Back to the Future

Back to the Future won the 1986 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentaton. Second place went to Ladyhawke, third to Cocoon, fourth to Brazil (the only other one I’ve seen) and fifth to Enemy Mine. Brazil is rather a cinematic triumph, but I'd have voted for Back to the Future for making me feel good. That was the year that Ender's Game won both Hugo and Nebula for Best Novel. IMDB users rate Back to the Future top film of 1985 on one ranking and second on the other. That year's Oscar winner, Out of Africa, is pretty far behind. (Back to the Future won an Oscar for Best Sound Effect Editing.)

Two returnees from previous fims I've watched in this sequence. Christopher Lloyd, Doc here, was mental hospital patient Taber in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ten years ago.

And Marc McClure, Marty’s brother Dave here, was Jimmy Olsen in Superman (and the sequels).

The film is a Bechdel fail – on the two occasions that Lorraine is talking to other women characters, it's about Marty. It does a bit better on race (a lot better than the average award-winning film), in that Donald Fullilove's Goldie Wilson is shown running for re-election as Mayor, though it's a little tin-eared that the white hero takes the place of the black man who has been injured rescuing him, and then helps to give Chuck Berry his sound (yeah, it's a time paradox, but even so it removes agency from Berry).

I just have to say something about the DeLorean. The factory where the cars were built was less than two miles from the house where I grew up in Belfast. For several years the British government desperately pumped taxpayers' money into the firm in order to bring peace by building cars that nobody actually bought. I have teenage memories of going past the factory in the train, noting the gleaming vehicles in the yard which always seemed to increase in number. Occasionally – very occasionally – we would see transporters loaded with the finished article going past our front door on their way to the docks. By the time Back to the Future came out, the DeLorean drama had ended badly, but it's a little heart-warming that these strange memorials to buying off the local warring factions have left a positive cultural legacy.

However, this is a brilliant film in general. Incredibly, I had not seen it before, and nor had young F; we were captivated from start to finish. I'm putting it at the top of my list, in fourth place after 2001 but before Blade Runner. The central plot of Marty facing personal extinction if he cannot get his parents together in 1955 is a complete sf cliche, but it is very well executed. In particular Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson are totally convincing in playing three different versions of the same two characters, in the past and in both versions of the present.

And the script is a delight as well as being beautifully delivered. The Ronald Reagan line is completely hilarious. Apparently when Reagan himself watched the film, he had the projection stopped and rewound so that he could enjoy the scene again.

Well, that was a promising start to my year’s write-ups of films (though admittedly we watched it last weekend when it was still 2020). The next year’s Hugo winner was Aliens, but first I will watch Out of Africa.

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