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

FORMAT: iTunes digital copy on an iPhone 4S, wearing Sony clip-on earbuds

COMPANY: None

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Pretty tired, anxiously awaiting a 100% iPhone charge.

TODAY’S NIFTY VIEWING PLAN:
I’ve decided, in honor of the whole time travel theme, to watch my first five viewings of Back to the Future in reverse chronological order of the format I purchased them in. For the record, that’s Blu-Ray, iTunes digital copy, the 25th anniversary DVD, the original DVD release (in fullscreen, ugh, what was I thinking?), and VHS. Last year, as part of my required weekly Top Gun viewing, I tested out some of the capabilities of the iPhone. Here’s my modified list for tonight’s Back to the Future outing.

  • Test the battery. From a full charge, and with the GPS Location Services turned on.
  • Judge the quality of my viewing experience. How does it compare to a standard living room set-up?
  • Log all interruptions from various apps. One of the shittier aspects of a movie on your phone.
  • Siri… no, that was really stupid. Siri is dumb.

SOME VIEWING NOTES IN BULLET POINT FORM:

  • Like Top Gun, the sound is amazing with earbuds. I will have to try this again later in the year with the pricey DJ headphones I bought.
  • I’ve always thought the first instance of “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News was in a weird spot, but this is the first time I’ve equated the fact that it starts after a phone call from Doc to hints of a Doc/Marty relationship. (*sigh* How long until I have to read slashfic, everybody? Paste me some juicy Verne/Copernicus in the comments below.)
  • Moment of surprise: I… I involuntarily mimicked Marty’s hand movement when he says, “The car, Dad…” This movie really is in my blood.

I fortunately did not mimic George’s face in this scene.

  • I caught myself genuinely smiling during the van chase. That music! The car! Those crazy Libyans! It’s intense.
  • Something to consider: Marty’s actions in 1955 could be preventing countless other births left and right. The manure truck driver, the mechanic who fixed up Biff’s car, the police who might get called to the incident… they could all be the parents of somebody in 1985, and Marty just stopped them from boning/meeting the other parent. That’s a whole new list of ethical dilemmas. Just saying, if you end up in the past, hide in a dumpster until you can get back. Unless your dad works for waste management, OH FU–
  • It’s Week #2 and I still got the stomach butterflies from George and Lorraine’s “Earth Angel” magic. That’s how you do a first kiss, Top Gun.

Aww. Pass the tissues, bro.

ONSCREEN INTERRUPTIONS:

01:05:06 – Someone on Facebook invited me to try I want to add your birthday, whatever the hell that is.

01:53:52 – Someone I don’t know commented on a friend’s status after me.

(Apparently, my Facebook status was liked at 01:18:00, but I do not remember receiving any notification for this.)

BATTERY LIFE AT THE END OF THE FILM: 83% (Top Gun fared better last year at 85%)

OVERALL PHONE VIEWING EXPERIENCE: Still not the best way to watch a movie. The tiny screen just doesn’t cut it. If you’re watching an old favorite on the bus, sure, go for it, but please promise me you won’t ever experience a movie for the first time on your phone. However, headphones are a great way to experience the sound mix on a movie you love. (Back to the Future has amazing sound effects. Like, little gold statue good.) Get a pair with a long cord and take it in on a big screen. I know I’ll be trying it this year.

THIS WEEK’S REVELATION/VISION/PICTURE IN MY HEAD:
Let’s talk about Jennifer.

“Me?”

Specifically, how unimportant to the story she is.

“Oh. Um, you mean Elisabeth Shue, right?

I made a list in my notes of her reasons to be in the film. I only came up with three.

1) Establish Marty as straight-o-sexual and cool enough to get laid by a woman-person.
2) Give Marty incentive to return to 1985 (because nobody ever goes home unless poon is involved).
3) Write her grandma’s phone number on the clock tower flyer, giving Marty vital plot information. But doesn’t Nana kinda get half credit for that one?

Pictured: Nana Parker.

I’m getting into this partially because of guilt. When I watched the entire Iron Eagle series last year, the first movie pissed me off because the protagonist (I wanna say… Jason… Bluebird?) has a girlfriend who is just a prop at the beginning and end, with a few shenanigans in the montage. She adds nothing to the plot except, you know, the hero has to get the girl. Which he already had. So… who cares? It’s like showing him eating a sandwich at the beginning, and then after he saves his dad, he makes another sandwich. What’s the point?

A question everyone asks at least once during Iron Eagle.

At the time, though, I had forgotten that one of my childhood favorite films commits the same crime. Jennifer Parker is Marty McFly’s arm candy, plain and simple. Every problem on that list could be fixed without her.

1) If having a straight main character is really that important to your story (it isn’t), just show Marty gawking at some lady butts. Which they do.

“Man, the things I would do to that ass… oh, sorry, I forgot you were part of this movie, sweetie.”

2) Incentive to get back should not even be a thing. Any character who wakes up in a foreign land / time / dimension should immediately be concerned with returning, at least the first day or so. Even stories in which they realize that they’re ultimately better off in their new surroundings should nevertheless start with that “holy shit” moment. But in case you need Marty to have incentive, he’s got a family (lame as they may be), a band (unsuccessful as they may be), and, in a quote directly from the movie, “a life in 1985.” None of this matters to Doc, though, until Marty mentions that he has a girl. Doc responds with a question so stupid that, even at eight years old, I knew it was a terrible line: “Is she pretty?”

“Because if she’s an uggo, fuck it, man. Better start getting into Bill Haley and His Comets.”

3) Okay, I don’t know how to get the clock tower flyer into Marty’s pocket without Jennifer. You’d need a scene where he, like, puts it, you know, in it. In his pocket. How ’bout, maybe… maybe we show him at an anti-littering rally? Yeah? Like he’s a rock star environmentalist! Yeah!

Oh, look at that blue bastard. Just… the pocket, man… it’s official, I’ve written myself into a corner here.

Now, I love setups and payoffs. And this one isn’t too bad. Marty shows Doc that Jenny left him a little love note, and oh, neat, there’s exposition on the other side. That’s fun. I’m all for it. The payoff doesn’t upset me. I just wish Jennifer had more of an arc throughout the film. Marty’s brother and sister, side characters with roughly the same amount of screen time, at least appear to have turned their lives around at the end. But Jennifer is just there to hang on. She’s the prize. The trophy. The reward.

Though that role could have been replaced with a truck. Oops.

Almost thought I added a fourth reason to the pile, didn’t you? Let’s face it, Jennifer is unnecessary in this story from beginning to end. Sure, in her very last scene, she piles into the DeLorean like she’s going to join our time-traveling duo on their next adventure. That’s hopeful, right?

“Women? Where we’re going, we don’t need women.”

Bob Gale admits in the special features (yes, of course I’ve heard all of them already) that ending the movie with Jennifer in the car made it really difficult to write a sequel. Um… why? The answer, besides the fact that writing for boobs is haaard, is that she’s not needed. At all. That attitude was so solidified in the writing process that they simply needed to drop off some cargo. Yes, she’s arguably the catalyst for the entirety of the next two movies (which I will avoid discussing as much as possible this year, but you can read more about her plot relevance to the sequels in this Cracked article). Yet, to give her this new level of influence on the story, they had to have Doc and Marty cart her around, unconscious, like a roofie victim. As far as feminist film analysis goes, you can’t get much lower than being a literal chunk of meat.

But, you know… she’s pretty!

Ha ha! Aw.