Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Tag: Back to the Future (page 1 of 2)

Adventures in portable television studios

Stumbled upon this video explaining the groundbreaking visual effects in the Back to the Future trilogyI knew ILM’s work on the films was innovative, but I didn’t understand specifically how the technology worked until seeing this. It’s cheesy and a little long, but worth the watch:

P.S. Happy BTTF Day!

BTTF 4 is here!

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Anyone pining for a Back to the Future IV ought to just read IDW’s ongoing series of “Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines” comics. Co-written by Bob Gale, they weave in and out of the trilogy and its characters with new backstory (my favorite so far being Clara’s story in #5) and “extended universe” stories.

I don’t think I’ve ever read comics before, at least nothing outside of the Christian subculture I grew up in. Not sure how these compare to the best of them in style and substance, but as a BTTF nerd I find them delightful, and a much better alternative to an actual Part IV.

A Reader’s Guide to Back to the Future

From my scantily used Tumblr page, here’s a photo collection I put together for Back to the Future Day after I noticed a motif of paper, reading, and the written word throughout the trilogy:

http://chadcomello.tumblr.com/post/131641209092/a-readers-guide-to-back-to-the-future

Closing the Almanac

Marty_almanac-1955

On the Fandom-Industrial Complex and Moving Forward from Back to the Future

The day Back to the Future fans have waited for is finally here. The thirty-year countdown to October 21, 2015, one of the most well-known dates in movie history (despite how often it has been incorrectly reported on the interwebs), is over [1]. There’s been an ongoing celebration of the trilogy on the internet and in real life: this Wired dispatch by Jason Tanz, “Fandom Eats Itself at New York Comic Con,” spotlights the kind of reception a widely loved favorite like BTTF gets in the more insular (yet quickly expanding) world of nerd culture:

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We Don’t Need Roads

Caseen Gaines, author of Inside Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Untold, Unauthorized, and Unpredictable Story of a Pop Phenomenon, leads this year’s deluge of commentary honoring the Back to the Future trilogy’s 30th anniversary with a wide-ranging and lovingly crafted retrospective on the development, production, and long afterlife of the 1985 time-travel classic. Built upon extensive interviews with cast, crew, studio executives, and even Huey Lewis (who wrote the movie’s famous theme “Power of Love”), the book explores the treasure trove of trivia usually reserved for hardcore BTTF buffs.

Like the futuristic DeLorean itself, Gaines flies over lots of fascinating territory, dispelling myths (no, hoverboards still aren’t real), revealing production snafus (how a stunt almost turned deadly), and explaining the curious case of casting Marty McFly. We Don’t Need Roads benefits from the detailed recollections of the trilogy’s co-writer Bob Gale and director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis, but not from the onslaught of clichés and Entertainment Tonight-style copy Gaines unfortunately succumbs to. (It pains me to say this as a longtime BTTFhead.) Nevertheless, equal parts celebration and exposition, it’s a well-informed ode to a beloved series that casual moviegoers will enjoy as much as dedicated cinephiles.

The Plutonium Plot: An Ode to Doc Brown

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
When Doc bumped his head and made it so tender;
He could not recall his singular sight:
Capacitors fluxing and time circuits alight.
Calvin the sailor with life jacket steady
Inquired, ‘Hey Doc, are you now ready
To freeze space-time in the tower-clock?
Banish the thought of paradox.
Not now, you see, but hither they come,
Your days on the continuum.

Composed on the occasion of November the 5th, not in honor of Guy Fawkes Day but for Doc Brown Day.

Living In Dystopia

I kind of have a thing for the end of the world.

That tweet from Lexicon Valley (one of my favorite podcasts, by the way) merely validated a feeling I’ve had for a while: that I’m a sucker for dystopian films.

I’m still not sure exactly what draws me to this kind of story. Maybe it’s because of the infinite re-viewings of the Back to the Future trilogy, specifically Part II, which focused on people seeing hellish versions of their past or future and fighting to fix them. Perhaps it’s because dystopian films often confirm the fatalism I occasionally feel about our country, culture, and world. In Alfonso Cuarón’s stunning Children of Men, for example, the abject dreariness and totalitarianism that permeate the Great Britain police state of the future appear not only possible but increasingly inevitable given the seemingly hopeless state of political and economic current affairs.

