DID YOU READ

In Defense of “Back to the Future Part II”

In Defense of “Back to the Future Part II”  (photo)

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“Back to the Future Part II” is one of the best sequels ever made about sequels. The movie has a poor reputation amongst those who see it as a pale imitation of the original film. What those critics fail to realize is that the film itself acknowledges that inferiority, and the inherent inferiority of all sequels, within its rather brilliant construction. It’s a movie about overcompensating as much as it is a movie about time travel.

Though released four years after the first “Back to the Future,” “Part II” picks up exactly where the first film left off. Time travel inventor and DeLorean enthusiast Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel to the year 2015 with Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue) to prevent Marty’s son from participating in a bank robbery. While there, Marty finds an almanac that lists every sports score from the second half of the twentieth century and plans to bring it back to the past to make money gambling on the winners. Though Doc changes Marty’s mind, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) steals Doc’s time machine and gives the almanac to himself as a teenager, creating an alternate 1985 where he is the richest and most powerful man in America. To correct this nightmarish alternate reality Doc and Marty next travel to 1955, to the exact time and place of the events of the first “Back to the Future,” to steal the almanac back from Biff and ensure he can’t use it to rewrite history.

All sequels face the same creative challenge: balancing the audience’s desire to see what they liked from the original film again with their desire to see things that are novel and original. That final 1955 sequence provides both a satisfying way to do that and an ingenious metatextual commentary on that idea. In it, director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis and producer/co-writer Bob Gale, bring us back to the events of the first film from a different perspective: Marty’s, as he struggles to retrieve the almanac from Biff and happens to be present for the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance a second time. It’s almost as if Marty’s watching “Back to the Future” and inviting us to watch it with him. He even gets caught up in things he sees, rooting on his dad as punches out Biff, nodding approvingly at his performance of “Johnny B. Goode.” As Marty puts it, “talk about déjà vu.”

With “Back to the Future Part II,” Zemeckis and Gale managed a rare and difficult feat: they made an extremely faithful followup while simultaneously making fun of the idea of extremely faithful followups. What’s more, many of the tasks they place before Marty in 1955 put the character into the position they as creators were in as they conceived the sequel. At a crucial moment in “Part II,” Marty needs to stop a bunch of goons who are planning to jump the Marty from the first film after he finishes “Johnny B. Goode.” “Part II” Marty must sneak into the dance, defeat the goons, and save “Part I” Marty, all without being seen or interrupting the important events that are going on around him. Marty, in other words, becomes Zemeckis and Gale: he has to show us the things we loved about “Back to the Future” without disturbing anything he finds or ruining the legacy of what he’d built the first time around.

Most of the common complaints about “Back to the Future Part II” are irrelevant. While it’s true that its future world of 2015 looks a bit silly in the year 2010 — Flying cars! Holographic movies! People reading newspapers! — the alternate 1985 sequence, where corporate interests control the government and our education system lies in ruins, was always the film’s most prescient. And it doesn’t matter that Marty is suddenly obsessed with people calling him chicken even though that was never an issue in the first film. This is “Back to the Future.” Rewriting history is what this series is about.

This particular third of that series is about the dangers of meddling with history, and again, that all works as a meta commentary on the process of sequel-making as well. Marty’s “chicken” obsession, while certainly an unmotivated addition to his character, also becomes a place for Zemeckis and Gale to put their fears of inadequacy as filmmakers. Think we’re afraid of making a sequel to one of the most beloved movies of the decade? Nobody calls us chicken! Look, we’ve got hoverboards and rehydrated pizzas and video phones and stuff!

“Back to the Future Part II” is not as good as the first film. Sequels rarely are. That’s the point: the best you can do lead people back through their memories of the first film and hope you don’t taint them with the things you add to them.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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