WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME (Isla Nublar)

FORMAT: 25th Anniversary Edition Widescreen DVD on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV


PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating a quesadilla with tomato soup and drinking iced tea, fairly sleepy, ready for science.

I’m watching my first five viewings of Back to the Future in reverse chronological order of the format I purchased them in. That’s Blu-Ray, iTunes digital copy, the 25th anniversary DVD, the original DVD release (in fullscreen, ugh, what was I thinking?), and VHS. Also, because science, I set up my phone to take a picture of me every thirty seconds. Never before has watching a man watch a movie been so thrilling!

And in case you were hoping for nose picks, sorry, hangnail and an eye boog.

Not that those aren’t also horrible acts to witness.


  • Yeah, despite my initial thoughts after purchasing a Blu-Ray player, DVDs do look noticeably crappier. The movie is grainy, and the menu is a bit pixel-y. Oh, and the 25th Anniversary menu still shows you the ending when you hit play, just like the original DVD release.
  • According to the news report in the beginning, the missing plutonium was written off as a clerical error. Even after a Libyan terrorist group claimed responsibility. Yeah, what? I know this is in the movie to assure us that the government won’t be coming after Doc at the end, but what the hell, nuclear PR guys? Does the facility just not want to look bad? I suppose “we forgot to carry the 2″ is less terrifying than “so we lost some plutonium,” but either way, you look incompetent. And you seriously lucked out that some silver-haired kook swapped the thieves a nuke made of Eight Ball Deluxe for their plutonium, because otherwise, your unwillingness to fess up could be killing innocent people. This is the sort of snafu that Tony Scott movies are made of.
  • Marty’s drummer looks like Richard Dean Anderson.

I tried to write a joke about that, but I just ended up with a pile of non-functional paper clips.

  • Having an overprotective mother myself, I always wondered if she was a rebellious spitfire in her youth. She absolutely does not discuss her life before I was born.
  • Legitimate inquiry… how does time travel affect the DeLorean’s remote control? When it goes into the portal, it’s still getting the signal to drive forward, but when it comes out… aggghh. My brain.
  • Why didn’t Doc invite the press to his ‘istoric experiment? Maybe he didn’t want anyone to know about it until he was sure that it worked? Or he’s afraid the guv’ment will steal it.
  • Marty’s camera says “VideoMovie” on it. It made me laugh. I don’t know why. Sounds like something my mom would say. “Bill’s makin’ a video movie…”
  • When I was very young, I had no idea “colored” was a horrible thing to say. When Lou remarks, “A colored mayor, that’ll be the day,” I used to think he was making a pun on “mayor/mare,” like an old gray-colored mare. Oh, youthful innocence…

“I’ll be the most powerful horse in Hill Valley!”

  • Who took Marty’s pants off and why? Did his lusty mother diddle him while he was knocked out? That’s disturbing on several levels. Imagine your own mother as the sort of person who hungrily diddles unconscious strangers. Now add a liberal splash of time travel and AAAUUGH
  • Milton Baines, the kid in the coonskin cap, pronounces “brand new” as “brannoo.” I hate that. I sometimes say “brannoo” and also hate myself for it.
  • Is ’55 Doc wearing a snakeskin robe? I never noticed that before in my life. Emmett, you sexy devil, you…

“Slick your hair, Future Boy, we’re on the prowl tonight.”

  • Marty says “brannoo” too! Must be genetic.
  • Lorraine doesn’t have the ability to stop dancing with a guy she doesn’t want to dance with? They’re called testicles, Lorraine. Whack ‘em.
  • The big dance floor kiss (stomach butterflies again) is romantic as hell, but how funny would it be if the ginger that George pushed onto the floor jumped up and clocked him mid-snog? My answer: riotous.
  • When Marty gives advice about one of George and Lorraine’s kids setting fire to the living room rug, George makes a WTF face and says, “Okay…” You, sir, have just weirded out Crispin Glover, and that takes effort. See, we know why this line of dialogue is charming, but they think you’re a psychopath.
  • Reverend John Crump is going to be pissed in the morning.

