Tuesday, April 28, 2020

that’s what make times travel possible

The context for a given film is interesting. I mean, going back to movies I watched time and time again in my childhood is interesting because I can imagine what I thought of the movie on first blush.
I mean, had I even seen any time travel movies before Back to the Future was in theaters? Time After Time came out in 1979 but it's not like I saw that in the theater. I had watched every episode of Voyagers!, but cinematically, I'm not sure. Maybe some crap low budget thing available on VHS for rental, but I can't think of what movie it might be.

But, what I really wanted to talk about, looping back around to Back to the Future after drifting away from it last time, is this discussion of late I've seen online about how Marty's parents not recognizing him--looking, as he does, just like that guy Calvin who helped get them together 30 years ago--as a plot hole. (Remember, I don't like the use of that term plot hole in the first place.)

A) This is not a plot hole because it has nothing to do with the plot. So, check your language and stop being stupid.

2) They knew Calvin for a week, and then only barely. We follow him through that week, but they don't. They've got school to attend each day, they've surely got homework to do, or chores. They spend a few hours over several days with him. And, for them, he is not Michael J. Fox who they've been watching on a weekly sitcom for a few years now, either. He's just some guy. Think of someone you knew 30 years ago, think of their face, the specific features. What color were their eyes? Were they close together or far apart? Was their nose pointy, wide, round, or missing altogether? (Well, probably not that last one.) What did they mouth look like? How did they do their hair?

When Lorraine met Calvin, she was smitten, so she was not even seeing him clearly anyway, and by the end of that week he was in town, she was smitten with someone else. Picture the face of someone you had a week-long crush on 30 years ago, and run through the questions above again. And then there's the problem of each time you think of that person, your brain is really just thinking of the last time you thought of them. Like with movies, in that way. When I watch Back to the Future today, I am not really thinking back on that first time, though I can imagine bits of that one--Mann 3 in Hastings Ranch I think, but it might have been the General Cinema at the Santa Anita Fashion Park. I certainly enjoyed it but I think the only specific memory I have of that first time--

because in the intervening years there have been so many other screenings of this film, watching it on VHS where it shared a tape with Adventures in Babysitting and Winners Take All. Speaking of memory, by the way, without looking it up, I think that last title is a movie involving BMX racing, but I am not sure because we didn't watch that movie as much as we watched Back to the Future or Adventures in Babysitting. And then there's the matter of that latter film having come out two years after Back to the Future, so at what point were we even watching either of them on that tape at all? I think of Back to the Future as something I've been watching since '85, and I did see it the first time on the big screen, of course, and maybe we also rented it once, but really, it was sometime after '87 that it became something like a fixture. But, I think of it as a movie from my childhood, and I think of "childhood" in this context as a few years younger than was actually the case.
Memory is tricky.

Meanwhile, as I'm typing, Doc is recalling hanging a picture [and this was me mishearing the story on this viewing and not even twigging to the problem until I was nearly done writing] and falling off a toilet, and I feels specific, but is it? Does he remember what picture? And, if so, is it because he always hung the same picture in his bathroom no matter where he lived (like I used to have a picture of Billy the Kid on my bathroom door in the house we used to live in on Michigan in Pasadena, and later in the apartment on Maple and the apartment on Glenwood... Except I think I just lied and I'm not even sure, because I don't think I had my replacement picture when we lived on Maple, so maybe it skipped a location. I don't know. And, I don't remember now where that picture ended up when we moved to our current apartment, or if it managed to go with me to my lonely apartment in South Pasadena when Sarah and I separated the second time. I remember the picture, but anyone with any familiarity with Billy the Kid knows the picture. It's this one:

And what happened to it since? Is it tucked away in that box in the closet where I've got those amateur paintings I did when I wanted to try my hand at painting in the late 90s and I only ever painted like three pictures that were worth a damn? I'd have to dig past a bunch of other boxes to find out, and I'm not sure I care enough. Because, whatever that picture meant at one time, however much I was briefly obsessed by Billy the Kid and however casually I hung that picture on the bathroom door when we moved to the house on Michigan and then no one ever bothered to move it, I don't live there anymore. I've gotten older, I've moved a few times since. And, bathroom doors blend together, houses and apartments blend together, and moments are lost in time like tears in rain and all that. And, the only thing I really remember probably from that first time watching Back to the Future--

is the ending. And, I don't mean Marty going back to the future and his family has changed and someone asshole parked a brand new pickup at an unusual angle in the garage because it'll photograph well. I mean after that. And, not the "something has got to be done about your kids" thing either--

