Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Birthmonth Day Thirty: Secret Cinema Presents Back To The Future

Big reveal:
Seen here at Vegfest on Sunday, marvelling at size of vegan doughnut.

I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up, which is the thing that I am, sort of.  But I have zero recollection of ever talking about this, even to The Self.  I only know I wanted to be one because I have found youthful evidence of having written down that ‘I want to be a writer when I grow up’.  When it came to university, I made The Decision that I didn’t want to be an actor after all.  What I really enjoyed was making up stories and controlling those stories and being those stories.  What I really wanted to be all this time was a writer.  So that’s what I did.

So…  The Favourite Film is Back To The Future.  I’m pretty sure it is everyone’s favourite film.  I certainly can’t understand how it could not be.

For me Back To The Future represents and embodies all the positive emotions.  In The Brain Thesaurus,

the definition of the word Excitement just is Back To The Future.

I think it’s as near as perfect as a film can get.  And maybe partly that’s because I grew up with it.  Maybe if I had been born in this century, I would think Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs was perfect, or if I had been born in the 90s it would be Toy Story.  But I was born in the 80s, so it’s Back To The Future.  Besides, whenever I was born, Back To The Future would always without doubt be one of The Favourites.

I don’t remember the first time I saw the film.  I certainly don’t remember a time before I loved Back To The Future.  There has always been me and there has always been Back To The Future.  It’s as much a part of me as The Lungs.

And considering its near perfection, one has to wonder what kind of magic stars were in alignment when it was created, because a glance at some of Bob Gale’s and Robert Zemeckis’s other works (or that ghastly deleted scene on the DVD that I still feel sick about) show how wrong it could have gone.

I think maybe it is magic, you know.  So today I’m going to tell you of the five times I got so close to the magic that I could hear it breathing.

1. Back To The Future: The Ride (2003).

When I was in college, some friends decided that after we finished our schooling but before we all went our separate ways to university, we should go to Florida.  Florida had a Universal Studios park that had a Back To The Future ride.  I knew about this ride because I had the trilogy soundtrack that contains the instrumental score for the ride and I wanted, no, I needed to experience this further instalment.

So I went to America with The Friends and finally went to Universal Studios for one of the best days of the holiday, and queued for several years and finally got to go in the Delorean and experience the ride.  Except some American tourists got to sit in the front, and I had to sit in the back, even though I had travelled across the damn ocean just to go on this ride.  And then they talked through the entire thing.

When the ride was over, I really felt like I needed to go on it again so I could actually experience it properly this time, but the queue was still several decades long and there was no way to guarantee I wouldn’t be shoved in the back again.  I figured one day, one day I would come back and do it again.  But since then they have removed the ride, because they suck.

I did use up an entire disposable camera on photos of the Delorean outside though.

Look, it's the train from the ending I don't like.

2. Back To The Future: The 25th Anniversary Re-release (2010).

For the 25th Anniversary, the film was back in cinemas.  I went to see it in October 2010 at Harbour Lights.  It was one of the happiest, warmest experiences of The Life.  An entire audience reacting as one.  Beautiful.  Perfect.

I had actually got a little blasé about the film prior to this, and seeing it on the big screen with a room of besotted fans was just the kick it needed.  I never loved this film so much.  At the end when we all applauded, damn it, it deserved it.

3. Back To The Future: The Party (2011).

For The Housemate’s 26th birthday I threw him a surprise Back To The Future party (it’s his favourite film too).  I got him a George McFly costume, and I watched the films in the closest detail I ever had in The Life in order to create themed food,
themed decorations,

 themed games,
This was a hit-the-target-game.
Where'd you learn to shoot like that?
 themed costumes
I had taken off most of my Marty costume because it was baking hot.
I was wearing purple underwear though.
and an awesome quiz.

It was the best party I have ever organised, only let down by the fact that none of the guests were particularly big BttF fans (freaks) so a lot of it was probably lost on them and none of them put any effort into the fancy dress (they all came in cowboy hats).  In fact, as I often remember how awesome I was at making that theme party, I wish I could just do it again with a better audience.

