Thursday, April 30, 2020

why are things so heavy in the future?

It's the little thing, really...

And not the obvious stuff like one of the clocks has Harold Lloyd hanging from it like Doc will later. I mean, stuff like the broken clock under the table when the dog food spills.

The rundown movie theater is a church. The other movie theater is showing Orgy American Style. On the main square there's a sex shop, a pawn shop, a loan shark, a travel office, a psychic, a seedy motel, a couple closed down businesses, and Mayor Goldie Wilson's reelection campaign headquarters.

And how weird is it that the diner became a workout gym and then turns back into a diner by 2015?

(If that ain't America in a nutshell...)
Marty checks out two woman in leotards and Jennifer barely seems to care--but she does notice. She deserves better than this flighty musician.

Graffiti on the school says DANGEROUS BOB and I imagined some crew member was referencing the director with that one. But, really, 'Dangerous' Bob Widin was the assistant property master, and probably did that bit himself.

Speaking of crew members, Dean Cundey and Ray Stella both worked cameras for this film and both worked on Halloween, and in the process of my Michael Myers Minute podcast time, I met Dean and talked to him a couple times.

In the present, Biff wants to get his reports retyped after George writes them. In the past, he's just going to rewrite reports.
Separate from good things, why do Dave and Linda still live at home in 1985? Nowadays, sure, the kids in their 20s would live at home. And, to be fair, in the original version of 1985, maybe they would be pathetic enough to live at home still. Especially Dave, working in fast food. But, in the later version, they both seem fairly successful, and too successful to be living at home in Reagan's America.

The Pepsi product placement is so obvious as to feel kinda quaint.

Doc's truck has a bumper sticker:


Marty asks if Doc's outfit is a Devo suit.

The destination time when Doc sends Einstein into the future is not 1:21am. But, that time couples well with the 1.21 gigawatts.

Why does Marty immediately think Doc stole the plutonium? What does Marty think of Doc? Why does he do things for, or with, him at all? How did they meet? Who are these people? I'm watching this movie in 1985, I'm 9 years old, do I care? I mean, there was a news report about the stolen plutonium earlier (which Marty didn't see) and in a moment, Libyans Arrive and murder him, but a dog just traveled in time and Alex P. Keaton is about to, too, and I want a Delorean time machine and I can't even drive yet. Do I care that this 17-year-old kid is hanging out with this old man and apparently violating several laws in the process? Of course not.

It is great that Doc mentions not having plutonium for the return trip already in the vehicle.

Why does Marty speed directly toward the photo booth? Why does he look down at the speedometer? Does he know at some subatomic level that he has already time travelled, will always time travel?

On the IMDb page for Katherine Britton, who plays the Peabody daughter--and who looks like an adult woman who has been shrunk down, and she was 36 at the time--it says, "Very active in her high school drama department and because of her 'petiteness' she has always been able to obtain roles of much younger girls." I'm not buying it. I think she and Ma and Pa Peabody are a thrupple, and there's just the one kid.

The travel office not only exists in '55 but also has the same name and I think even the same sign. Mr. Foster must be very good at his travel arrangements or possibly a mob front.

The motel is there still... Is it still, if it is technically earlier? It looks much nicer in '55, of course, than in '85.

Asked for something without sugar, the Lou gives Marty coffee. And, wow, I realized that the diner and the aerobic fitness center are both Lou's.

As I mentioned yesterday, Lorraine's dad has hit a kid before.

Despite Milton not knowing what a rerun is, reruns were already a thing. I Love Lucy had reruns when Lucille Ball was pregnant, and in 1955, Rod Serling's Patterns did better in reruns than it did in its first run.

When Doc initially says he hasn't invented any time machine, he touches the bandage on his forehead. If he is already connecting his vision from falling in the bathroom to time travel, why is he being so flippant in his disbelief rather than legitimately testing Marty?

That Doc says the president has to look good on television is interesting, historically, as just five years later, Nixon and Kennedy would debate on television and a big thing that hurt Nixon was that on television he looked nervous and sweaty. Television was about to matter a whole lot to presidents.

What excuse did Doc use when he went shopping for clothes that would fit Marty? Or does he often pick up young boys to help out with his experiments?
It is so sad that when asked what his parents like to do together, Marty says, "nothing."

I find it hard to imagine that Marty wouldn't know that his father used to write. My kids know I used to write. I read them stuff I wrote before bed many years ago. It's like George just put all of that stuff away and never spoke of it at all. And, that makes me more sad for their household. How depressing was it? George and Lorraine have been together for 30 years, have three kids, aged 17 to, say 21, 22, 23 (it's hard to gauge the intended age of Dave, but Linda seems to have graduated in '84 so she's barely older than Marty). They had time together as a couple before they had kids. What did they do together? What did they do apart? What did they do at all? How did one date, one kiss get them trapped in each other's lives for so long? I mean, this movie doesn't really paint a bright picture of what it meant to get married in 50s America. You give up on your interests and raise kids that will be bigger failures than you ever were?

