WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME

FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV

COMPANY: Cinemanaut Becca in and out for the first third or so.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Trying an experiment that I thought up stole from Jonathan Paula.

My last viewing of Back to the Future was on November 5th, a day I lovingly refer to as Flux Capacitor Day and use every year as an opportunity to watch the entire trilogy. And despite years and years of joy in celebrating the very day that the world’s greatest fictional time travel device was concussively manifested into existence, I wasn’t particularly enthused come Flux Capacitor Day ’13. It may have had something to do with the fact that I’d already seen Back to the Future 44 times this year as part of a self-inflicted three-year science experiment on movie-watching habits.

A visual representation of my density.

Of course, not everybody who eats, sleeps, and breathes these movies celebrates in the same way, and I discovered recently that Jonathan Paula, the swell fellow that hosts the superb film review web series Movie Night and allowed me to be a guest star on his Back to the Future episode, has a different method of annual flux capacitor admiration: he starts up the film at just the right moment so the lightning strike occurs at 10:04pm on November 12th, the exact instant the Hill Valley clock tower stopped ticking.

Yeah. It’s like a Doc Brown simulator. Hell yeah. Let’s do some math.


Okay, first of all, I’m skipping past the “new” Universal logo on the Blu-ray, because that’s what Doc would do. (I said that aloud, just for the record.) From that point to the exact moment the lightning touches the tower is 1:40:46. So, 10:04:00pm minus 1:40:46 gives us an official start time of 8:23:14pm. Should we account for time lost pressing the button, transmitting the signal, loading the disc, OH MY GOD, Doc, how did you deal with all this stress?

Okay, phew, so I let her rip at that exact time and sat back to enjoy the ride all over again. As luck would have it, Jonathan Paula was also off and running and live-tweeting his BTTF experience the whole way, so I let somebody else crack the jokes and comments for once. Here are a few gems from that night:

Okay, seriously, it’s incredibly tense to have a clock in your eyeline and Marty is just putzing around trying to save Doc’s life or whatever. GET IN THE CAR, KID. Mr. Paula is absolutely right, this is the most exhilarating way to watch Back to the Future, even for the 46th time. How did he get such a great idea? I asked, and I’ll let him tell you in his own words as you intensely wonder whether or not my synchronizing skills left Marty stranded in 1955.

Certain films deserved to be ceremoniously watched (at least) once a year, on special anniversaries. I save Die Hard for Christmas Eve, Independence Day for July fourth, and Groundhog Day for, well… you get the picture. Clearly, Back to the Future should receive this illustrious treatment as well. I remember visiting my grandmother’s house as a boy, and slyly adjusting the dials on her broken grandfather clock so they read “10:04″… I felt, if they must be frozen in time, it should be on a special time. As a teen, I’d enjoy the picture the evening of Daylight Saving Time, so I could claim I had “watched a time travel film while time traveling.” More recently, after discovering the magic and enjoyment of live-tweeting special events, it was prudent to lock in a specific date and time so everyone could join me. 8:23pm and 13 seconds turns out to be the exact moment you should begin your Back to the Future Blu-ray. When its climactic scene plays out, 10:04 becomes 10:04. It is a thrilling and unique way to watch the picture… as you monitor your own timepiece with building anticipating, “Did I get the sync right? They only have twelve minutes left!” If your calculations are as precise as Doc’s, you’ll be rewarded with a thrilling and well-timed victory for your efforts, one I insist on revisiting once a year.

Well said, Jonathan. Well s– wait, 13 seconds? I got 14. Oh man oh man oh man oh man…


Bad news, Future Boy.

And everything was going so well.

Regardless of my utter failure as a scientist, this was one of my absolute best viewings. It’s also the first time that I realized the finale doesn’t happen in real time; Doc warned Marty he had less than four minutes right around 9:59. Still, it was a blast, and while I’ll probably stick to watching the trilogy every November 5th, you should try this experiment yourself at least once.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for more live-tweeting excitement from Jonathan Paula! Thanks for a great viewing, Jonathan!