4. Back To The Future: The Game (2013).

For The 29th Birthday, The Slayer got me Back To The Future: The Game.  This is set after the trilogy, with Marty waking up in 1986 to a life without Doc and feeling sad and then BOOM the Delorean turns up and Marty is sent on an adventure to the 1930s and a parallel timeline or two.  Ignoring any gameplay issues and focusing on the story, it was like they had opened up my brain and made the perfect fourth instalment to the trilogy.  I don’t like the ending of Part III, and this addressed it straight away, and it introduced the one character and his relationship with Marty that we just needed to see.  It was capable of the same intensity of emotion as the films, I teared up, I laughed and I got goosebumps.  It was perfect.

5. Back To The Future: The Secret Cinema (2014).

Since Facebook introduced that dumb ‘trending’ feed, I always cast an eye over it and ignore it.  But one day it had something about Back To The Future on there so I read the article.  Apparently a group called Secret Cinema were going to hold an interactive screening.   This sounded awesome, but when tickets went on sale I almost choked to death when I saw how expensive they were.

But The Housemate figured you only turn 30 once, and something like this unique experience coinciding with The 30th Birthday was surely some kind of sign.  So we went.

Secret Cinema Presents Back To The Future – The 1955 Hill Valley Town Fair (17th August 2014)

I managed to scrape together a vaguely 50s-esque costume a few days before setting off for London. 

On the Saturday we walked up to see the pop up Hill Valley stores,
where we bought a flag and a T-shirt and picked up a couple free newspapers
in Ruth’s Frock Shop
 while The Housemate got a milkshake from Lou’s.
  We saw people in costume off to the show that evening and as usual failed to talk to them.

On the Sunday I spent about an hour curling The Hair into a vaguely-50s style, 
and then went outside where it immediately got blown out of shape long before reaching the Olympic Park where the fair was being held.

After The Housemate had a nervous breakdown (some exaggeration may be in use) on the tube, we ended up arriving rather early for the fair.

There was barely any queue which didn’t really register at first.  It wasn’t until I saw the hundreds later that I understood just how popular and busy this event was.  I was quite intimidated by the cop who called me crazy and yelled at me to get out of the road and then pulled out two people for talking to their calculator and for being a filthy smoker.  Interesting way to get you into character, with a scary authoritarian. 

The premise was Hill Valley was having a fair and we were all residents in the 1950s.  We got to wander around the place for a while and see and interact with various characters, some from the film and some not.  Then later on certain sequences from the film actually started happening around us.

We were let in almost immediately so Hill Valley was pretty empty for about an hour.  We wandered around to see it all, and failed to interact with any of it, although we did watch a whole scene of The Cattle Queen Of Montana.

First you entered into Peabody’s Farm, which I didn’t realise until later should surely be called Twin Pines Farm, so that’s weird.

After touching a sheep and then washing The Hands, we went up a curving sloping road, and passed Lorraine Baines.  She was talking about the prom to someone, but I just stared at her dumbly, while The Housemate ignored her completely.  We came round a corner and there was the Lyon Estates sign!  Like from the movie!

I realised The Housemate wasn’t next to me, so I turned around to find him being harassed by Biff and cronies for being a nerd. I considered interceding, but just watched instead – hey, they let him go eventually, with a kind of ‘hey how you doing’ chat up line to me.

Along this road were some very small houses for a few residents of Hill Valley, including Biff Tannen, George McFly
Love letters to Lorraine in George's house.
Obligatory photo

 and Doc Brown.
This was actually my favourite part of the set for being identical to the one in the film.

Great thinkers.
The lab, with out of reach mind reading device.
  There was also Lorraine’s house, but we completely missed this at first.

