Back to the Future Part II, reviewed by Joe Blevins and Craig J. Clark

By Joe Blevins and Craig J. Clark

"There's something very familiar about all this." - BIFF TANNEN, AGED 77

Roger Ebert defined a sequel as "a filmed deal," and it's amazing how accurately the truly odd Back to the Future Part II reflects that definition. The supplemental materials on the movie's DVD are surprisingly candid in laying out why the movie exists and why it took the form that it did. When the first Back to the Future was released in 1985, it was anything but a sure thing. The film's star, Michael J. Fox, was not a household name yet, and the film's co-creators (Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale) had failed to attain mainstream success with their two previous films, I Want to Hold Your Hand and Used Cars. Worse yet, the Zemeckis/Gale-scripted 1941, directed by Steven Spielberg, had been a financial disaster for Universal Pictures. So another Zemeckis/Gale comedy with Spielberg as producer was a risky proposition. In fact, the film could easily have turned out to be another embarrassing boondoggle for Universal.

But, of course, the first film was a massive worldwide hit, the top-grossing American film of 1985. A sequel was inevitable, and Universal informed Zemeckis and Gale that one would happen whether they were involved or not. So they were now "locked in," so to speak, as were most of the members of the first film's cast. Strangely, though, it was the holdout of one of the supporting players, Crispin Glover, that provided the catalyst for the sequel's plot in which his character (loveable nerd George McFly) is mysteriously killed off, creating another "time travel" problem for the heroes, Doc and Marty, to solve.

Back to the Future, it should be noted, was not designed as the first film in a franchise. The original film's ending, with Doc Brown taking Marty and Jennifer to the future in his flying car as a "TO BE CONTINUED" caption flashes on the screen, was written strictly as a joke. In fact, it's one of my favorite ways to end a comedy -- the classic "here we go again!" bit. It's a very satisfying way to conclude a comedy/fantasy film, knowing that the heroes are not going to rest but are going to embark upon yet another madcap adventure. There was really no need, other than financial, to revisit these characters or the Hill Valley setting. But if you're contractually obligated to revisit them, what the heck do you do with them? To their credit, Zemeckis and Gale came up with three different, potentially intriguing answers to that question and devote roughly one act of the final film to each of them.

1. Put Doc and Marty in the actual future. Despite that pesky word "future" in the title, the Back to the Future trilogy is mainly about the past. The success of the first film all but single-handedly revived the "rock & roll nostalgia" sub-genre - which had been on the decline seven years after Grease - and soon the multiplexes and video stores were again teeming with oldies-laden films set during the 1950s and 1960s. But that same trend was again on the wane in 1989... or should I say the Bruce Wayne, because that was the year Tim Burton's designed-to-be-dark Batman definitively, perhaps permanently changed what a "blockbuster fantasy movie" was supposed to be. Gentle whimsy -- the original Future's stock in trade -- was definitely out that year, which is perhaps why this sequel mainly plays as a harder-edged, more frantic action picture which barely takes time to pause and revel in its surroundings and instead zips from one calamity to the next. In any event, BTTF2 devotes its first third to a thoroughly bizarre and somewhat off-putting sequence set in the Hill Valley of 2015. In the DVD supplements, Zemeckis admits that predicting the future is always a losing proposition -- even Stanley Kubrick was always wrong - so he and Gale mainly give this part of the film over to a variety of bizarre sight gags (hoverboards, self-lacing sneakers, double neckties, a 3D Jaws ad). This is also where the film begins to reveal itself as an almost surrealist parody of its predecessor, giving us grotesque and/or upsetting parodies of familiar scenes from the first film. Example: remember that funny, old-timey Texaco station from the previous movie? Well, now it's staffed by sleek, vaguely threatening-looking robots! Zing! And remember that classic showdown with Biff in the diner? Well, now the diner is a gaudy 1980s-nostalgia-themed cafe where the "waiters" are Max-Headroom-ized versions of Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson! And Biff has a grandson, Griff, who looks and talks just like him, only much louder! Nutty, right? Overall, though, I was glad that the movie's version of the future is ostensibly cheerful, closer to Futurama than Blade Runner.

