On Tap-Dancing Monkeys and Time Machines

My gym was packed tonight. I had to wait ten minutes just to use one of the lowest-on-the-totem-pole cardio machines: the stairmaster. Which can only mean one thing: Happy New Year!

We’re a few steps into 2009 and, personally speaking, so far so good. My husband and I rang in the New Year by making a nice dinner (don’t ask me what—it’s only been six days and I can’t remember. But it involved the stove and more than three ingredients, so it was real fancy pants) and watching Back to the Future. Boy, that movie holds up well. And the soundtrack: awesome. I think I need to put Huey Lewis and the News’s Power of Love back on my gym mix. I could have sworn I’d seen the movie somewhat recently but as we watched it I realized there were a lot of parts I’d forgotten. Huey Lewis’s cameo as a judge when Marty McFly and his band try out for the school show, for example. And: “The Libyans!” And: “Great Scott!” Or Marty McFly’s 1955 mom calling him Calvin Klein because she thinks that’s his name sewn into his underwear. And how excellent Crispin Glover was as his dad.

From a writer’s perspective, and as someone who is working on a mystery, I particularly noted how well small details were planted that come up later for an important storyline or for comic effect. Enough attention is drawn to the small detail that you notice it, but the main focus is on something else in the scene so when it ends, that’s what you’re left thinking about, not the small detail. For example, in the beginning of the movie Marty is talking to his girlfriend Jennifer. They’re walking through the town square and in the background there’s a table of people trying to raise money to save the clock tower. One of the fundraiser people interrupts Marty and Jennifer’s conversation, so you definitely notice the fundraisers, but they’re just an aside. It’s Marty and Jennifer’s conversation that is really carrying the scene. Marty’s worried about his musical future, they’re making plans for a special date. At the end of the scene Jennifer’s dad shows up, and she has to leave. She needs to give Marty her grandmother’s phone number so she grabs a flyer from the fundraising table, writes on the back, and hands it to Marty. He tucks it in his pocket and the flyer is totally forgotten until he pulls it out in 1955 and it provides Marty with the answer for how he can get back to the future. I was marveling at how well that was executed, because things like that can easily come off as too convenient or coincidental, but this really didn’t.

We also saw Jersey Boys last Friday, which I’d seen once before, but it is so worth seeing multiple times. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fantastic musical. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. There’s a lot of swearing, so it’s definitely not kid-friendly. But it’s very well done. Creative staging. Funny. Well-told story. The first time I saw it I was surprised at how many of their songs I know and like. I was like a broken record to my mom: “I didn’t know this song was theirs. . .”

I guess I’ve started off 2009 with a lot of nostalgia and looking back, haven’t I? 80s movie and one of the great boy bands of the 60s. Odd since this is the traditional time for looking forward and goal setting. I’m a big time list maker, so usually I’m all over drafting up my resolutions. I opened up my file of resolutions for 2008 recently and was surprised to see that not one thing on the list could be checked off. Not one! Which gives me pause in drafting up a new list. I’m inclined to go one of two ways. I’m thinking along the lines of this:

1. Wake up every day.
2. Go to sleep at some point.

Or this:

1. Adopt an orphaned monkey.
2. Teach him to tap dance.
3. Get on America’s Got Talent with your tap-dancing monkey.
4. Win America’s Got Talent.
5. Impress David Hasselhoff so much that he asks you to sing a duet with him on his next album and film a video featuring the tap-dancing monkey.
6. Turn David Hasselhoff down, but take a picture with him for next year’s holiday card. Score!

Right? Either aim so low I’m sure to succeed or so ridiculously high I can look those superior resolution achievers in the eye and say, “What? How about you try to find an orphaned monkey in Colorado and tell me how well that works out for you.” I’m onto something here, aren’t I?

And now, for a little mix of nostalgia and present(ish) day all wrapped in one musical ball of fun. . .

Biff sings!

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