For that matter, does Lorraine have interests? She has a book about the Portuguese on the table at the diner (the density destiny scene). Is that for a class? Or does she like history, or languages, or other cultures? What did she give up to be with George?

And, what did she do to the other kid her dad hit with his car and dragged home? (Might that have been Biff and that's why Biff is infatuated with her?)
Asked about whether or not he has a permit for his new weather equipment, Doc gets into his wallet for his "permit".

I neglected to mention the bottle of vodka on the counter and the open beers on the table when the McFlys had dinner in '85. That Marty tells Lorraine not to drink in '55 is a suggestive element as to what the next 30 years have been like. She got stuck with George, and she drank away her troubles and constantly recounted to her kids how romantic it was that she and George got together the way they did not because it was romantic, or even that she believed it was, but because she wanted it to be. She needed it to be. Otherwise, what were all those years for?

Meanwhile, even in the good version of those 30 years, George has only just managed to get his first novel published. Back to the Future just does not paint a nice picture of anything, does it? No wonder I liked it as a kid and it has stuck with me. Never mind that the screenplay is practically perfect, with every scene augmenting the ongoing plot just right. It's actually a tragic tale being rewritten into an only slightly better tale. Dave isn't a fast food slave but an office slave. Linda still needs a man. And, Marty still wants to be a musician but won't end up as one (hell, in Part II, he's just excited that future him ended up living in Hilldale, never mind the prospect of making big as a musician).

Add "Johnny B. Goode" to the bootstrap paradox list.

And Marty's name.

And, man, Dave's name shoulda been Calvin in the reshaped '85. That woulda been nice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

through the natural course of time

Headline from HuffPo: Did Back to the Future Originally End With 'To be Continued'?

They say no. I say, fuck HuffPo, fuck whatever Mandela Effect reality you all are from, it was there on the big screen in my head, and was not some thing they added for VHS. I mean, sure we must've rented the movie to watch again at home once it was on video, and I'm sure the copy we dubbed off cable

(Or maybe off the rental tape, not that I will admit that we ever did that, you know, with the bit of tape over that little indent on the one side so the machine can make a copy... Or was it breaking the tab in the indent and hoping the rental place didn't notice? I can't actually remember that bit because I have recorded things from one tape to another, entirely legally, so many times that I forgot how to do it illegally. Not that I am admitting that I ever knew how to do it illegally.)

included the TO BE CONTINUED and I saw the VHS copy more than I ever saw the movie in the theater, which might have just been the once. But...

Okay, time for some classic Groundhog Day Project material.

Izod (2000) by way of Benesh (2011):

...for viewers, no less than for Phil, an imprint remains as during the film the audience members "introject" or take in its psychic content including symbols, images, and narrative, as well as projecting individual personal concerns. After the film, if it is particularly "resonant," the process continues as the film "plays on" in the viewer's mind. A personal "edition" of the film is thus created and is assimilated into the psyche of the viewer.

I watch a movie, it's not the same movie that you watch. You watch a movie, it's not the same movie that I watch. We've got our own standpoint, weltanschauung, whatever you want to call it, that takes in the movie and makes it a part of us. I wondered yesterday if this was the first time travel film I'd watch. It wasn't my first experience with time travel of course. From the obvious like Voyagers!, to the maybe The Final Countdown on cable, to the cheesy time traveling through life one moment at a time, all day, every day.

I found this link... I think it was last week. I was in the middle of recording an episode of a podcast and Google spits out Carlo Rovelli, a theoretical physicist, and this line:

Time travel is just what we do every day, isn't it? Every single day we travel one day ahead in time...

Which is the kind of thing that is inane or profound depending on your mood, and of course, is also the opposite because your mood is stupid and wrong, and that's not time travel, you silly physicist. Keep your fancy, corny, science out of my time travel. Because, time travel is such a wonderful cinematic conceit. Hell, every film is time travel. I've said before, that movies, available on repeat, offer us an infinity in the moment. My turn to be corny. Watch a movie, get to the end, and it made you sad, rewind and start again. It made you mad, rewind and start again, and this time vent about it on Twitter or Facebook or someplace. Or watch something else.

A movie doesn't need to be what you want it to be. It is what it is.

Until you take it in, of course. Then, it's yours. Your Back to the Future. My Back to the Future. Your Groundhog Day. My Groundhog Day.

We can share our opinions on films, of course. And, we may even happen to have the same thoughts about a particular film. But, dig deeper and your upbringing, your circumstance means you see things differently than I do. The differences may be negligible, especially on a shallow pass, but differences they still are...

And to think, I meant to write about bootstrap paradoxes today, like Goldie Wilson running for mirror.