Unfortunately, the "future" part of the movie also spends some time at the depressing homestead of Marty and his family, where everybody mainly mills around in ugly and unconvincing old-age makeup amidst the various items of blatant product placement. The dialogue here is actually some of the movie's worst, as the characters work overtime to squeeze in crucial bits of plot exposition for us to overhear so we know what the hell is going on. The main point of all this is gimmickry for its own sake: the filmmakers have cast Michael J. Fox in multiple roles so that we can watch him interact with various versions of himself on-camera. It's not surprising that some of this sequence, expensive and complicated as it is, wound up on the cutting room floor. Weirdly, the only thing I really enjoyed in this part of the film was the way Fox played the older Marty as a hoarse-voiced, washed-up loser who whimpers pathetically as he is fired from his job via a big-screen TV while the news of his dismissal spews from several gadgets at once. It's like the whole house is ganging up on Marty at that point.

Oh, and before we leave this part of the film, I want to give the movie some credit for taking baby steps toward gender equality. Like his ancestors, Griff has a gang of sycophantic thugs around him, but this time one of them is a girl. I liked that. But, anyway, on to the next section of the film.

2. Give us a nightmare version of the Hill Valley setting. Again being surprisingly candid, Bob Gale admits on the BTTF2 DVD that taking the story into the future was a logical and narrative mistake. You don't have to travel into the future to change it. Our destinies are ostensibly under our control, so we just have to try to live our lives so that those terrible outcomes never come true. If one of the real underlying problems is Marty's insecurity -- he can't stand being called "chicken" -- maybe he should just get some counseling or something instead of scampering willy-nilly through history , diddling with the space-time continuum to fix his and his relatives' various screw-ups. One could imagine an increasingly-lazy Marty relying on the DeLorean every time he goofed up. ("Damn, forgot to DVR America's Next Top Model. Better fire up the Flux Capacitor.")

The middle of BTTF2 shows us the negative fallout of Doc and (especially) Marty's impetuousness. They return to 1985, only to find themselves in a hellish alternate reality (called "1985-A" by the filmmakers) in which Biff is a multi-millionaire mogul married to Marty's mother, Lorraine, while Marty's father, George, is dead, having been murdered in 1973. This entire section of the film plays out like an extrapolation of the "Pottersville" sequence from It's a Wonderful Life. (Wow. That's the second time in this project I've had to reference It's a Wonderful Life.) Like George Bailey, Marty has inadvertently created a dark parallel timeline in which a charming small town has basically been turned into a dystopian Las Vegas (Hill Valley instead of Bedford Falls), the corrupt villain is in charge and wields unlimited power (Biff instead of Mr. Potter), and the sweet but kooky sidekick guy has been committed (Doc Brown instead of Uncle Billy). Weirdly, Zemeckis even films Michael J. Fox the way Frank Capra filmed Jimmy Stewart. Both Stewart and Fox have a tendency to walk right up to the camera at crucial moments as they register how badly they've messed things up. Again, the filmmakers use this sequence to give us weird parodies of scenes from the first film. Remember when Marty was waking up and heard his mother Lorraine's voice and thought he was back "home" again? Well, now Lorraine has huge fake breasts and looks like a beat-up old whore, and they all live in a place which looks like it was decorated personally by Tony Montana! Pow!

This second section of the film must've come as a shock to fans of the first film, as it more or less takes everything that was endearing about the original and vomits on it, but I admired it for its audacity and willingness to risk being offensive and alienating. There are some very funny things going on in the edges of the film as well. I enjoyed, for example, how Biff's gang from the 1950s have become his entourage in the 1980s, and how one of them (Billy Zane) has taken to wearing a cowboy hat as an affectation. And I laughed aloud -- for the only time during what is essentially a comedy -- during a scene which revisits Marty's old principal, Mr. Strickland, and finds him as a Rambo-like urban warrior taking on his hated "slackers" with a machine gun.

