Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Random thoughts on “Back To The Future”

Nathan’s wife Pam was out of town tonight, so he came over and we planned dinner and a movie.

Dinner consisted of Long John Silver’s.  I swear, Yum Foods would go out of business without my patronage.  What can I say, I like their food.  It’s reasonably priced, fast, decent, and did I mention cheap?

We had many movie choices, but settled on an old favourite:  The AMC Studio 30 is having two special 25th Anniversary screenings of “Back to the Future”.

Once again tonight on the Big Screen, Marty McFly leaped into Doc Brown’s tricked out DeLorean and went back to 1955, managing to screw everything up but somehow coming out all right.  Of course, we know that there were two more movies (which were filmed simultaneously, and the franchise “jumped the shark” in the third movie wherein Doc falls in love and stays in the past).

I first saw this movie at the wonderful, gone-but-not-forgotten General Cinema NorthPark I in Dallas.  At 1050 seats, it was bigger than anything out there now.  It was one of the first three theaters in the country to get THX sound, with the THX inventors personally supervising the installation.  The sound at that theater was astounding.  George Lucas famously said it was his favorite place to show (and watch) his movies.  No “theater seating”, it had big red plush velvet seats that reclined, offered acres of leg room, and swept down to that huge 70 mm screen.

I had not seen much press on “Back to the Future”; I was in the mood for a movie and just went to the theater to see what was playing.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “Spielberg sci-fi movie?  I liked Michael J. Fox in “Family Ties”; he’s in a movie?”  So I went in.

The first thing that hit me was the THX splash screen.  It was introduced in 1983 with “Star Wars—Return of the Jedi” but our crappy theater in Little Rock didn’t have the technology.  The first time I ever saw this was at that screening of “Back to the Future”.

I loved the movie, and my enjoyment of it has not dimmed with the years.   It is one of my all-time favourites.


Nathan, of course, was born in 1984.  He didn’t see “Back to the Future” in the theater, ever.  He grew up with the movie in the background, like everybody of his generation, but it was no big deal to them.

So, it was kind of fun to see it together.


At the time (1985) we all thought it was great, looking back into 1955.  If you didn’t experience life in the 50’s (which officially ended November 22, 1963), it’s impossible to understand it.  It was just a much different country, and the people were different.

Now, the fun is in looking at BTTF as a time capsule—of the now-simpler, more manageable 1985.  In 1985, there was no “terrorist” situation; we didn’t have a “Threat Level” or “Full-Body screening” at airports (everybody was still pissed we had to “endure” the simple little x-ray machine at the door); the Twin Towers still stood tall in New York, and nobody had the image of them burning, then crashing down seared in their memories.  Jobs were plentiful; it was the “Go-Go” 80’s, baby!  No “Great Recession” hanging over everything, where people at parties ask, “Where’s Joe?” and the hushed answer is, “He was laid off and they had to move.”  “Foreclosure” was something that happened very rarely, a throwback to the bad old days of the Great Depression.

BTTF was so “modern” then. 

-The Mall figures prominently in the story.  80’s kids hung out a lot at the Mall.  When was the last time you even WENT to a Mall?  (Ok, these days I can’t think of the Mall without thinking of “Robin SparklesWinking smile

-Marty uses a WIRELESS phone—a huge clunky thing with a little retractable antenna.

-We ALL had one of those “flip” alarm clocks---every minute, a little “flip” as the “digital” display changed.  Mine was a Panasonic, just like Marty’s.

-Jennifer and Marty are sitting in the park, but after the “Save the Clock Tower” lady interrupts their kiss, they are stymied by the arrival of her Dad (in an AMC Eagle…anyone born after 1980, did you know there once was a “Big FOUR” in Detroit, the fourth car company being American Motors (AMC), producer of the Eagle and Jeep lines?).  Jennifer is going to be spending the evening at her Grandma’s---so she has to rush back to give Marty the telephone number.  He can’t just call her on her cell, because there are no cells.

-There aren’t any computers, either, nor references to the internet.  Nobody buys anything on eBay, or watches a video on YouTube.  Nobody Google's anything.

-Marty orders a “Pepsi Free”.  They stopped making it in 1987.