Or was it the idea that Lorraine's father has hit more than one kid with his car that I wanted to write about?

Or how I'm not sure what to do next with this childhood deconstruction because on my list of fixture movies we're about to get into a bunch of movies I've already written about in different contexts in this blog and, despite the whole Groundhog Day premise, I don't much feel like repeating myself...

Or maybe I already wrote about all of those things. And then I went back in time and wrote something else. Or you went back in time to save me from having written something silly.

We may never know for sure.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

that’s what make times travel possible

The context for a given film is interesting. I mean, going back to movies I watched time and time again in my childhood is interesting because I can imagine what I thought of the movie on first blush.
I mean, had I even seen any time travel movies before Back to the Future was in theaters? Time After Time came out in 1979 but it's not like I saw that in the theater. I had watched every episode of Voyagers!, but cinematically, I'm not sure. Maybe some crap low budget thing available on VHS for rental, but I can't think of what movie it might be.

But, what I really wanted to talk about, looping back around to Back to the Future after drifting away from it last time, is this discussion of late I've seen online about how Marty's parents not recognizing him--looking, as he does, just like that guy Calvin who helped get them together 30 years ago--as a plot hole. (Remember, I don't like the use of that term plot hole in the first place.)

A) This is not a plot hole because it has nothing to do with the plot. So, check your language and stop being stupid.

2) They knew Calvin for a week, and then only barely. We follow him through that week, but they don't. They've got school to attend each day, they've surely got homework to do, or chores. They spend a few hours over several days with him. And, for them, he is not Michael J. Fox who they've been watching on a weekly sitcom for a few years now, either. He's just some guy. Think of someone you knew 30 years ago, think of their face, the specific features. What color were their eyes? Were they close together or far apart? Was their nose pointy, wide, round, or missing altogether? (Well, probably not that last one.) What did they mouth look like? How did they do their hair?

When Lorraine met Calvin, she was smitten, so she was not even seeing him clearly anyway, and by the end of that week he was in town, she was smitten with someone else. Picture the face of someone you had a week-long crush on 30 years ago, and run through the questions above again. And then there's the problem of each time you think of that person, your brain is really just thinking of the last time you thought of them. Like with movies, in that way. When I watch Back to the Future today, I am not really thinking back on that first time, though I can imagine bits of that one--Mann 3 in Hastings Ranch I think, but it might have been the General Cinema at the Santa Anita Fashion Park. I certainly enjoyed it but I think the only specific memory I have of that first time--

because in the intervening years there have been so many other screenings of this film, watching it on VHS where it shared a tape with Adventures in Babysitting and Winners Take All. Speaking of memory, by the way, without looking it up, I think that last title is a movie involving BMX racing, but I am not sure because we didn't watch that movie as much as we watched Back to the Future or Adventures in Babysitting. And then there's the matter of that latter film having come out two years after Back to the Future, so at what point were we even watching either of them on that tape at all? I think of Back to the Future as something I've been watching since '85, and I did see it the first time on the big screen, of course, and maybe we also rented it once, but really, it was sometime after '87 that it became something like a fixture. But, I think of it as a movie from my childhood, and I think of "childhood" in this context as a few years younger than was actually the case.
Memory is tricky.

Meanwhile, as I'm typing, Doc is recalling hanging a picture [and this was me mishearing the story on this viewing and not even twigging to the problem until I was nearly done writing] and falling off a toilet, and I feels specific, but is it? Does he remember what picture? And, if so, is it because he always hung the same picture in his bathroom no matter where he lived (like I used to have a picture of Billy the Kid on my bathroom door in the house we used to live in on Michigan in Pasadena, and later in the apartment on Maple and the apartment on Glenwood... Except I think I just lied and I'm not even sure, because I don't think I had my replacement picture when we lived on Maple, so maybe it skipped a location. I don't know. And, I don't remember now where that picture ended up when we moved to our current apartment, or if it managed to go with me to my lonely apartment in South Pasadena when Sarah and I separated the second time. I remember the picture, but anyone with any familiarity with Billy the Kid knows the picture. It's this one:

And what happened to it since? Is it tucked away in that box in the closet where I've got those amateur paintings I did when I wanted to try my hand at painting in the late 90s and I only ever painted like three pictures that were worth a damn? I'd have to dig past a bunch of other boxes to find out, and I'm not sure I care enough. Because, whatever that picture meant at one time, however much I was briefly obsessed by Billy the Kid and however casually I hung that picture on the bathroom door when we moved to the house on Michigan and then no one ever bothered to move it, I don't live there anymore. I've gotten older, I've moved a few times since. And, bathroom doors blend together, houses and apartments blend together, and moments are lost in time like tears in rain and all that. And, the only thing I really remember probably from that first time watching Back to the Future--

