– Doc Brown
Last night, along with many others around the world, I sat down and watched Back to the Future (well, II anyway; the days of staying up all night are past me now, especially on a work night). And it occurred to me…
We’re here. We’re in the future.
Since the film’s release in 1989 (I was a month and a half into my 12th year of life), my journey has been convoluted and diverse, a pastiche of multifarious experience. But underneath it all, one stream flows constant: the wonder of cinema. The possibilities of cinema. Stories, characters, idealism, reaching out to me from the wide screen, pulling me in, and cradling me in the bosom of pop culture.
I first watched Back to the Future at an RA (think, Christian Boy Scouts) lock-in in San Jose, Costa Rica. We watched it, and we watched another ’80s gem, Short Circuit (“Johnny 5 is alive!”). And it was one of the greatest nights of my life.
But my love affair with movies began before that, long ago, in a Missouri town far, far away:
This was the first film I saw in a theater. I was almost three years old; I couldn’t have told you the plot, but I remember the experience of it. You cannot hear that theme, blaring into the darkness, without it immediately becoming part of your epistemic universe. I didn’t realize the momentousness of the occasion, the epic nature of my baptism that day, back before the creator ruined his creation, back before the argument began. Did Greedo shoot first?!?! (Help us, JJ-Wan; you’re the only one who can…)
Soon, film became a symbol of independence, the heart and soul of my teenage rebellion:
I grew up in Argentina, a land of wonder and joy in which movie rental clerks never ask how old you are. Officially, the Woods household had a strict “no R rating” policy (I still remember the fallout when my young memory confused Robocop with Tron; tell me they don’t look alike!). So, I spent my time unofficially, beginning with this most awesome of action flicks, the Ursprung of buddy cop movies. To this day, anytime I hear that good old “I’m too old for this shit!” I immediately feel liberated, free, and just a little smug. Odd place to discover one’s identity, following the antics of Riggs and Murtaugh, but there you have it…
Then there’s this guy:
Oddly, my mom and I bonded over Bond, James Bond. You wouldn’t think a mother and her son would find common ground in the adventures of a womanizing, slightly sociopathic secret agent man, but nevertheless we did. The Bond films used to be broadcast, dubbed into Spanish, late on Friday nights on Argentine television, and we would stay up together and revel in the quips and the Q (I was in it for the gadgets, after all). From space stations to submarines, from Goldfinger to Goldeneye, we got to know each other over a steady diet of “Shaken, not stirred.”
As I’ve matured, so has my taste in movies. I shy away a bit from the blockbusters, and go in more for the independent. I’ve gone global–Chinese (one of my favorite actors is Donnie Yen, for example), Italian, French, Korean, among others. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to jump around and cheer like a three-year-old last night, when the Doc and Marty beat out Biff for the umpteenth time. In my future. Which is now, 26 years later, our present.
I hope that the road ahead is as eventful and action-packed as the road behind. That the Toad hasn’t hit his peak just yet. But I also hope that the inspiration I first encountered in the shadow of the Empire remains a constant in my life. That I never tire of dimmed lights and surround sound and buttery fingers. That the day never comes when the kid in me doesn’t do back flips when those opening credits roll.
So, no, where we’re going we don’t need roads. Just popcorn…