“The Lord giveth…”

A subject that’s going to come up for me a lot this year is how time travel could radically impact other sciences. All sciences, really, even the fake ones like political or microbiological or weird. I bring this up because Back to the Future seems to take a pretty hard stance on a common idea among social scientists: nature vs. nurture. And that stance is “definitely nurture, so hard, for all the marbles, wow.”

Time travel throws Marty McFly back in time for a week. One week. November 5th to November 12th. In just seven days, his temporal shake-ups radically alter the personalities of at least five people; six, if you count “remember to wear a bulletproof vest” as a behavioral change. (Nope, no points for Goldie Wilson and Chuck Berry, we’re working in a clearly mutable timeline and they were already a mayor and a successful musician. Watch me for the changes and try and keep up, okay?) Let’s throw out Doc because he knows Marty is a time traveler. Advice is pretty easy to take when you know for a fact that somebody has already seen at least one version of your life play out. So, our short list is George, Lorraine, Biff, and Marty’s siblings, Dave and Linda.

So, allowing for the crazy stupid stack of coincidences that led all the right sperm to the right eggs on the right days (not to mention the inspiration for baby names), Marty, Dave, and Linda are biologically the same. If we… wait, crap, no. Never mind. That sounded like a nice, neat transition, didn’t it? We have to throw out the kids. They truly could be the product of a different set of traits being passed on. Even Marty himself! Who says the ripple effect only happens to photographs and newspapers?

I apologize for this terrible mistake.

We’ve still got plenty in the nurture column, though. Our new list of three is George, Lorraine, and Biff. There. Nice small number. Let’s go over how they’ve changed.


Personality before temporal interference: Wimpy, shy, unsuccessful, glasses.

Personality after temporal interference: Smooooth, confident, successful, not glasses.

Possible points of nurturing: Marty’s many pep talks, a crucial moment of standing up for what’s right, a wife that truly loves him and encourages him, constant fear of Darth Vader’s return from the planet Vulcan.


Personality before temporal interference: Broken down, boozy, hypocritically prudish, boozeful, fat (?), boozeness.

Personality after temporal interference: Cheerful, balanced mother, thin (?), coffee drinker.

Possible points of nurturing: Some of these are unpleasant speculations to write about, but here we go… a confident and protective mate, a belief in true love that makes her more willing to let her son date, a look at what true repression creates in the form of Biff (?), a hot guy (her son) that really gets her going to give her a horniness wave to ride over to George (???), Folger’s crystals. I’m sorry, women are poorly written in this universe.


Personality before temporal interference: Bully, rapist.

Personality after temporal interference: Subservient, probably not a rapist?

Possible points of nurturing: Getting covered in shit while trying to car-murder, being punched in the fucking head while trying to rape.

Again, these major changes hinge on just one or two actions. So it’s pretty easy to call bullshit, especially on all three of them experiencing real motivation over the course of a single week. But isn’t that how time works? The further back you go, the more your future is altered. Couldn’t we all look back through our lives and wonder how different we’d be if one single event hadn’t occurred? I can. And here we go talking about me.

As you may or may not know, I watched Top Gun every week of 2012 last year for this website. I still have to write up an assessment of that experiment, which I promise you is coming soon. (Charts! Graphs! Pop-ups, maybe?) I don’t want to dive into too much of that here, but I feel it’s necessary for the point I’m making: Maverick changed me.

“Thought you could get away, huh, Bill?”

I couldn’t stop thinking about the guy all last year. What a douche he was. But he was confident. I was not. For many months, anything I did, involving work, romance, you name it… I’d think of Maverick. What was admirable about him and what was just… just douche. When making decisions, this modified the outcome, constantly thinking about how to tackle my goals without being a dick. As a result, I have new relationships and achievements that I didn’t before.

Watching a movie is not the sole reason for changes in my life, but from a temporal standpoint, yes, yes it absolutely is. One moment, one act, can shift everything. Remove it, and your life feels the ripples.

In my hypothesis on how watching Back to the Future every week will affect me, I may have missed one very important idea: I will become more aware of how my actions set the future in stone. Maverick taught me to just go for it; Marty will teach me to consider the consequences.

Well, if movies don’t reveal the inner workings of humanity, what are we watching them for?

Explosions. The answer was big, sweet explosions.