is the ending. And, I don't mean Marty going back to the future and his family has changed and someone asshole parked a brand new pickup at an unusual angle in the garage because it'll photograph well. I mean after that. And, not the "something has got to be done about your kids" thing either--

nevermind that as a time travel plot line goes, that is a ridiculous one. You don't fix a problem in the future by going to that future and starting there. And, what even was the problem with the kids, anyway? I don't even remember. The only problem in the future, aside from the altered face George having a back injury or whatever... He was the one hanging upside down, right? Or was that older Marty? Back to the Future Part II is certainly clever, but it's various plot points and set pieces are rather forgettable. Or maybe I've just not taken my memories back into new viewings of that movie again and again like this one. But, my memory of that sequel is not the point right now. My point is say there's a problem with Marty's kids; they became assholes and jumpstarted a second series of Eugenics Wars or something. Do you fix it by going 30 years into the future and stopping them? Or do you take some parenting classes so you don't raise warmongering assholes? Or just not have kids. 
The tag into dragging Marty with urgency into the future is silly, is all. But, that's not the bit that I think I still remember somewhat close to the original experience...

--The bit of ending I think I still remember is that tag line before the end credits:


[Which might not even be real. But that might make my point better than it misses it.]

Maybe other movies offered that sort of promise before that. I know old serials must've, but I'm not that old.

(In passing, I've got to note, by the way, that the "The Man from Space" episode of The Honeymooners aired on December 31, not November 5, but movies is movies and maybe in their reality, episode 14 was episode 6 and that kind of detail is not really a problem for me. They wanted a distinct visual in the robot costume, they went with the robot episode so stupid audience can recognize that shit as fast as Marty does and not think he's a dumbass for calling it out when he clearly knows by this point that he's gone back in time. And, then he references John F. Kennedy (which he's lucky Lorraine's family hadn't heard of that senator from Massachusetts or they might have reacted differently. But, if there is a flaw to this movie, it's that there are maybe... No, there are too many stupid little blink-and-you'll-miss-it jokes like that, or the Tab and Pepsi Free bits in the diner earlier that make first Marty and second the script, a bit slow on the uptake. There are bit jokes, situational jokes, and there are scenes here that play more like a modern sitcom (and how weird is it to use "modern" to refer to something long after Back to the Future?) than a the fairly intelligent comedy classic it is generally regarded to be.)

Star Wars and Halloween were already big for me. And, they had both had continuations on the big screen, and that was huge. Not sure exactly when we had those on video, but with Star Wars especially, I had books and action figures and whether I was already watching the movies every chance I got, I was reenacting them, expanding them, twisting them into beloved things in my head. And here was this fun new movie that promised a sequel and I already loved going to movies in the theater, would beg to go to them. When the United Artists Marketplace--a theater in Old Town Pasadena where I worked in '95 and which, alas, no longer exists--opened in '86, my father and I went to see Heartbreak Ridge not long after. Hardly the kind of movie a 10-year-old wants to see, but I would see anything. When Project X came out in 1987, I opened up the movie section of the Pasadena Star News and set it quite deliberately in front of my dad and begged to go. He caved. We went. It didn't matter, the film. It was movies, and I was in love. And here, a couple years earlier, was Back to the Future entertaining me for an hour and a half (-ish) and not only that, it's promising me more, and there was no way we weren't going right out to the theater when the second one came out, and by the time it did come out in '89, I was following movies enough--I might've even had a subscription at least to Starlog by then, and more movie magazine subscriptions would follow--to know they were shooting two sequels in a row and, oh my god, what horrible joy is this that I know years in advance that a movie I'm going to like is going to exist and I am going to love it?

Or maybe I'm just imagining the joy that a kid like me would have felt because I can remember remembering remembering stuff like that. Because I've seen my own kids excited by things. Or I've seen fictional kids in other movies or tv shows excited by things. Or I just have an overactive imagination because all of these movies and tv shows and books and comics and stories from any and every source have been shoved into my brain for so many years that I can't help but think I remember things whether I do or not, because what does it really matter? Does the memory matter less if it's invented? If it's an amalgam of other memories? Or suppose I remember it accurately. Does that make it more powerful? Or is its power simply in its capacity to capture me again in a time like right now, when I'm watching an old movie once again and thinking of a history spent with movies and so much pop culture, and nowadays there's so much coverage of a movie before it actually hits theaters that the excitement just doesn't work the same way anymore and I miss it.

I miss it.

Oh, and then there's D) Lorraine and George have had 30 years with Marty, growing up from a baby that wouldn't look just like Calvin, and then even as that child grew up and looked more like Calvin, Lorraine and George would remember Calvin less, and associate this face they're seeing with no one but Marty. Marty today is much like Marty yesterday. Marty yesterday is much like Marty last week, last month, last year, and they've got years of memories of Marty to supplant any inkling of a resemblance to some guy they knew for (parts of) a week 30 years ago.