Getting back to the plot, Marty and Doc eventually realize the problems of "1985-A" can be traced back to the movie's #1 McGuffin -- Gray's Sports Almanac, a book of sports statistics which fell into Biff's clutches and allowed him to become rich and powerful, thus destroying the future. So the film enters its final -- and, to its credit, best -- stage.

3. Revisit the first film from another angle. During this portion of the film, Doc and Marty travel back to 1955 to prevent the 2015 Biff from giving the sports almanac to the 1955 Biff. If you could parse that previous sentence at all, it's a cinch that you've seen the first Back to the Future. It should be mentioned that BTTF2 is a sequel which demands that its audience be thoroughly familiar with the plot of the original, not just the basic premise but the scenes and characters, too, down to fairly minute detail. Some sequels are completely comprehensible to newcomers; one needn't see every James Bond film to get the gist of the character. But a movie like BTTF2 relies very heavily on what the experts call "inter-textual dialogue," and never is this more true than in the third act, in which Doc and Marty are basically creeping around in the margins of the first film, trying to remain just out of sight while alternate versions of themselves are just a few feet away, wrapped up in what they think is the real storyline. I'm getting a bit dizzy just thinking about all of this.

On the DVD, Zemeckis said it was this aspect of the story which interested him the most, and frankly it's what interested me the most as well. For one thing, it allows the film to ditch the horrendous makeup prosthetics of the first two acts, and it gives us a chance to see some more of the 1955 Hill Valley that we hadn't seen before. I liked getting a glimpse of Biff's home life, where he lives with his truly awful grandmother and menaces the small children in his neighborhood. (God bless the filmmakers for not dressing Thomas F. Wilson up in drag and having him play "Grandma Biff.") As noted previously, I'm always on board for more material with the mean principal, Mr. Strickland, so I was glad to have a scene of him drinking alone in his office during the famous Enchantment of the Sea Dance, secretly drowning his misery in the sauce and oblivious to the fact that rock & roll is being invented right next door. Above all, I loved the way this section of the film reached its mysterious and almost spooky apex, with Doc Brown seemingly obliterated by a lightning bolt and a stranded Marty -- alone on a rainy night in the middle of nowhere -- being suddenly visited by a trenchcoat-wearing Joe Flaherty, a very odd deus ex machina indeed. Of course, the film kind of fumbles the ball in the last few minutes by including a trailer for Part III before the closing credits, but even here I appreciated the opportunity to watch the members of ZZ Top do that thing where they spin their instruments around in perfect synchronicity. Damn, that always looks cool.

I have to say that revisiting Back to the Future Part II for this project was generally a rewarding experience. The film is certainly one of the more idiosyncratic sequels ever made, and though it's not always appealing -- and, indeed is often deliberately appalling -- I was not bored by it. I was actually surprised at how frantic it was and how much there is actually going on in this film. I'd like to file BTTF2 alongside Gremlins 2: The New Batch and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey in the small but noble category of meta-fictional parodies masquerading as sequels.

All right, you can do that, Joe. Me, I haven't been tempted to re-watch Bogus Journey since it was in theaters (although I have read the comic book adaptation since it was written and drawn by Evan Dorkin, creator of Milk and Cheese and freelance writer on Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Yo Gabba Gabba), and I probably wouldn't have given this film a second look, either, if you hadn't suggested it for this series. This is partially due to how unpleasant the middle section is (and it sure hasn't aged well, as you've pointed out), but it mostly stems from the feeling that one can't watch Back to the Future Part II without immediately following it with Part III so that the story can actual resolve itself. And if I can't seem to block out the four hours required to watch Gone With the Wind (a film that continues to elude me after all these years), I'm sure as heck not going to do that for two-thirds of the trilogy that practically defined the concept of diminishing returns for my 16-year-old self. This is not to say that the Back to the Future series ended on a bad note -- Part III went a long way toward washing away the bad taste that Part II had left in my mouth -- but neither of the sequels ever struck me as really necessary. I dutifully saw them as part of family outings, but between this film and Ghostbusters 2, 1989 was the year of the mercenary sequel that almost but didn't quite taint the sanctity of the original in my mind.