Similarly, in the film adaptation of the graphic novel V for Vendetta, Great Britain (poor old England can’t catch a democratic break) has been taken over by draconian despotism à la Orwell’s Oceania in the preeminent dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Or, if robotic uprisings are your thing, the film version of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot tells the tale of formerly subservient anthropomorphic robots who become self-aware and start killing humans.

But the flip side to all this bleakness is the other key component to many dystopian films, the factor that draws me in: what happens at their end. Theo, the protagonist in Children of Men, fights his apathy and regains his spirit enough to save the last hope on Earth. In V for Vendetta, the formerly timid Evey conquers her fears and helps V complete his rebellious (if terroristic) acts in order to expose the regime’s villainy and inspire the oppressed proletariat to rise up against the corrupt government. I, Robot has Will Smith saving the day (as he is wont to do) by conquering the supercomputer VIKI with the help of a specially programmed, friendly robot.

In all of these dystopian worlds the worst things may happen, but these things are not unconquerable. In stories as it ultimately is in real life, freedom conquers slavery; good triumphs over evil; the will to live outlasts the will to suppress. These may be old-fashioned tropes, but they keep bringing me back even to the darkest of tales if only to see how the light arrives again.

Some dystopian films I’d recommend: Minority Report, Children of Men, V for Vendetta, I Robot, WALL-E, District 9, Looper, Dark City. Wikipedia also has a more extensive list.

Science Blows My Mind

Like many English majors, science and mathematics were two subjects that gave me trouble throughout my primary, secondary, and college education. I think it was geometry class sophomore year of high school where I hit a wall and everything after that was a blur. Ditto with chemistry that year (what in the name of Walter White is a mole anyway?). But that didn’t hinder me from being wholly fascinated with science and nature, and more particularly with the people who know way more about those things than I do.

I just finished reading Jennifer Ouellette’s Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics, a collection of short essays on various topics within the world of physics. Ouellette, also a former English major and self-professed “physics phobe,” adapted the essays from her column in APS News, a monthly publication for members of the American Physical Society. She tackles scientific topics from the earliest and most fundamental – like DaVinci and the golden ratio, Galileo and the telescope – to more recent discoveries like X-rays, wireless radio, and thermodynamics.

True to her writing roots, Ouellette manages to take what can be very esoteric and labyrinthine scientific concepts and make them fascinating by linking them to things we regular people can understand: how Back to the Future explains Einstein’s theory of special relativity; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde representing the dual nature of light; induced nuclear fission as seen in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. These connections are lifesavers for right-brained humanities majors like me, who instead of seeing “SCIENCE” blaring on the cover and fleeing get to experience an “A-ha!” moment nearly every chapter.

But here’s the thing: I love science. I don’t love it like a scientist does, by learning theories and experimenting. I don’t love it because I understand it – Lord knows that’s not the case. Rather, I love it because of what it does. I am consistently flabbergasted by what have become quotidian occurrences in our 21th century lives. Telephone technology is so quaint these days, but the fact that I can pick up a small device, speak into it, and instantaneously be heard by someone thousands of miles away blows my mind. The fact that I can get inside a large container that will propel itself through the air and arrive at a destination relatively quickly blows my mind. The fact that we can send a small, man-made vehicle into outer space and have it land on another planet blows my freaking mind.

Science has improved our lives and advanced our knowledge of creation in a million ways. I’m simply grateful for the multitudes of geeks who have labored in that noble cause of discovery. Because of you, we have cell phones and airplanes and cameras and Velcro (did you know that term is a portmanteau of the French words velours [velvet] and crochet [hook]?) and Mars Curiosity and lasers (an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) and automobiles and Xerox machines and countless other inventions, many of them engineered by the men and women Ouellette spotlights in her book.

And that’s just physics. Think about what we know of biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, and every other sub-category of science. If my mind hadn’t already been blown away earlier, it would have exploded now just thinking about what we know about our Earth and the things that it contains, and also what we have yet to discover.

Though our country is in turmoil, the Curiosity roves a distant planet. Though we often disagree about basic scientific principles, we still seek to discover. As Carl Sagan said: “For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness.” As a sci-curious liberal arts nerd, I can’t wait to see what else we can achieve.

A Different Look Back To The Future

For a college class in winter 2008-09, we had to make a “zine” on a topic of our choice. Mine was called The Movies: Take Two. It aimed to “take a different look” at all things movie-related using crowd-sourced haikus, six-word summaries, and some of my own comparative film analyses to cast some of my favorite flicks in different lights. Usually zines are handcrafted to look purposely shoddy, but since I’m not very crafty I decided to make mine in Adobe InDesign. I still tried to create the haphazard look, but keep it clean at the same time.