nevermind that as a time travel plot line goes, that is a ridiculous one. You don't fix a problem in the future by going to that future and starting there. And, what even was the problem with the kids, anyway? I don't even remember. The only problem in the future, aside from the altered face George having a back injury or whatever... He was the one hanging upside down, right? Or was that older Marty? Back to the Future Part II is certainly clever, but it's various plot points and set pieces are rather forgettable. Or maybe I've just not taken my memories back into new viewings of that movie again and again like this one. But, my memory of that sequel is not the point right now. My point is say there's a problem with Marty's kids; they became assholes and jumpstarted a second series of Eugenics Wars or something. Do you fix it by going 30 years into the future and stopping them? Or do you take some parenting classes so you don't raise warmongering assholes? Or just not have kids. 
The tag into dragging Marty with urgency into the future is silly, is all. But, that's not the bit that I think I still remember somewhat close to the original experience...

--The bit of ending I think I still remember is that tag line before the end credits:


[Which might not even be real. But that might make my point better than it misses it.]

Maybe other movies offered that sort of promise before that. I know old serials must've, but I'm not that old.

(In passing, I've got to note, by the way, that the "The Man from Space" episode of The Honeymooners aired on December 31, not November 5, but movies is movies and maybe in their reality, episode 14 was episode 6 and that kind of detail is not really a problem for me. They wanted a distinct visual in the robot costume, they went with the robot episode so stupid audience can recognize that shit as fast as Marty does and not think he's a dumbass for calling it out when he clearly knows by this point that he's gone back in time. And, then he references John F. Kennedy (which he's lucky Lorraine's family hadn't heard of that senator from Massachusetts or they might have reacted differently. But, if there is a flaw to this movie, it's that there are maybe... No, there are too many stupid little blink-and-you'll-miss-it jokes like that, or the Tab and Pepsi Free bits in the diner earlier that make first Marty and second the script, a bit slow on the uptake. There are bit jokes, situational jokes, and there are scenes here that play more like a modern sitcom (and how weird is it to use "modern" to refer to something long after Back to the Future?) than a the fairly intelligent comedy classic it is generally regarded to be.)

Star Wars and Halloween were already big for me. And, they had both had continuations on the big screen, and that was huge. Not sure exactly when we had those on video, but with Star Wars especially, I had books and action figures and whether I was already watching the movies every chance I got, I was reenacting them, expanding them, twisting them into beloved things in my head. And here was this fun new movie that promised a sequel and I already loved going to movies in the theater, would beg to go to them. When the United Artists Marketplace--a theater in Old Town Pasadena where I worked in '95 and which, alas, no longer exists--opened in '86, my father and I went to see Heartbreak Ridge not long after. Hardly the kind of movie a 10-year-old wants to see, but I would see anything. When Project X came out in 1987, I opened up the movie section of the Pasadena Star News and set it quite deliberately in front of my dad and begged to go. He caved. We went. It didn't matter, the film. It was movies, and I was in love. And here, a couple years earlier, was Back to the Future entertaining me for an hour and a half (-ish) and not only that, it's promising me more, and there was no way we weren't going right out to the theater when the second one came out, and by the time it did come out in '89, I was following movies enough--I might've even had a subscription at least to Starlog by then, and more movie magazine subscriptions would follow--to know they were shooting two sequels in a row and, oh my god, what horrible joy is this that I know years in advance that a movie I'm going to like is going to exist and I am going to love it?

Or maybe I'm just imagining the joy that a kid like me would have felt because I can remember remembering remembering stuff like that. Because I've seen my own kids excited by things. Or I've seen fictional kids in other movies or tv shows excited by things. Or I just have an overactive imagination because all of these movies and tv shows and books and comics and stories from any and every source have been shoved into my brain for so many years that I can't help but think I remember things whether I do or not, because what does it really matter? Does the memory matter less if it's invented? If it's an amalgam of other memories? Or suppose I remember it accurately. Does that make it more powerful? Or is its power simply in its capacity to capture me again in a time like right now, when I'm watching an old movie once again and thinking of a history spent with movies and so much pop culture, and nowadays there's so much coverage of a movie before it actually hits theaters that the excitement just doesn't work the same way anymore and I miss it.

I miss it.

Oh, and then there's D) Lorraine and George have had 30 years with Marty, growing up from a baby that wouldn't look just like Calvin, and then even as that child grew up and looked more like Calvin, Lorraine and George would remember Calvin less, and associate this face they're seeing with no one but Marty. Marty today is much like Marty yesterday. Marty yesterday is much like Marty last week, last month, last year, and they've got years of memories of Marty to supplant any inkling of a resemblance to some guy they knew for (parts of) a week 30 years ago.

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