Then you went past the Texaco garage

and came out into the town square.  Around the square were all the shops and businesses that can be seen the background of various bits of Back To The Future, full of characters who I didn’t interact with, as well as an enormous Lou’s Café
Since I had a T-shirt, The Housemate bought a mug.
and Hill Valley High School,
They really cleaned this place up.
Unfortunately Biff made it clear that The Housemate is square.
 and a fairground in the corner (which was irritatingly not in character, but did have a stall selling vegan food, so well done Hill Valley – truly a nice place to live).  And dominating the entire square was the clock tower, with big blank bit in the middle for a certain film showing later on.

We set up a blanket on the town square in front of the clock tower to make sure we got a good view of the film later, and then I checked on it every half hour because I was driven insane with paranoia. 


On the ferris wheel, laughing heartily at The Housemate's fear of heights.

View of Hill Valley from the ferris wheel.

The Housemate wants Goldie Wilson to be mayor.
He wanted to talk to him when he saw him in Lou's but couldn't think of anything to say.

I did not go out of The Way to interact with stuff, which seems to be how a lot of people reacted on their first visit and they got more out of it on their second or third visits, because apparently they are freakin’ millionaires.  Sometimes members of the public were pulled out by actors to do something fun (like a soapbox derby
 or a ride in Biff’s car – although it was the wrong type of car actually), but no matter how much I loitered around certain places, it was never me, and sometimes this meant watching a completely ungrateful imbecile getting to interact to the frustration of everyone else.

For example I was in Lorraine’s house when she was interviewing men for Prom King.  It was funny – but one guy was an embarrassing idiot.  He kept referring to the 50s as if it was the past instead of the present, which confused us all, and then he started talking about his friend the Professor who had a time machine.  This is dumb on so many levels.  How hard is it to grasp that we are in character in the 50s?  In the 50s Doc HASN'T invented a time machine.  And he's called DOC.  I'm not sure this guy had even seen the film.  I wished someone who would have got more out of it could have had a chance at interacting instead.  I also wished I could punch him in the face without getting thrown out.

Just missed Doc doing an experiment in his house, but he did greet The Housemate as a fellow man of science (and shook hands twice because as Doc said ‘why not shake hands twice’) and he warned me to sit on a rubber mat later because there was going to be a lightning storm.

The Housemate wanted to get a milkshake so we went into Lou’s.  He went up to the bar and I leant against the doorway… when Marty McFly came in, so close I could have licked him.

It was amazing; it was so out of the blue and I was just right there and so was he, and there was no one else.  I didn’t say anything, because as a resident of 50s Hill Valley frankly I was surprised by the guy in the weird clothes.  Then about a hundred people charged in so I lost sight of him.
Disposable cameras don't work indoors.
The Housemate gleefully joined me, having just witnessed the ‘jump ship’ bit.
Marty running and Biff in car, although I don't recall this, I was probably too busy checking on The Blanket.
After checking on the blanket again, I was suddenly hit with inspiration.  If Marty McFly was in the 50s, then where did he go after Lou’s?  To Doc’s house!  I didn’t want to say anything around all the crowds, so I just beckoned The Housemate to follow me and marched down to Doc’s… where nothing was happening.  Rather deflated I began to wander up the road when I noticed some people waiting up ahead.  I turned to The Housemate to point this out and as I turned back, I saw Marty McFly pushing George out of the way and getting hit by a car.

OF COURSE.  He doesn’t go to Doc’s straight away, you idiot, he follows George, gets run over and ends up in Lorraine’s house.  And you call yourself a fan.

Two people were bade to carry Marty into Lorraine’s garden and take off his shoes so I rushed over
and watched her opening up his flies ‘so he could breathe’ and their subsequent interaction
Thanks for putting that bush there, guys.
– perfectly finished by Marty turning in horror to the crowd gawping at him and saying ‘Jeez!  Are you all peeping toms?!’