I’ll post the other pages some other time, but today as part of The Simba Life’s weeklong fête of Back to the Future Week, I’m sharing the part of the zine that honored the 1985 classic, albeit in an unorthodox way. Enjoy my reverently rendered irreverence.

(Click on the image to embiggen)

Why ‘Back To The Future’ Still Rules

To celebrate Back to the Future Week, I’m posting a story I wrote for my school paper in 2008 about my hopeless devotion to the time-bending trilogy.

If I were asked to name what I think are the greatest films of all time, I might throw out a few high-brow titles like Rear Window or Casablanca or Taxi Driver. But if I had to name my favorite film, one that makes me love movies and makes me love being alive, it would be Back to the Future.

A silly overstatement, right? Not in the least. I first saw Back to the Future in middle school. Since then it has become my comfort movie. Everyone has one. Everyone has a movie they watch because it reminds them of their childhood or makes them feel happy. My sister watches Seven Brides for Seven Brothers because it got her through the grieving process after our grandma died. I watch Back to the Future because, like all those classic Disney movies, it reminds me of the goodness of my youth. Plus, it is simply a good movie.

You don’t realize it the first few times you watch it, but Back to the Future is an incredibly well-written movie. There are so many subtle things you don’t notice until you reach the BTTF-nerd status as I have. For instance, the mall is named “Twin Pines Mall” in the beginning. Then, after Marty, played by Michael J. Fox, comes back from the future, it is named “Lone Pine Mall.” This is because he ran over one of the two pine trees in Mr. Peabody’s front yard. (Remember when I mentioned the nerd status? I wasn’t kidding.)

The writing, especially the dialogue, is exceptionally smart, given that the movie was a big-budget blockbuster when it was released in 1985. The Doc Brown character, played by Christopher Lloyd, has many of the funniest one-liners as the eccentric scientist from the 1950s. He wonders what Marty’s strange suit is and Marty tells him it’s a radiation suit. He responds, “A radiation suit? Of course! Because of all the fallout from the atomic wars.” Later, Marty says his catchphrase “This is heavy” again and Doc wonders why: “There’s that word again: ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?”

The acting, as well, is spot-on. But did you know that Michael J. Fox was not originally cast as Marty? Eric Stoltz, who played the drug dealer in Pulp Fiction, was cast first and even filmed a few scenes, but the director Robert Zemeckis fired him (thank God) once Fox found room in his filming schedule for his popular sitcom Family Ties. Christopher Lloyd as Doc and Crispin Glover as George McFly were perfectly peculiar in their roles and Tom Wilson as Biff Tannen created one of the all-time greatest movie bullies.

But any movie can have clever writing and good casting. What makes me love it so? Honestly, I don’t know. The original music score is wildly fun and the 1950s sets are great bits of nostalgia, but they are just parts of the whole. It just has that X-factor that won’t let me forget how much I love to sit in a darkened room and watch a story unfold. This particular story just happens to zip around the space-time continuum with a slightly insecure, “Johnny B. Goode”-playing teenager and his lovably loquacious scientist friend.

If I can’t explain why I love the Back to the Future trilogy so much, I can simply show you. In addition to the posters from all three movies hanging on my wall, I have three different DeLorean die-cast, 1:18 scale model cars (one from each movie) and a pen and a key chain I bought from Universal Studios after taking the now-defunct BTTF ride. Yet my nerdness runs deeper: I also have a copy of the letter Marty writes to Doc which I made myself in junior high pinned to my bulletin board at home. Yeah, that’s right.

But the most amazing experience I’ve had with Back to the Future had nothing to do with the movie itself. When I was in eighth grade, my dad met a guy who owned a real DeLorean and asked him to dress up like Doc Brown, crazy wig and all, and cruise down my street and into my driveway. He leaped out of the car and yelled, “Chad, you’ve got to come back with me! Back to the future!” I jumped in the car and we drove around the city like crazy time-travelers. It was an otherworldly experience. (I now realize I never thanked my dad for. Thanks, Dad!)

To me, Back to the Future represents the incredible power of cinema. I feel like I take in the world through my senses when I watch it. I know that sounds crazy, but I can’t describe it any other way. I know that every one of us has a book or a movie or a song that has an invisible hold on our hearts and souls. Mine just happens to rock along to “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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