Speaking of having things contaminated, I'd like to say a few words about DVD menus and the people who create them. Now, I realize the perception is that most people who purchase catalog titles like the Back to the Future trilogy on DVD have already seen the movies in question, but is it really a good idea to include a montage of scenes from the film, including some major plot points, including the ending of the film, on the main menu? Surely it crossed their minds that people who were completely new to the series would sit down one day to watch it, presumably right after watching the first film for the first time. Did they really think these people wanted to have major plot points, including the ending of the film, spoiled for them? I guess they must have.

Anyway, getting back to the film, it hits an unavoidable speed bump right out of the gate owing to the replacement of Claudia Wells, who played Marty McFly's girlfriend in the first film, with Elisabeth Shue. This required Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd to replay the original ending verbatim with the new Jennifer, but Lloyd's performance is so erratic (his delivery of the iconic line "Something's gotta be done about your kids" is especially off) that it's a major distraction. Now, I understand that actors aren't necessarily going to use the same exact inflections from take to take (especially ones that are done four years apart), but VCRs were so ubiquitous in the latter half of the '80s that the filmmakers must have realized that people would have re-watched the original multiple times over and thus committed the scene to memory. (As a matter of fact, as Joe points out, they were pretty much banking on that.) It's not like Pulp Fiction, in which Amanda Plummer's Honey Bunny delivers her "Nobody move" line differently at the beginning and end of the film. So much happens in between that you probably won't notice until the second or third time you watch it. With this film, though, if you're as much of a Back to the Future nut as Gale and Zemeckis hoped you would be, you can't help but pick up on it right off the bat, which means instead of wondering what's going to happen when Doc takes Marty and Jennifer to the year 2015, you're thinking, "What's wrong with Christopher Lloyd? Doesn't he know how to say his own lines?"

Moving on, the movie plops us down in 2015 (which, it should be said, is only five years away, or as Roland Emmerich has clearly shown us, three years after the world comes to an end) and immediately Gale and Zemeckis have Doc Brown knock Jennifer out for asking too many questions about her own future. Because when you're a scientist with a time machine the last thing you have time for is to pull over somewhere and take 15-20 minutes to explain things to your assistant's girlfriend. What it really comes down to, I think, is that Gale and Zemeckis were stuck with Jennifer in the DeLorean because she was there at the end of the first film and when they started working on the sequel they realized they had no idea what to do with her in the future. Pretty inconvenient, right? Zap! Problem solved!

With Jennifer out of the way, Doc fills Marty in on his plan (he's to impersonate his doofus of a son, Marty McFly Jr., and refuse to take part in a robbery) and sends him off into the bustling town square of the future Hill Valley with the admonition that he shouldn't look at anything or interact with anybody. Of course, movies are all about looking at things, so Marty ignores the Doc's instructions and marvels at the electronic billboards, including the extremely interactive one for Jaws 19 at the Holomax. Now, anybody who saw Jaws the Revenge in 1987 knew there was no chance of a Jaws 5, let alone a 19, but with the proliferation of IMAX theaters and the recent resurgence of 3-D movies, the idea of a hologrammatic film experience isn't so much of a stretch these days. Marty's also drawn to the window of an antique shop which, in addition to highlighting the pivotal sports almanac, also features a Roger Rabbit doll (a neat in-joke since that was Zemeckis's previous film) and a quaint-looking Macintosh "biege toaster." He then has his proscribed run-in with Griff (whose entire role can be summed up by the way he says, "Since when did you become the physical type?") and one McFly family disaster is avoided only for another to be waiting in the wings.

This second disaster comes in form of a "like father, like son" moment where Marty McFly Sr. (who is the fourth Michael J. Fox we see in the film -- I guess he was trying to one-up Eddie Murphy after Coming to America) fails to back down from an illegal business deal dangled in front of him by a colleague named Needles (a character played by an unrecognizable Flea whose importance to the story isn't revealed until the closing moments of the next film) and is subsequently terminated by his unforgiving Japanese employer, who tells him to "Read my fax." Yes, it's 2015 and people still send faxes, but this is easy to forgive because it's actually important for events in the Back to the Future movies to have a paper trail. After all, how else will we and the characters know that history has been changed if newspaper headlines, matchbooks and other printed media don't magically change in front of our eyes? (Of course, the payoff for the fax likewise doesn't come until the end of Part III, but that was released in the spring of 1990 so it's out of our purview.)

