October 21, 2015: Marty and Doc’s destination at the end of Back to the Future and the setting for much of its sequel. We’ve officially arrived in the future, and while it’s not full of hoverboards (yet), self-lacing shoes, or flying cars, the prediction of instant one-line communications (it’s faxes in the McFly house, not texts or tweets), film franchises with 19 sequels (Jaws was the movie joke, but The Fast and the Furious is well on its way), and voice control over multiple screens at once are all familiar now. Tragically, there’s no Queen Diana, but (as of the time of this writing) the Cubs still have a chance at the World Series.
One Portlander, Jo Monterosso, is traveling to the future (well, two time zones into the future) to attend a Two-Ties Party in Chicago tonight, a gathering planned by old college friends from Michigan State who shared a love for the Robert Zemeckis trilogy and time travel films in general. (The party’s named for what the movies predicted would be a 2015 fashion trend.) Also, it’s a good excuse for a bunch of thirtysomethings scattered across the country to see each other, Monterosso notes: “Everyone’s gotten married, so we’re not getting together for weddings anymore.”
Monterosso, who works in software development and lives with her family in the Portsmouth neighborhood, was too young to see the first film in the theater, but her parents acquired the VHS tapes, she recalls, through a meal-deal promotion at McDonald’s. (They got the Indiana Jones trilogy the same way.) We sat down with her a few hours before she hopped in the DeLorean—er, airplane, that is—to go back to the future.
Do you believe time travel is possible?
(Laughs) I’m probably with the scientists, who say it’s theoretically possible going forward, as you approach the speed of light, but going backwards probably not. I would love for it to be real!
What do you expect at the party?
Funny-named drinks. I suggested a Marty-ni, or maybe a Doc-quiri. Clay (the host, who also threw a party for the finale of Lost, but that one didn’t inspire a cross-country plane trip) is encouraging people to wear costumes. They saw Tom Wilson (the actor who played Biff) at a stage performance and invited him. We’ll see if he shows up. Clay will have the movies on—and the Cubs game on, of course.
If money were no object, what else would you add to a Back to the Future party?
Maybe you could get the cast to show up if you made a donation to the right charities. And if money were no object I’d hire one of those people with a DeLorean replica, the ones you see sometimes at ComicCon, where they charge $30 just to sit in it. I got behind one on the highway once, but he never went above 60. Who knows what would have happened ... ? (Back to the Future’s DeLorean has to go 88 mph to break the fourth dimension.)
Do you have a favorite movie in the series?
I always tend to like the first movie in a trilogy because it’s the introduction to the characters, but each one has its own special qualities. I don’t think I could pick a favorite. I tend to think of Parts II and III as just one movie, since they were mostly made together.
Besides Christopher Lloyd as Doc, most of the main actors get to play multiple roles. Which one was most successful?
Tom Wilson (Biff, Griff, Buford Tannen) seemed like he got to have a lot more fun, with Griff and Mad Dog. I was just thinking that we never see Biff’s son. Biff was an asshole in 1955, gets punched out by George McFly and becomes his lackey in the ’80s, has a kid who then has a son who ends up retormenting George’s grandson. So they were safe for one generation, but we don’t see that one.
What’s your favorite non–Back to the Future role for Michael J. Fox?
Probably Alex P. Keaton (the right-wing son of hippies on Family Ties), but I also really like Scott Howard from Teen Wolf. He’s not really all that different from Marty, maybe a little more shy.
What other time travel movies would you recommend?
I usually watch 12 Monkeys once every couple of years. That one holds up really well. I’ve only seen Primer once and didn’t quite get it, but people love that one. And there was one last year with Ethan Hawke called Predestination. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s messed up. It’s based on a short story by Robert Heinlein. That’s a good one.
I just watched that found-footage time travel movie (Project Almanac), with the kid watching an old video of his seventh birthday and he sees his teenage self in the mirror in the background, and it unfolds from there. It was OK, more aimed toward teenagers, and it falls down at the end with the time travel logic, like most time travel movies do. Even Looper, whose director was very capable and careful about constructing it reasonably, to make it plausible—even that doesn’t make sense at the end. But it’s still fun.
I liked Safety Not Guaranteed. I was very surprised how it ended. I was so sure he was crazy! That was a pleasant surprise. And there was a recent one, About Time, a romance with Bill Nighy, Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan Gleeson), and Rachel McAdams from The Time Traveler’s Wife. There’s this power that runs in the family, the dad explains, where you can go in the closet, clench your fists, and travel back in time. It seems like they had a decent time travel movie and shoved a romance in there, but it had some good moments.