I was then herded into a neighbourhood watch meeting due to having witnessed a child being hit by a car and told to watch out for communists, homosexuals and aliens and taught what to do in these cases.  When asked how to spot a communist, I loudly proclaimed that they wear red – only remembering afterwards to the shocked response and suspicion of everyone there that I was wearing a bright red blouse.

Due to this meeting, I did miss most of Marty meeting Doc – but caught the end of it.
Doc left, but look what we found in his house, no longer out of reach!

Once the plot started, certain scenes were completely inaccessible because of the huge crowds surrounding them, while some people just ran after Marty wherever he went, which was rather out of keeping with the fifties fair theme.
Here is a thing happening.

I saw Marty and Doc a few more times at a distance, Marty always followed by a herd of people, and I was right next to them in the square while they were a) looking for Lorraine and George to get them together and b) freaked out by the crowd who were following them everywhere
– but having no idea where either George or Lorraine were, I didn’t have anything useful to add.

I had been obsessed with the chase sequence for a couple hours by this point.  This is one of The Most Favourite Moments in the film and every time I saw anything happening I was sure we must be at the chase bit, so I kept loitering around Biff’s car, but it never was.  So when the parade was announced and people were asked to get out of the road due to vehicles, I thought this must be code for the chase at last and I went back to The Blanket in the square and finally got to see the chase – but I missed the start and only saw them getting in the car from a distance because it was on the other side.  Still, hearing the Back To The Future theme blare out in real life is sheer brilliance.  Also it was weird watching Marty turn into stunt Marty, who had completely different hair.

Stunt Marty.
After this was the parade.  The Housemate joined me to let me know he was at Lou’s again when Marty was there and he saw the start of the chase.  Lucky git.

I nipped to the loos and I saw Marty back in his 80s costume.  We shared a smile but I figured I shouldn’t interact as he was clearly getting ready for the film stuff and not really part of the show right now, plus I needed the loo and was hurrying, then when I came out, he was still there, getting ready on his skateboard so I got to watch him circling on that, really close with no crowd around.

When I got back to the square, the band came out and people danced in the street,
and then Marty joined the band so they could play something we weren’t ready for yet (but our kids are gonna love it) and it was The Power Of Love.
The red smudge is Marty.
It ended with the clock tower chiming and Doc telling Marty he was late.

Then the film started.

The actors did some of the scenes at the same time as the film, which was weird, but when the Delorean is revealed in the film, a real Delorean came out of the clock tower!
This UFO/ball of heavenly light is actually the Delorean revving up surrounded by smoke and then starting to accelerate off for its first time travel trip.

I was desperately trying to save camera film long enough to catch sight of the Libyans, but when the icy Delorean stopped right in front of me — my God, I love that car so much I want to kiss it— I used The Very Last Picture on it.  As it turns out, none of the night pictures came out, so it’s just as well I didn’t take many after all.

I was at times distracted by the actors doing what was on the screen at the same time because let’s face it, they’re never going to be as good, and sometimes when they were doing scenes to the side or behind me, I chose to watch the film instead even though I could watch it any time and this live stuff was right now or never, because it’s The Favourite Film and I wanted to watch it.  However, all the car stuff was amazing, amazing, amazing.  The skill of the driving was astounding on its own, let alone how cool it was that it was these cars.  The Delorean speeding around me and the Libyan chase so close I was worried of getting run over was one of the greatest live experiences of The Life ever.  The skateboard chase (again) was cool too, Doc hanging off the clock tower and then zip-lining down right over The Head was fantastic and of course the twin fire trails at the end were perfect.

Once the film was over, we ran like hell to catch a train and found we were so early that there were still trains (we were expecting to have to transfer and get a night bus), in fact we were so early that there was just time to get the very last train of the night back to where we were staying, although turns out I am not fit enough to run up two huge escalators from the London underground to the overground above, and I think I died somewhere on the second one.  But we made it with minutes to spare and got home before midnight.  A perfect end to an amazing day.

Until we couldn’t get the key to fit in the lock and had to wake up our host to open the door, but I guess something had to go wrong.
The End