Movie #110: Back to the Future (1985)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells

Academy Awards (1986):

Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing: Charles L. Campbell, Robert R. Rutledge

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Music, Original Song: Chris Hayes, Johnny Colla, Huey Lewis for ‘The Power of Love’

Best Sound: Bill Varney, B. Tennyson Sebastian II, Robert Thirlwell, William B. Kaplan

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Robert Zemekis, Bob Gale


 Teenager Marty McFly (Fox) inadvertently goes thirty years back in time and interrupts his mother and father’s first meeting.  To avoid fading out of existence he must convince his future parents that they’re meant to be together. (via 501 Must-See Movies:Revised and Updated Edition)

This is a nice mix of science fiction, comedy, action, and drama.  This mix was common for a lot of the major films of the 1980s.  Looking back, the casting for Back to the Future was spot on.  Michael J. Fox works wonderfully as Marty McFly.  Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast as Marty, would have probably done a serviceable job, but Fox’s comedic timing and chemistry with the rest of the cast really makes the character and by extension the movie.


I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the key characters in this movie.  One of the things that really sticks out to me is how each character acts whether it’s 1955 or 1985.  It’s interesting to see how common American culture and history influences each era and   Christopher Lloyd does a great eccentric scientist, and he’s a much different character depending on what year it is.  Part of that was his performance, part of it was from great writing.

"Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out, that he'd melt my brain."

“Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain.”

Ok, yes, this was more than a little creepy.

Ok, yes, this was more than a little creepy.

Though they all were around the same age, I enjoyed the contrast that Biff Tannen (Wilson), George McFly (Glover), and Lorraine (Thompson) has with Marty in 1985.  The makeup really gives each character, Thompson specifically, a noticeable difference between looking 17 and looking 47.

One interesting message in this film is the profound impact one moment can have on a person’s life.  George’s encounter with Biff towards the end of the movie completely changes the dynamic of their relationship.

Though I’ve seen this movie many times before, it’s always interesting to catch new things I hadn’t seen before.  I’ve realized and come to appreciate how the dialogue is intricately connected throughout the movie.   There are very few throwaway lines in Back to the Future.  It’s also interesting how a lot of the same lines and conversational sequences are used in 1955 as well as 1985 Hill Valley between Biff, George, and Marty.

Back to the Future is fun.  It combines a funny, intelligent script with great on-screen chemistry between the primary actors and actresses.  It’s fascinating to look back and think that virtually every major studio passed on this movie and Universal Studios green lit this film after Robert Zemeckis directed Romancing the Stone.

Also, since they travel to 2015 in Back to the Future Part 2, here are a few reminders.

People dress like this...

People dress like this…

and drive cars like this.

and drive cars like this.







My Rating: 4.5/5 stars


Movie #109: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Sala Baker, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Hugo Weaving, John Rhys-Davies Ian Holm, Andy Serkis

Academy Awards (2002):

Best Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie

Best Makeup: Peter Owen, Richard Taylor

Best Music, Original Score: Howard Shore

Best Visual Effects: Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, Richard Taylor, Mark Stetson

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Ian McKellen

Best Art Direction: Grant Major, Dan Hennah

Best Costume Design: Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor

Best Director: Peter Jackson

Best Film Editing: John Gilbert

Best Music, Original Song: Enya, Nicky Ryan, Roma Ryan

Best Picture: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Barrie M. Osborne

Best Sound: Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Gethin Creagh, Hammond Peek

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson


An ancient ring thought lost for centuries has been found, given to a Hobbit named Frodo (Wood).  When Gandalf (McKellen) discovers that this is the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron (Baker), Frodo must make an epic quest to the Cracks of Doom to destroy it. (via 501 Must-See Movies: Revised and Updated Edition, 2010)

This movie and trilogy is enjoyable, if you can handle Peter Jackson’s thorough storytelling.

One of the nice things about long films like this is the ability to develop a wide range of characters.  Jackson takes time weaving together the humans, elves, dwarves, and hobbits as they unite in this epic quest.  Even though this film is 3 hours long, the pacing is very well done.  An unfortunate shortfall for a film like The Fellowship of the Ring, though, comes from the fact that it is the first in a series.  Much more time has to be devoted to introducing the massive ensemble cast.  It is necessary, but I felt like the first hour or so dragged on.  Once Frodo and company left the Shire, this wasn’t a problem.

"I am sorry I brought this upon you, my boy. I'm sorry that... you must carry this burden. I'm sorry for everything."

“I am sorry I brought this upon you, my boy. I’m sorry that… you must carry this burden. I’m sorry for everything.”

I especially like the battle and struggle between good and evil.  Even the nicest or best intentioned person could become a monster once the Ring enters the picture.  That tension and suspense was engaging, and the candid nature of many of the characters helped define how a person could be corrupted or redeemed, among others.  The exchange between Frodo and Galadriel (Blanchett) was especially powerful in demonstrating the Ring’s power to corrupt.

I found it was appropriate to cast Sean Bean as Boromir (the guy that dies).  I especially found his exchange with Aragon (Mortensen) at the end of the film.  Though he had fallen, he found redemption and humility in the end.

It doesn’t surprise me that Ian McKellen was nominated for an Academy Award.  This and the X-Men series are the only films I’ve seen him in, so at the time this movie came out I was still largely unfamiliar with him.  He does the wise old man part very well.  He balances a character of sound judgement, conviction, and a compassionate nature.

The visuals for this movie are absolutely stunning.  I watched it this time on a much bigger TV than I have in the past, which helped to enhance the movie experience.  The CGI was used well, and a number of the natural shorts were breathtaking.  Watching this trilogy makes me want to visit New Zealand.


The Lord of the Rings trilogy has become the standard for modern epic films.  I never read nor plan on reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s series, but from what I have read Peter Jackson did the source material justice.  He weaves together a variety of characters in a massive adventure that takes over 9 hours (theatrical version) to tell.  The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring introduces this massive ensemble and lays the groundwork for two more films that explore the struggle between good and evil and once humble hobbit who will determine the fate of Middle Earth.

My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.