Since both sequels were written and produced simultaneously (a practice that was later repeated with The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean movies), there are a number of other things that are set up in Part II that don't pay off until Part III. One is Doc's declaration that the Old West is his favorite time period and that he wants to give up time travel and explore that other great mystery, women. Another is a passing reference to Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, gunslinging ancestor to Biff in a video Marty sees upon his return to the 1985 that has been corrupted by Biff's evil influence. And finally there's the scene from A Fistful of Dollars that Biff watches with much amusement, little realizing that his forebear had a similar encounter with somebody posing as "Clint Eastwood" (just as Marty passed himself off as "Calvin Klein" in the first movie).

I tend to agree with Joe that the film picks up considerably when Doc and Marty return to 1955 to set things right and prevent all sorts of calamities that will befall them and their loved ones. Accordingly, there isn't a whole lot for me to say about it that Joe hasn't already covered, but I do want to point out the Travel Service sign in the background of some of the shots that trumpets "10 Days in Cuba!" (This neatly echoes the billboard in 2015 that invites travelers to "Surf Vietnam!" -- itself a clear reference to Apocalypse Now, which had been co-written by Zemeckis and Gale's 1941 co-writer John Milius.). And I quite like Joe Flaherty's walk-on as the ominous Western Union man, which he reprised almost word-for-word at the end of Family Guy's second extended Star Wars parody, Something Something Dark Side, a take-off on The Empire Strikes Back, the gold standard for middle sequels that end on a cliffhanger. Which reminds me...

Next up: The third part of a blockbuster franchise that's not this one.


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I never really attempted to deal with the inconsistencies of the timeline in BTTF2. At the beginning of this project, Dr. Hot Lunch voiced the following complaint:

('Old' Biff steals the goddam Delorean in 2015, goes back to 1955 to give the Sports Almanac to 'Young' Biff, but when he returns, he's still in the same timeline with Marty and Doc, and is not rich! Yet, when Marty and Doc return to 1985, 'regular' Biff is rich!!??!! WTF?)

I have no good explanation for this, DHL, and neither does the movie. I saw the movie only a week ago, and I've already forgotten how 'old Biff' managed to commandeer the DeLorean in the first place, let alone successfully drive it back to 1955. There's another weird thing going on in 1955, too. Supposedly, by giving young Biff the sports almanac, old Biff was setting into motion a series of events which would result in his own death. (Some of this wound up on the cutting room floor.) In the nightmare "1985-A" scenario, Lorraine shoots her husband Biff circa 1990 (according to the commenary track). That's why, in BTTF 2, when old Biff gives young Biff the book, old Biff then staggers off like he's having a heart attack. He's supposed to be dying because he's erasing himself from existence. BUT! If Biff dies in 1990, then how could he be arond in 2015 to travel back to 1955? For that matter, once the timeline is altered in 1955, the whole landscape of Hill Valley changes and by 1985-A the town is totally unrecognizable. There is no town square anymore. So that antiques store from 2015 would never even have existed in the first place. Essentially, that antiques store not only prevents its own existence but, in so doing, prevents the prevention of its own existence. When you start thinking about the events of the BTTF movies, you can get into maddening loops like this.

I realize this does not answer the original question, but that question is unanswerable. If, as Doc says, a time-space paradox could destroy the very fabric of the universe, then he and Marty should by all rights have destroyed the universe several times over.

Having watched the movie slightly more recently than you, I can report that old Biff is able to hijack the DeLorean because he gets in a cab and follows Doc and Marty to the development where Marty's future self lives. And when Marty leaves the time machine unattended to check out his own house, Biff hops in, punches in the date in 1955 that is already in the computer's memory and off he goes. Beyond that, there's no reason in the world why he should have been able to return to the same 2015 that he left, having irrevocably altered the past by delivering the sports almanac to his younger self, but let me offer up a theory:

You remember how in the first movie Marty's prevention of his parents' first meeting causes his siblings to slowly disappear from the photo he carries around with him and finally he starts to fade in the middle of playing "Earth Angel" until the pivotal moment when his parents kiss and everything is restored? Well, as you may recall from Part II, young Biff has to wait a few years until his 21st birthday to place his first legal bet, so maybe that gave old Biff enough leeway to return to the same 2015 he left before time caught up with him and he was erased from existence. Keep in mind, that's only a theory, but it's the best one I can come up with to patch the glaring plot hole Zemeckis and Gale wove into the very fabric of their story.

That's a pretty good theory, Craig - I've had this argument with many friends over the years, and I hadn't heard that one yet. I guess there's many different explanations, but no clear answers.

I had a friend whose favorite argument was the "alternate universes" concept, and tried to compare it to the episode of Star Trek:TNG, where Lt. Worf keeps hopping around to different Enterprises because Gordi's shitty glasses keep breaking.

So this theory goes: changes to the timeline only kick in (and start to affect other eras) when certain crucial triggering actions -- i.e. George and Lorraine kissing, Biff making his first bet -- occur. By the way, when I said that I didn't know how Biff got the time machine back to 1955, I meant that he seems to be a complete idiot who's not capable of much of anything, yet he seems to grasp the concept of DeLorean-based time travel pretty easily.

Speaking of the space-time continuum, I'm sure people have asked these kinds of questions of the Terminator movies as well. If the Terminator had succeeded in killing Sarah Connor, then there would never be a John Connor. But if there's no John Connor, there'll never be a need for the Terminator to be built in the first place. So the Terminator, having never been built, wouldn't have traveled back in time to prevent the birth of John Connor. Only by failing to kill Sarah Connor does he allow for his own future existence. None of what I just typed makes any sense so I'll stop now.

P.S. Getting back to BTTF2, I nominate Charles "Roger Rabbit" Fleischer for "worst prosthetic makeup." They've made him look like Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride for some reason.

Help me out, Joe. Which character did Fleischer play again?

Again, regarding BTTF2, another theory bandied about by friends was this (I'll try to keep it simple):

When '2015 Biff' stole the Delorean and went back to 1955, he left Marty and Doc in that timeline, we'll call it "Timeline 1". Therefore, when he returned to 2015 after giving the Almanac to 1955 Biff, he had to return to "Timeline 1", because Marty and Doc were still 'trapped' there, and you "can't leave someone stuck in a different timeline" (according to my friend)

This, however, goes directly against the Lt. Worf episode, as well as any and all laws of physics, not to mention Back to the Future 2 itself: When Marty and Doc go back to discover "1985-A" as you put it, they leave Jennifer and Einstein the dog there, because Doc makes the argument that "this 1985 (1985-A) will cease to exist once they fix their problems by stopping Biff in 1955..."

Your Terminator 2 argument was very deep as well...loved it. Also, someone needs to invent a time machine, "Hot Tub" or otherwise, and stop Harold Ramis and Akroyd in 1989 from making 'Ghostbusters 2'. What a pile of garbage. Also, they're starting to write 'Ghostbusters 3' so I've read. Now is OUR moment in history to stop this atrocity. I'd rather watch a sequel to a movie that needs it. You know, like Platoon, Schindler's List, or Million Dollar Baby. (The most needy sequel, "Ghandi 2", was already covered in the best 1980's movie ever, UHF.)

Also, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey kicked ass. Total ass. It was Ass-To-Mouth level of kickass. The only thing it was missing were some historical figures from the first film, who should have been interspersed in the 'Bogus Journey' while they ventured through Heaven, Hell, and the rest of the afterlife...Station.

Oh, and Fleischer played the role of Tiger Woods's publicist, and W's evil secretary. (wait, that was Ari, sorry...)