-Speaking of Pepsi, this is the first movie I remember where product placement was so very prominently featured (it may not be the first ever, but it sure was “in your face”).  Pepsi, Texaco, Toyota, all prominently featured (to their best advantage).  Cleverest, to me:  When Marty is onstage performing “Earth Angel” with Marvin Berry, the amp is sitting on an upside-down Pepsi case.

-Nathan didn’t know this:  the “teacher” in the gym, who passes judgment on Marty and his band (“I’m sorry, kids, you’re just too darn loud”) was Huey Lewis, who had a huge hit with “The Power of Love”, the theme song of the movie.

This led Nathan to wonder what happened to Huey Lewis and the News.  I told him they’re still around, still performing, but there’s no Top 40 any more.  Ahh, yes, I mused, “Top 40”, as in “A-merican…Top FOR-TY!” with Casey Kasem.  I told Nathan that, when I was a teenager, my friends and I would all listen to ATF every week (Saturday morning), to see where our favourite songs were going.  We’d keep a list of the songs on spiral notebooks.  He thought this quite the funniest thing he’d ever heard, accused me of making it up, and couldn’t BELIEVE that we would do such a thing.  I told him well, we might want to buy the single, or even the album, before it left the charts.  This brought more gales of laughter.  I further told him, when I moved to Houston in 1979, the city featured KRBE, the number 1 FM Top 40 station, and KLOL, the “Head” “Metal” station, plus a couple of country stations, and that was –it-.  The rest was AM, which still ruled but was waning.  My car had an AM radio; I slung one of those little FM converters under the dash.  That’s how I made the switch from KULF, Houston (“Houston…first word spoken from the moon!  and KULF IS Houston!”), the Mighty 1090, KAAY in Little Rock, KTSA in San Antonio, and KFJZ in Dallas, to KRBE FM Houston, KLAZ, “Z-98.5” in Little Rock, KTFM in San Antonio, and KVIL in Dallas.  Again, shock and incomprehension.

But back to the movie:

-Marty wears Nike’s in the movie.  The swoosh was everywhere then.  Nobody cared where they were made, or by whom.

-Suspenders:  Marty wears ‘em the whole movie. I had at least 12 pairs, probably more.  All kinds of colours and designs.  All the pants came fitted with suspender buttons, but if they didn’t, I had a variety of “clip on” suspenders.  I guess you can still buy them now, but why would you want to do so?

-Jennifer (the first one, who was far better than the second) sure had some big-ol honking 80’s hair on her, didn’t she?  Farrah-hair.  Very chic.  Lots of curlers and lots of hairspray to achieve that look.

-When Marty comes back to a re-arranged future, the living room is a stunning white—with mauve-and-teal accents, brass fixtures, and a glass dining table.  Very 80’s-chic.

-Plot hole:  Marty comes back to a rearranged future---but there’s still only one car?  (admit it’s a BMW, but if Dave is successful now, where’s HIS car?  Where’s MOM’s car?  Where’s the sister’s car?  They ain’t THAT successful if they’re all riding around in Dad’s BMW).

-Plot hole:  At the beginning of the movie, Marty revs the DeLorean up to 88 in the parking lot at the Mall.  When he’s in 1955, he has to go way, way down the street to accomplish the same thing, and lumbers 0-60 in about 2 minutes.

-Plot hole:  Marty appears not to know his own grandparents, aunts, and uncles?  He’s never been to their house and doesn’t recognize them?  They live in the same town!

-Biggest error on the part of the directors:  leaving out the rest of the scene where “Darth Vader” comes down from the planet Vulcan to convince George to take Lorraine to the dance (starts at 3:34 in the clip).


All in all, a fun visit to an old friend.

One more thing:  At the end, Doc Brown finally succeeds, traveling himself into the future.  30 years into the future, to be precise:  October 21…2015.

I STILL want my flying car!!!  I was promised a flying car!!!  Where is it?

I want my flying car!!!

1 comment:

  1. Great trip down memory lane. My boys all loved "Back to the Future." Watched all three numerous times. That was back in the day when we rented VHS tapes. No Netflix streaming video then.