Friday, May 16, 2008

So much for this week. It wasn't what I had originally planned! No, really! Sunday night I caught myself flipping through the channels with nothing to watch and I stopped on Back the the Future and got sucked right in to the space-time continuum. What can I say? I like movies about the space-time continuum! It's a near-perfect film. I resolved to blog some about it the next day. I didn't.

I could give a lecture on BTTF! I won't. (It's Friday.) But I am a huge fan. The screenplay is an exemplary one. Nothing is wasted in it and nothing is superfluous. If you took out a single line of dialogue, the film's tight, well-honed structure would just fall apart. It is a perfectly paced, perfectly balanced family film -which are few and far between nowadays. Disney originally turned down the script, incidentally, because they thought the mother-son relationship was too risque, which is funny when you consider what they put out now. Robert Zemeckis directed it and co-wrote it, going on to become one of the most successful directors in Hollywood. (Forrest Gump was his biggie.) The score by Alan Silvestri is truly great (largest orchestra ever assembled on the Universal lot) and the photography is colorful, nostalgic, and energetic without over-reaching (Dean Cundey, the Director of Photography, was my host for Career Day in high school. I got to hang with him for a day on the set of that Patrick Sawyze classic, Roadhouse.) And, of course, Michael J. Fox nails the part.

Did you know that the movie was half-finished with Eric Stoltz in the lead, but Spielberg (the executive producer) fired him because he was playing Marty McFly too seriously? It's true. Everyone had to start over, but they used some of the footage with the other actors, who were actually acting with Stoltz in the scenes, in the final cut. But I know what you're really wondering: why was Claudia Wells, who played Marty's girlfriend in the first one, replaced with Elizabeth Shue in the sequels?

The story is her mother got sick with cancer and she wanted to be at her side, so she ditched the opportunity. BTTF was a huge hit and that was quite a sacrifice, and one of those untold good-guy stories from Tinseltown. Elizabeth Shue went on to superstardom after the two sequels. Claudia Wells left acting and opened her own men's apparel store in Studio City. So it goes.

I'd like to say I made similar sacrifices, leaving the glory of a Hollywood career by the wayside, but, ahh, no. The closest I ever came to the greatness of Back to the Future is this:

And that's the real time machine, there, not the mock-up from the Universal Studios Amusement Park. You can see the dust on the hood from when they rolled it out of the studio backlot retired prop warehouse. Also, that's my real hair. I was about 21.

A friend of mine was working on a commercial for the "Back to the Future Ride" that was at Universal Studios for years (it closed last summer.) They had the original cars for the shoot, and he invited me down to the set -which was awesome! There were three DeLoreans: one for long shots that they could drive at high speeds, one that didn't move but had all the blinking lights and interior details for close-ups, and one that was a bit of both for medium shots. I believe that's me in the middle one, and I remember it being really cool to sit in it. After the shoot, when no one was looking, my friend ripped off a little panel piece from the dashboard of the detail vehicle and gave it to me for my birthday -at which point I think I soiled my armor. I put it on the dash of my old Honda Civic where it got all dusty and scratched up after years of traveling the continent. I always pointed it out to my passengers, and no one ever believed me that it was really from the actual Back to the Future DeLorean. I was always telling stories, you see.

Incidentally, [NAME EXCISED BY TMST LEGAL] was going to steal the flux capacitor for me but he didn't think he could get away with it. He needed a screwdriver and his backpack wasn't big enough.

Watching the film the other night I realized that the movie is over twenty years old now, and takes place thirty years after 1955, which in 1985 seemed so distant and other-worldly. I wonder if teenagers nowadays look at 1985 like that. (It was a kick to see Marty pop a cassette tape into his Walkman!) I suppose we'll have to wait another ten years for the full effect of time passing. If it means getting flying cars, I'll wait, but if you want your very own flux capacitor, you can buy it here for $250.

[Note: See how the PM and HOUR stickers overlap? That's how I was able to determine that it was actually the same piece that was used in the films -I paused the videotape! Unfortunately it was only used in the BTTF 2 and 3 but not 1. Suck!]

P.S. What happens to aged film geeks who don't make it in Hollywood and end up in the suburbs? Check it out. This dad is way more cool than I am: