Mascott’s Movie Rewind – Back to the Future

Originally posted July 2nd, 2010.

The Kidd here, and it’s time for another installment of Mascott’s Movie Rewind. This one’s a little bit special, as I wanted to do something special in order to honor and commemorate the 25th anniversary of BACK TO THE FUTURE. On 4th of July weekend (July 3, to be exact) in 1985, our lives would forever be changed by the idea of the Flux Capacitor, the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance, and the threat of Darth Vader coming down from the planet Vulcan to melt our brains. It’s time to strap in, butt-head… because Mascott is ready to make like a tree and get out of here. No, wait… that’s not it. He wants to make like Huey Lewis and The News and take us back in time. Away we go.

1985-back-to-the-future-poster1BACK TO THE FUTURE
1985
DIRECTED BY ROBERT ZEMECKIS

A few weeks ago, I asked The Kidd what he had planned for me to watch in the coming weeks, so I might be able to get a head start on a few movies.
“Well, I don’t usually have these things planned out in advance,” He said, “But…”
“Yeah?”
“July 3rd is the 25th Anniversary of BACK TO THE-”
“Yes,” I interrupted. “Yes I will rewind BACK TO THE FUTURE.”

AND I HAVE DONE JUST THAT.

The first thing I’d like to note is how readily and cheaply available this movie is. And not just the first one – you can go to Wal-Mart and buy the entire BACK TO THE FUTURE Trilogy for 10 fucking dollars. For the price of an (admittedly very classy) Asbury Park hooker, you can own the complete saga of the favorite son of the 80s, Marty McFly.

I first saw this movie when I was about….well I’ll take a wild guess and say 10. It was a long time ago and I was young, and I was enamored the first time I saw it. And what kid wouldn’t be? It’s got everything a kid could want in a movie. Since then, I must have watched it at least twenty or thirty times. It’s a movie that just doesn’t get old, no matter how many times you watch it, and you notice new things every time.

The movie starts off with Marty McFly, a 17-year-old slacker living it up in 1985. He’s got problems,sure, but he’s got big plans for the future, in spite of the fact that he’s constantly told that he’ll never succeed at anything. His mother says he shouldn’t hang out with girls that call boys while his father gets bullied around by his co-worker, Biff Tannen. He’s friends with a local scientist, Doc Brown, who calls him and tells him to meet him late at night in the parking lot of the local mall. There, Doc reveals that he’s built a time machine out of a kick-ass DeLorean. He’s accidentally sent back in time to 1955 after an incident involving Libyan terrorists wielding AK47s and a VW Bus. He meets the 17-year-old version of his father (I believe the modern term is “creeper”) and the 17-year-old version of his mother (Kind of a ho’) and needs to delegate a relationship between the two of them so he can be born in the future. Of course, his father is a wimp and his mother is more interested in undressing Marty then he’d like. Marty begins work with the 1955 Doc Brown to get back home to 1985, while trying not to change the future *too much.*

The grammar and content in that last paragraph spans four decades and the very idea of it confuses the hell out of me.

Everyone in the flick is perfect for their roles. Michael J. Fox IS Marty McFly. Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Christopher Lloyd – they all fit into who they’re supposed to be so well, and they all seem to understand what kind of movie they’re in and what kind of person they’re supposed to be

The movie rewards you for paying attention, and that carries true throughout not only the first movie but throughout the trilogy. Anything affected in 1955 changes in 1985, and you see those changes. If you read every sign and every poster and look at every person you’ll notice their dependence on their parents or their children in subsequent films. Getting everything in BACK TO THE FUTURE is like a pop quiz. You’re not getting an A because you were too busy flirting with the cute girl next to you and there was a dude telling a really awesome story across the aisle. Of course, when you fail the pop quiz, the teacher throws up the papers and calls for a pizza party because BACK TO THE FUTURE is as much fun at 10 pizza parties combined.

