My parents went to a concert of theirs a couple years ago with one of my mom's sisters and her husband (our classic music guru) and they had a ball.
Have a lot of favorite songs of theirs, but my favorite is "Do you believe in love?"

...followed closely by "The Power of Love"...
Simon Cowell had me shaking my head like crazy when he ragged on a guy for covering it on a theme night, claiming he never got the old-fashioned sound of it.

But I can't help but wonder what, if anything, the song has to do with "Back to the Future" at all. How does that play into the story? Unless of course they're talking about how Marty will do anything to make sure his family's future doesn't get ruined because of his mistakes in the past...
According to IMDB trivia, he wrote it for the movie based on suggestions from Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Hale.

I'm sure everyone who's seen the movie knows this, but it's still hilarious to see Huey Lewis at the battle of the bands audition where he takes Marty that he's just "too damn loud"... playing HIS song... freaking hilarious.

Pop Culture References

A few months ago, I was watching that National Geographic series "the 80's: the decade that made us" and couldn't believe how much time they spent on this movie. They gave it a good 10 minutes, talking about how Michael J. Fox (ala his "Family Ties" character) represented Ronald Reagan in popular culture. That he was a Republican and his parents were hardened Democrats... my, how times have changed...
According to them, the movie was about drawing comparisons between the 50's and the 80's and how the two decades aren't as different as we thought. They also noted the Ronald Reagan reference, how they had to double-check with the Secret Service to see if that dialogue was okay. Not only did Ronnie love Doc Brown's comment ("Ronald Reagan? The actor?"), but he also quoted the final line of the movie in a speech ("where we're going, we don't need roads").

The discussion was pretty amazing in itself, and I feel bad I don't remember enough details to fully go into it.

"Family Guy" did their own take on this story once.
Peter asked Death to transport him back to the 80's so he could relive his bachelor days one last time... not only does he miss his date with Lois, but she ends up marrying Quagmire... and he ends up with Molly Ringwald. Also in the future, Al Gore is president and all is right with the world... make of that what you will...
So Peter goes back in time and tries to fix things. Eventually, he does turn things around. All well and good, but the lewd comments about Rick Astley and his most popular song, I cringe at like nobody's business.

The Basics

This was the highest grossing movie of 1985. Just amazing.
It's also likely that this was the first motion picture where skateboarding was shown so prominently.... Michael J. Fox apparently didn't need to be taught how either 8-)

It helps to pay attention during the first part of the movie because a lot of things change after Marty takes that fateful to and from 1955.
His brother and sister are scraping the bottom of the barrel as individuals. His mom is overweight and smokes. And his dad is still being undermined by Biff, the guy who bullied him in high school.

Aside from his girlfriend Jennifer and his fellow Pinheads (his band), his only other friend is the vastly eccentric Doc. Emmett Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd at his finest. 
Cannot say enough how brilliant that dude is at what he does. It's also pretty cool that he wrote several bits of hilarity for "Frasier."

They meet in front of the Twin Peaks mall after midnight one night where Doc unveils the time machine he made out of a DeLorean. With just .21 gigawatts of power, you  have instant time travel. Unfortunately, his power source was plutonium he got from Libyans, who come after him because he didn't use it to build them a bomb like they requested.
To get away, Marty gets into the DeLorean and in the chase, accidentally time travels to 1955.

The neighborhood his house is in wasn't even built yet, so he has no choice but to go into town. The town square looks the same, with the exception of some decor and the fact the clock tower is still working.
In passing, he comes across both of his parents when they were teenagers. He intercedes on George's behalf when Biff and his punks come to beat the crap out of him, leading to a chase scene that ends on a rather hilarious note.

Then there's the incident that changes the course of time as far as the chronology of the movies are concerned. Marty spots George peeping into girls' windows and he falls out of the tree into the road. Instinctively, Marty pushes him out of the way and gets hit by his mom's dad's car.
So instead of her playing Florence Nightingale to, and falling for, his dad, Lorraine falls in love with Marty.

Luckily for Marty at this point in the movie, he finds where Doc Brown lives and is able to convince him a) he is from the future and b) to help him get "back to the future"
He realizes the error of his ways and spends the rest of the movie trying to get his parents to fall in love. Easier said than done. 

Marty tries to play Cyrano with George, feeding him the line "I am your destiny."
With his nerves, he instead says "I am your density"... still works, though, but only for a second or two before Biff shows up.
There isn't a whole lot to that character. He's the stereotypical bully and he's the one thing standing between George and Lorraine getting together. (They try to rectify this in "Part II" in giving him a little more depth, but he still has no redeeming qualities... once a jerk, always a jerk).

Everything comes to a head on the same night when the school is hosting its Enchantment Under the Sea dance.
Not only does Marty have to make sure his parents get together, this being the night where they fell in love, but he has to power the DeLorean with the bolt of lightning that breaks the clock tower and return to his own time.

All seemingly impossible, but thanks to movie magic, he manages to do just that.
Aside from the car and the theme, the part of the movie everyone remembers is at the dance. After George finally stands up to Biff, he has to make sure he and Lorraine have that dance while the band plays "Earth Angel" (ah, that song always brings me back to this movie). Then of course, there's the "Johnny B. Goode" number where Marty goes absolutely beserk with that guitar.

"I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet... but your kids are gonna love it."

Even nicer is the fact Doc Brown made an exception in his resolve to not know anything that might alter the future. When we left 1985, he got gunned down by the Libyans and Marty thought he'd died. He doesn't get back in time to save him, but apparently Doc thought to wear a bullet-proof vest that night... just in case. 

Life as he left it completely changed at home.
His parents look a lot healthier and happier than they were and his brother and sister were more respectable. George's sci-fi novel got published (thanks to Marty's encouragement to him back in 1955 "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything"), and Biff is now working for HIM.

Of course, not a moment too soon, Doc asks Marty to come with him to the future to help his kids and the DeLorean apparently got a few upgrades as it now runs on bio-degradables and can fly.


I have only seen "Part II" and one day plan on seeing "Part III" simply for closure purposes.

"Part II" starts in 2015 (too bad we won't have hoverboards and flying cars like they said we would!!). Marty spots a book about sports and the results of years of championship games. Somehow this falls into older Biff's hands, who somehow stumbles across the time machine and gets it to his younger self and back before anyone notices it disappears.

...more or less, Marty has to go back to 1955 and intercept the book from Biff before he can make his riches off knowing all these results (and saving his mom from a marriage a few cuts away from enslavement)... made all the more tricky because he has to avoid the path of his other self (ala the first movie).

I remember coming across an online article  YEARS ago more or less stating how Marty lost his complete sense of self after time traveling as many times as he does throughout the series. Everyone around him had changed for the better, but what did he get out of it? 
Supposedly, indications of psychological issues are there.

Cheers to Michael J. Fox

This movie also kinda has me thinking how it doesn't seem fair that Michael J. Fox ended up developing Parkinsion's disease. He was such a good looking guy back in his time and an equally good actor. I'd only seen him in "Teen Wolf" and watched some of his voiceover work (he's got a GREAT voice for it too because he's instantly recognizable).

But after having years to ponder this, there's really no need to throw a pity party about the whole thing. He's probably one of the most amazing individuals in the entertainment industry and when he makes appearances, he gives his all and enjoys every minute of it. 
It'll definitely be interesting to see his new NBC show [edit: it got cancelled after one season by some idiots in charge-- I really enjoyed it] and how he plays off the disease he lives with and is working towards finding a cure for. I also find it pretty awesome that his marriage has lasted as long as it has, given how long Hollywood marriages typically last. Been together with his wife Tracey since 1988... just WOW... good for them

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