Charles Fleishcer played the auto mechanic who fixed Biff's car in the 1950s (he and Biff argue over the cost) and in 2015 was raising money for the clock tower (he asks Marty for a donation). There's more of his character in the deleted scenes, and the filmmakers were trying to establish who he was and why he was important to the story. There wasn't enough time to do this successfully in the finished film, so the end result is that you get this random character who barges into a couple of scenes for no good reason. If they hadn't included him as a 1955 character, there would have been no need to age him as a 2015 character. But he's established as being a part of the 1955 landscape, so they felt obligated to slather old-age makeup on him in 2015. He ends up looking like Grandpa from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I remember those characters, but never would have put together that they were played by the same actor. Wow.

I confess I didn't watch any of the deleted scenes on the DVD. I rarely find them edifying. Same with outtakes. Unless the director goes to the trouble of incorporating them into the film as part of a director's cut, I tend not to bother with them. Life is too short.

Ah, this is interesting! You've touched on some issues where you and I disagree philosophically and artistically. First off, I have found that life -- in contrast to the adage -- is not too short. Or if it is too short, it only seems that way from the false vantage point of hindsight. (This same false vantage point is what causes many of us to orverromanticize or idealize childhood. I think we forget about the sheer amount of tedium, frustration, and fear inherent in childhood and only remember it as a time of carefree fun.) I think MST3K hit it on the head: you're born, you die, and there's a lot of padding in between. If life were indeed too short, we'd scarcely have need of entertainment. Think of the lengths to which humans have gone to entertain themselves and each other over the centuries. Why do we do it? Because there's so much time to fill! I remember reading a quote once, stating that the average man doesn't know what to do with the life he's got, yet he wants another one that will last forever. I think if anything we suffer from a surplus, not a scarcity, of time. I've also noticed that people always have time to tell you how valuable their time supposedly is, which causes me to doubt the value of time as a commodity.

As for deleted scenes, what can I say? I like looking through the scraps of the creative process. If this puts me at odds with the purist or auteurist mindset, so be it. Purism doesn't interest me, and I'm not a hard-line auteurist either. I say, go ahead and demystify the creative process. Pull the curtain back. Pop open the hood, and let's see how the thing works. Any finished work -- regardless of its medium -- serves as a record of its own making. In that way, every movie is a documentary. Sometimes what is left out of a work can be as enlightening as what is included -- the roads not taken, the avenues that were almost explored but were then abandoned. It's a crapshoot, certainly, but I'm comfortable with that. I'm actually less enamored of so-called "director's cuts." In most cases, though certainly not all, I'd rather see the excised material on its own.

I guess what it comes down to for me is how much interest I have in the film in question. In times past, if I have a burning desire to find out everything I could about a film, then I would play the behind-the-scenes featurettes, listen to the commentaries and, yes, view the deleted scenes (especially if they've been mentioned in the commentaries). Nowadays, though, once I've finished a film, the next step for me is to write about it -- and I try to do that while the viewing experience is still very fresh in my mind. Then, once my review is done, I'm ready to move onto the next film. So when I say "life is too short," what is implied is "and there are so many more movies that I have yet to see even once."

As a regular follower of your excellent blog, I know how many movies you watch, and I'm always amazed and impressed by the variety of material you cover there. I'm afraid I'm not generally a very focused or disciplined film viewer. There are whole worlds of film that I've never even gotten around to, and yet I often find myself watching certain movies again and again instead of exploring new ones. And I'll look through the special features, listen to the commentary, watch the deleted scenes, etc. I realize that, with that time, I probably could've watched two or three other movies, but somehow my brain doesn't work like that.

There are times when I try to increase the sheer number of films I have seen, but I tend to do it in crazy binges. As you know, I did a project where I watched and reviewed 50 horror films in the span of a couple of months, and when each one started up I had a sense of panic because I realized I was going to have to familiarize myself with -- and try to remember -- another set of characters and plot points. There was always the danger of the movies running together in my mind. But that was nothing compared to watching a collection of 75 public domain cartoons. That was one of the toughest viewing challenges of my life. And then there was my descent into the world of middlebrow respectability with my quest to see all 10 Best Picture nominees.

But generally, despite these projects, I'm fairly lazy in my movie-watching habits.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Blevins and Craig J. Clark published on March 11, 2010 3:45 AM.

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