Part II Minute 89 – Fighting Word

Part 2 Minute-00089

Biff calls Marty a chicken, but Marty is taken out by himself.

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One thought on “Part II Minute 89 – Fighting Word

  1. I could talk for a while about this minute. It’s incredible.

    To start, Marty is watching himself give his little blessing to Lorraine and George–“I had a feeling about you two”—and the audience is watching with him, literally over his shoulder. Now, a good chunk of this movie is about dramatic irony: viewers know 2015-Biff stole the almanac before Doc and Marty know it, for example. There’s little to no dramatic irony here; Marty and the audience are watching the stairwell scene from the same point of view. We’ve all seen this before, but man is it cool to see it again. Marty gets wrapped up in the familiar moment and it’s a nice breather after the Johnny B. Goode sequence.

    We’re interrupted quite suddenly and (and in a strangely quiet manner) by Biff’s entrance in the frame. The camera shifts focus from background to foreground, past to present.

    The timing is so careful, and the blocking is so smooth. Marty walks away from Biff’s invitation to fight and the camera focuses back on Stairwell-Marty as he aaaaalmost exits, before turning around again to George and Lorraine. It’s hitching up the tension so subtly you’d think they contrived Marty’s fake-out in exiting the stairwell, but that’s legitimately what happened in the first movie. It’s one of the most impressive instances of interweaving the narrative details of Part 1 and Part 2.

    Marty gets called chicken, and Michael J. Fox turns around stupidly, cartoonishly slow. The tension builds as he’s giving his line–

    The stairwell door flies open. Maybe viewers forgot that it was going to open. I mean, we’ve been distracted by Marty getting confronted with his chicken-kryptonite, and his exit from the stairwell in the first movie was a nothing moment—an unimportant split second. But oh my God.

    It’s all visual comedy; the way Marty’s head bounces off the door, the pause as his other self exits the shot, his delayed slide down the wall, the baffled look on Biff’s face. I’m in love with it all. I just love it.

    You guys call this scene a “masterclass in comedic editing” which is amazing when it has so few cuts— clearly the different shots had to be overlaid in post, but for the most part, the pacing is set down in front of the camera.

    Random notes:
    -When he gets called chicken, Marty mouths the word “chicken” like the over-dramatic fool he is.
    -Lorraine’s mouth doesn’t match up at all with the dialogue we hear.
    -Marty refuses Biff’s invitation to fight and Biff looks a tiny bit shocked; a tiny bit lost. It reminds me of the beginning of the first movie, when older Biff raids the McFly fridge (“all you have for me is light beer?”) then says to Marty, “what are you lookin at, butthead?” in an oddly embarrassed way.

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