21 Oct

Back to the Future II

The Setup

October 21, 2015 is upon us, and that means its time to revisit the science fiction, time traveling classic: Back to the Future II. Is it the best Back to the Future movie? No. Is it the most plausible representation of a futuristic society? No. Does it comply with even the most basic logic in time travel? Definitely not. But it is nonetheless part of an immensley popular trilogy that happened to have a portion of the story take place on a date that was just far enough in the future that some of the people who grew up watching the movies would live to see the day when hoverboards and dehydrated meals would supposedly be a reality. Since they travel to three separate eras in this film, we decided to cook dishes and craft drinks that were relevant for each decade while examining whether Back to the Future II could stand the tests of time itself.

The Food

Although each dish is representative of its related decade, we wanted to keep one ingredient constant throughout the meal. One of the most rewarding parts of the Back to the Future trilogy is discovering all of the intricate plot points, brands, objects and people that reappear throughout the film in different forms, adapted for the present period that Doc and Marty find themselves in. We wanted to create the same experience with our meal choice, although much less subtle, so we used carrots in each of our dishes. You might be wondering why we picked carrots… Well, we really have no good answer for you. Sorry.

The 1980s

The movie begins right where the first one left off: in 1985. Later in the movie (spoilers!) Marty and Doc travel to an alternate version of 1985, but we’d like to imagine the culinary trends remained constant despite the financial upset caused by Biff Tannen’s gambling success. For some reason, multi-colored pasta salad was all the rage in the 80s. Hidden Valley Ranch also began rising in popularity with their distribution of the dry mix packets and the introduction of Doritos Cool Ranch chips, so we opted for a ranch dressing for our salad. We also added some bacon (for protein!), heirloom tomatoes, and chopped carrots. Ben and Leanna topped theirs with some black olives, but André has an olive-based dietary restriction, so he opted out. Apparently this is a thing.

2015 (Present Day)

It’s hard to pick one food that defines the 2010s since we’re only halfway through it, but we do feel like there are some trends that have been steadily gaining popularity over the last few years. We used the farro burger recipe from the Skillet Diner Cookbook to play into the increased preference for ancient grains, vegetarian options, and upscale diner fare. We made the patties by hand, using a combination of portobello mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery, and farro and served them on a pretzel bun (so hot right now) with some mixed greens. They were just as filling as any beef burger we’ve cooked (and we’ve cooked plenty), and totally delicious and satisfying in its own way.

The 1950s

We closed out our meal with a spiced carrot cake covered in vanilla bean cream cheese frosting. Although boxed cake mixes were incredibly popular in the 50s along with other pre-packaged foods, we opted to bake our own from scratch because, let’s be honest, homemade always tastes better and at the end of the day we have to eat the cake so it might as well be good. And it was.

Although cakes in general were popular both in diners and at home during the 1950s, carrot cake became increasingly popular during this time because of its use of carrots themselves. There was a surplus of canned vegetables after the war, and legend has it that carrot cake was one of the recipes popularized during this time to help use up extra canned carrots. Interestingly enough, carrot cake also had a resurgence in the 80s when its use of a vegetable branded it as a “healthy” cake alternative. It appears the cake held up over the years better than the movie, but more on that later. Let’s just get to the photos of the cake.

The Drinks

Like the meal, we wanted to have a common thread throughout our drinks, so we crafted cocktails that all used vodka. We would love for our reasons behind choosing Vodka to be nuanced and interesting but, that is just not the case.

The 1980s

The 80s were all about bright, fruity, syrupy, sweet drinks, and the Kamikaze was the ultimate embodiment of that. It gets its shockingly bright blue color from Blue Curacao, some extra punch from vodka, and is balanced out by a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. These were all too easy to consume in multiples as we watched Doc and Marty jump haphazardly through time and followed our own ill-fated drinking rule for this occurrance.

2015 (Present Day)

Drinking vinegars are a new favorite of ours and are gaining increasing popularity in bars around the world. They’re a healthy alternative to syrups and mixers, and add an unexpected and delightful flavor to cocktails of all shapes and sizes. We used Pomegranate Som Drinking Vinegar from Pok Pok along with some lime juice, vodka, and sparkling water to create our modern day cocktail.

