What if time travel were possible? We jumped ahead one hour this morning as Daylight Saving Time kicked in (don't forget to change your clock). But that's probably about as close as we get in real life.
Not so in the movies. Here is a look at how time has been explored in everything from comedy to drama to romance.
No "flux capacitor" needed.
Time as a plot
Some films use straightforward time travel as their motivation for the story. Examples:
"Time Bandits" (1981) —From the "Monty Python" group comes this tale of a young boy who joins a band of dwarfs as they jump through time stealing treasures.
"Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) —Two high school dimwits (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) jump through time to brush up on their history before a big exam. Uh, read a book, dudes.
"Time After Time" (1979) —H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) jumps through time to pursue Jack the Ripper (David Warner) after the serial murderer escapes to the future in Wells' time machine.
Time as a character
Changing one small action in the present will consequently alter the future, and sometimes that is the basis of the story:
"Back to the Future" (1985) —Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes from the 1980s to the '50s in a DeLorean (talk about dated) converted into a time machine (the car's "flux capacitor" makes it all possible). While there, he must make sure that his parents fall in love or he will never have been born.
"Run Lola Run" (1998) —This high-adrenaline thriller explores how time and fate work together, as a woman races to save her boyfriend. The story starts over three times, and we see how her different choices along the same path affect each outcome.
"Sliding Doors" (1998) —A London woman's love life and career take alternate courses depending on whether she catches a train. We see it play out both ways in a dual story line.
Time as a setting
What the character does in the traveled-to time is sometimes the basis for the story:
"12 Monkeys" (1995) —A convict (Bruce Willis) from the future is sent back in time to gather information about a man-made virus that will wipe out most of the human population — but he's sent back six years too early and is incarcerated in a mental institution. Darn the luck.
"The Terminator" (1984) —A man (Michael Biehn) is sent from the future to protect the mother (Linda Hamilton) of a future leader from a human-looking cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent to kill her. The man falls in love with the mother and they spawn the future leader, which means the future leader sent his friend to hook up with his mom — which is kinda creepy.
"Planet of the Apes" (1968) —A spaceship crash-lands on a strange planet with chatty apes that rule mankind. We eventually discover this planet isn't so strange at all — and that time hasn't been kind to Lady Liberty.
Time as romance
Some films use time travel as an excuse, er, backdrop for romance:
"Somewhere in Time" (1980) —A Chicago playwright played by Christopher Reeve uses self-hypnosis to find an actress (Jane Seymour) from the past whose portrait hangs in a grand hotel. Obsess much?
"The Time Traveler's Wife" (2009) —A Chicago librarian played by Eric Bana has a gene that causes him to involuntarily time-travel, complicating his marriage. "Honey, I'm home" probably has a lot more meaning to this wife.
"The Lake House" (2006) —A Chicago (don't people fall in love anywhere else?) architect played by Keanu Reeves buys an old lake house and corresponds with the former owner (Sandra Bullock) —who is two years into the future. Those are some pretty magic stamps.
Time as a device
Some films use time travel as the cause — not outcome — of the story:
"13 Going on 30" (2004), " 17 Again" (2009), " Big" (1988) and " Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986) —All variations of the ever popular wake-up-and-you're-suddenly-younger game, which I, apparently, will never get to play.
"Groundhog Day" (1993) —A weatherman (Bill Murray) lives Groundhog Day over and over, caught in a time loop he can't escape. Caught in a time loop he can't escape. Caught in a time loop he can't escape.
Time as existential exploration
Some films offer time travel as a commentary on the universe and humanity:
"Donnie Darko" (2001) —A troubled teenager (a young Jake Gyllenhaal) is plagued by visions of bizarre events and large rabbits.
"Primer" (2004) —Four 20-something geeks invent a time machine in their garage, then struggle with jealousy, trust and betrayal.
"The Time Machine" (1960) —Based on H.G. Wells' book. A scientist builds a machine that lets him jump to the future where there are two races — a mild, gentle one and an angry, cannibalistic one. The future is now, I say.
Oscar results — I correctly predicted 17 out of 24 categories in last Sunday's Academy Awards. Not bad, but I'm certainly not psychic.
All shorts categories completely threw me for a loop (the live-action and animated winners were my least favorites). Otherwise, the categories I missed were foreign film, sound mixing, adapted screenplay and a little award called best picture. I just wasn't sure "The Hurt Locker" could do it. But I'm glad it did.
My favorite moment of the night was when Oprah Winfrey lauded Gabourey Sidibe's performance, calling her journey a "real American Cinderella story."
Sidibe was moved to tears, and since I was chopping onions at the time, so was I.
Oh, OK, there were no onions! I'm only human, you know.