The first draft of BACK TO THE FUTURE did not feature a car as a time machine. It featured a refrigerator as a time machine, which Marty had to sit in, and this “time-fridge” was powered by the energy given off from a nuclear bomb test. I’m glad that Spielberg thought this was a dumb idea. I’m glad that Spielberg stood up and said, “No, this is an incredibly stupid plot device. Take it out,” so we wouldn’t have to sit through a scene where our hero sits in a refrigerator and locks himself in. I’m glad he stomped this scene right out of existence so we never would have to sit through that scene ever.

weep for our movies.

When the movie came out, Zemeckis was afraid it was going to flop. Michael J. Fox couldn’t be around to do promotion, and Universal had stuck the film with a GOD AWFUL tagline that sounds like the tagline for a product from a website that promises to be “discreet” with home delivery (“Are you telling me my mother’s got the hots for me,” is the actual tagline a studio came up with tp promote BACK TO THE FUTURE. No joke). Despite its terrible tagline, BACK TO THE FUTURE was at #1 for most of the rest of the summer. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S (EUROPEAN) VACATION kicked it out of the top for 1 week but it jumped right back up there the next. What does that mean? It means that BTTF had staying power that other movies couldn’t touch.

But what is this staying power? Why does it stay with such a power that it does?

I’m sure there are a hundred better reasons than the one I’m about to give now, but I think it’s about context. The movie ages so well because it understands that it’s an 80s movie. The fact that it was made in the 80s is a plot point. Therefore, everything in Marty’s time seems completely in place, from the horrific fashion statements (Just LOOK at Claudia Wells) to the jazzercise classes. Then the movie switches to the 50s and everything seems in place THERE. It doesn’t need to follow the filmmaking trends of the 1980s because the movie isn’t about the 1980′s, so it follows Robert Zemeckis’ ideas about filmmaking and story telling (with a dash of Spielberg’s aesthetic) which is a fantastic way to do things. His style has endured to make a movie that is every bit as watchable  as it was when it was released 25 years ago.

Happy 25th, BACK TO THE FUTURE. The traditional gift is silver, but, well, I wouldn’t know what to give to the film that has everything.

Favorite Part – “Chuck. Chuck! It’s Marvin – your cousin-Marvin BERRY! You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well, listen to this!”

Best Actor – This is a tough one. There are 3 people I want to give it to, really. Should I give it to Michael J. Fox? He seems to be one of the big reasons this movie has endured so well. Or maybe to Crispin Glover? Yeah, he went insane, but he kind of makes George McFly into the awesome character he is. Then there’s Lea Thompson, playing Lorraine McFly, Marty’s mother. She doesn’t forget that there’s so much humor in her role, but never makes it a *wink wink, nudge nudge* kind of funny. Eh, well, it’s one of those three. They’re all great.

Most Thankful For…– Eric Stoltz (from MASK and Noah Baumbach’s KICKING AND SCREAMING) being replaced by Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly.

Eric-Stoltz-as-Marty-McFly

Apparently he was trying to “act” too much, while Michael J. Fox was naturally a lot like Marty. They shot for a month with Stoltz, and everyone realized he was the wrong actor for the part. Eventually, despite the fact that it would add millions to the budget, they decided to push back and wait for Fox to have time to shoot. And it’s a good thing they did – without Michael J. Fox as Marty, the movie would never become the sensation it is. It’s just full of fantastic acting choices and he’s the key one (Because they waited so long, Zemeckis didn’t start shooting until January 1985, wrapping in April. The film came out in theaters that July. THIS is why I’m convinced that Robert Zemeckis made a deal with the devil).

What Date You Should Watch This On – For a movie that so constantly presents the viewer with the threat of incest, it works surprisingly well as a date movie. First date if she’s cool, third if she’s not.

After Watching This Movie, I… – Saw TOY STORY 3 and cried profusely because I am just that comfortable with myself.

While I was Writing This Article I… – Watched the film a second time, with commentary.

Recommend Watching? – If you’re over the age of 13 and haven’t already seen BACK TO THE FUTURE, you should know that i’m convinced that you can’t grow up without having seen it. It’s an action comedy adventure science-fiction coming-of-age love story and it’s fantastic.

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