The 1950s

In the spirit of Back to the Future we figured why not find our own material from that decade. Luckily, Ben oddly enough has a collection of old magazines from the 50’s and 60’s that we were lucky enough to peruse to find some inspiration. We allowed ourselves a little wiggle room with the precise dates of the magazine, and settled on the July 28, 1964 issue of Look Magazine. In its collection of interesting articles such as “What is a Liberal? What is a Conservative?” and near endless supply of advertisements and retro graphic design, we came across a specific ad for Gilbey’s Vodka. With it’s pairing of san serif body copy to a modern serif, the ad is striking and features a sickly looking lady with, what we can only guess, is a case of jaundice (the yellow really seems to be punctuating her look), but nevertheless, she is selling that Vodka Collins with all of her model skill. In smaller text on that ad is a recipe for a Vodka Collins, one that we knew we had to follow to live the lives of those in the 1950s (cough 60s). The recipe is as follows: Mix fresh lemon juice, powdered sugar, and 1 1/2oz Gilbey’s Vodka in cracked ice, and add club soda to taste. Simple enough, and although the powdered sugar struck us as strange to our contemporary sensibilities, we forged ahead to enjoy this refreshing drink.

The Rules

  1. Drink whenever Marty says, “This is heavy.”
  2. Drink whenever The Doc says, “Great Scott!”
  3. Shots whenever they travel through time.

The Movie

Well, this certainly wasn’t the best Back to the Future movie. It wasn’t the worst either, but it was still pretty bad. Everything from the plot to the props to the acting was overwrought and to top it off, it was campy as hell. To be fair, campy isn’t always bad, but there are different types of camp. The first Back to the Future was pretty campy but in a way we would describe as heartwarmingly cheesy. The second one was campy in an over-the-top corny way.

2015 in Back to the Future II looks positively ludicrous. Some movies, like Her, like to paint a picture of a more refined, well-designed future, while Back to the Future II envisions a world with clear ties and double ties, silver shoes and silver glasses. The lead costume designer was definitely pushing a very “big” vision, but would have been better off making a clothing style more based in… reality. Fashion does change over time, but not that much. Ties have looked the same for hundreds of years, varying only in width and fabric, not in transparency. By making the future so “out there,” it made the setting very hard to believe, and very much a product of its time.

Then, there was the acting. Again, the director had a very “big” vision here (the director is Robert Zemeckis, is also known for Forrest Gump). Every actor had overly expressive body language to the point where it distracted from the movie quite a bit. We imagined the director kept asking the actors for bigger and bigger movements, and the actors eventually caved and did a comically over-the-top rendition of a scene, thinking the director would realize what he was asking for was borderline insulting, but he ended up using that scene and making them act like that for the rest of the movie. We aren’t positive that this is what happened, so we may just have to watch the commentary and get back to you on that.

The only part of the movie with any potential was the plot. There were lots of great time travel conundrums, but the movie got so caught up in the theatrics of it all, that it was very easy to look past the surprisingly thorough plot. Let us paint a picture for you. This movie could be told in about a solid 30 minutes, but the director was so in love with the idea of the past, present, and future that it was padded out to a 90 minute movie. Those 30 minutes could be an interesting short story about the difficulties and mishaps of time travel, but instead you get a watered down version of what could have been a wonderful drink. For shame!

The Reviews

André: 8.8 MPH. Having just watched the first Back to The Future very recently, I was excited to watch the second one, as I had never seen it before and I enjoyed the first one thoroughly. Boy, was I disappointed. This movie was nothing like the first one, which focused on character relationships and the theme of turning one’s life around for the better. Back to the Future II seemed to think that people just liked the campy-ness of the movie and the time travel stuff, so they tried to build on that instead, and ended up with a much worse movie.

Leanna: 0.75 gigawatts out of 1.21 gigawatts. This movie… I really wanted to love it. It was a similar experience for me as when we watched Mean Girls: I had so much nostalgic love for it, but this time around I found myself fatigued by the over-acting and disappointed in the representation of 2015. But I still have so much love for this trilogy (and the first movie holds up so much better) and the web of connections and references they wove between them. It makes watching the movies, despite their flaws, still fun for me because it’s an ongoing Easter egg hunt, and I notice something new every time. Like all time travel movies, you just have to accept that there will be plot holes, but man, this movie really doesn’t want you to dig very deep. Or even dig at all. It still has an iconic movie soundtrack, and there’s a number of good lines to boot. I may not love it as much as I used to, but I still love it.

Ben: 55%. Well, I had seen this film once before and it did not leave much of an impression me, and that was true for the second viewing as well. This is a film that I feel like I would have to be like Marty and go back in time to properly experience. The over-the-top nature of a lot of the movie was hard to enjoy, and it seemed to be a wonderful way to cover up the poor acting from the supporting actors more than anything else. In addition, the entire movie seemed to presume that the audience was not able to remember what had happened previously, and seemed hell-bent on reminding you what the story was every, oh, either 30 seconds or 5 minutes. I did not find myself enjoying Back to the Future II, and I hope it is one future generations can forget about it. I urge them to not return to the past or to try to do so. Back to the Future II would be better off left in the past.