Going for the Goldblum: Jurassic Park

It’s hard to pick a starting point for talking about Jeff Goldblum’s career. He’s been acting steadily for forty years now, but in a lot of those early roles he was little more than glorified extra. Add in a few ensemble movies and minor-character parts, and I don’t remember anymore the first time I actually watched him in a movie.

I sure remember Jurassic Park, though.

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And so it begins…

I’m Lisa Shininger, and I’m here to talk to you about the next white guy in Hollywood to get the Pop Culture Crazy treatment: Jeff Goldblum!

Sure, you may think you know what Goldblum’s contributed to the arts and sciences of motion pictures over the last forty years, but- You know his first movie was in 1974, right? That the universe is heading inexorably toward its inevitable heat death and Jeff Goldblum’s career is probably older than your house?

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A Binge-Watching Cautionary Tale

I made a huge mistake.

Last Thursday, I went to see the Browns play the Bengals in Cincinnati. That wasn’t the mistake. It was a great game–for Browns fans. (Sorry, Bengals fans. At least you can look forward to returning the favor in December.) The weather could have been better; it was cold, windy, spitting sleet by the fourth quarter. But the game? Sublime. Interception after interception, amazing catches at the end of good throws, a running game that managed to actually run, and quarterback Brian Hoyer walked off the field with a new nickname: Hoyer the Destroyer. Cheesy? Yes. Apt? Fuck yes.

I woke up the next day feeling like I’d been run down by one of those defensive ends that did such a great job of shutting down the Bengals offense. All right, so maybe it was a little bit of a mistake to spend more than three hours inadequately bundled against the cold, while already nursing a sore throat. Yeah, it definitely wasn’t the smartest choice to spend three hours yelling at heavily padded, behelmeted dudes who couldn’t hear me anyway.

But the real mistake didn’t happen until I was home again on Saturday morning, staring fixedly (low-fever-ishly, full of expectorant-ly) at the on-demand choices on the TV. FOX, nah. NBC, no thanks. Hmm, ABC has lots of options, and I do really like John Cho. I mean, I really like John Cho. Who doesn’t? PEOPLE WHO ARE WRONG IN THE FACE.

So, I picked Selfie.

The pilot was famously, ludicrously!, awful. Just the worst. In it, Henry Higgs (yep, it’s a My Fair Lady update) is obviously a prig, which doesn’t play to Cho’s strengths. Cho can do the straight-man thing but he’s miles better when he gets to be a bit goofy. And Eliza Dooley was, at best, a doofus. She wasn’t just vapid and self-involved, but deeply and horrifically stupid. Bits of backstory reveal that her venal exterior had originally been constructed to hide her ugly-duckling-ness, but along the way the writers–and Karen Gillan–took a terrible turn down a road that looked a lot like Lobotomy Loop.

But, you know, that’s not really a deal-breaker, awful as it is to say. Pilot characterization is a trainwreck more often than not. Here at least, there was room for Henry to unbend a little and Eliza to regain some of her mental capacity–both in the natural progression of a season and in the narrative-driven changes that need to work on the characters as they interact with their world and with each other.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. By the end of the sixth episode, which is all that’s aired to date, Eliza is still technologically-addicted and self-centered, but she reveals a warm and caring self–sometimes without needing to be prompted, even–and an intellect that has rebounded several thousandfold from the pilot. Henry, thank the writers, has taken a turn into truly enjoyable ridiculousness. John Cho gives the character a grounded quality that makes his unraveling when thwarted even more hilarious. In 1×06, when he finally abandons his rigid plans for advancement and interaction to do something spontaneous and joyful, the result is momentarily humiliating and a total delight. Best of all, though, the chemistry between Cho and Gillan is crackling–enough to power dozens of gifsets on my Tumblr dash. For a romcom that leans heavily on the everyone-sees-how-perfect-you-are-together trope, it’s perfect.

Why is all this so unfortunate, though? What about watching a show that turned out to be sweet and engaging could possibly be a mistake?

Well, because Selfie is effectively cancelled. ABC announced on Friday that it wouldn’t be ordering any additional episodes beyond the original thirteen, which is as good as actually yanking it from the schedule. Which it will probably do by the end of this week! Lol sob.

(I’m purposely not talking about the supporting cast, especially Charmonique and her son Kevin, because not getting to see them for seasons to come is upsetting enough without having to put into words how much I love that we get to see them at all.)

If you’ve got ABC shows on demand, you can still watch the first six episodes (really, you probably shouldn’t even bother with the pilot. Just start with 1×02), and there is still a new episode on Tuesday night at 8 Eastern. You can also watch the episodes here on ABC.com.

Walden, or Living Like a Proto-Vegan

Okay, stop me reading if you’ve heard this before:

A stack of modern graham crackers, courtesy Wikimedia
A stack of modern graham crackers, courtesy Wikimedia

In the mid-19th century, the Reverend Sylvester Graham founded the American Vegetarian Society and wrote extensively about the detrimental health effects of consuming meat, dairy, and alcohol. Maybe you know him as the guy who gave Graham crackers their name and millions of cheesecakes their delicious crust. Whether that’s brand-new information to you or not, Graham is probably super disappointed in all of us. Commercialism and sweet snacks of middling-to-no nutritional value are exactly what he didn’t want anyone indulging in!

Continue reading Walden, or Living Like a Proto-Vegan

Quick hits: Gone Girl & Dublin Murder Squad

Well, ignore the order in that post subject because I’m going to talk about the Dublin Murder Squad first.

Tana French’s latest, The Secret Place, came out a few weeks ago, FINALLY. This time, the detective is Stephen Moran, who was such a thorn in Frank Mackey’s side two books back. It took me longer to get through this than any of French’s others; more a lack of free time than anything to do with the story or the writing, which is as tight as ever. French is absolutely a master of psychological suspense—both in the telling of the central murder mystery, and in the building out of complex and banal interpersonal relations. Some of the teenager-centered narrative and characterization can ring a bit false at times (though unlike other reviewers I have seen (and used!) phrases such as “totes amazeballs” and so had far fewer quibbles with the slang), but in a way that seems naturally unnatural for these individual characters. French goes deeper into some of the class and gender themes she’s explored in past books, class especially much more overtly than in any other aside from Faithful Place, but in tone and theme I found it much closer to The Likeness. Over on Goodreads, Elise made a great observation in her review: the central relationship between Moran and Conway is a mirror of sorts to In the Woods, “a making rather than a sundering“. It’s delightful to watch their initial wariness dissolve as their understanding of the case they’re investigating coalesces into a more coherent whole. Another great entry to the series. I highly recommend.

As for Gone Girl, my non-spoilery review is simply: GET YOURSELF TO A THEATER. If Rosamund Pike isn’t nominated for and awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, then it had better be because another actress transcended the limits of the physical realm and actually became a digital element in some other film. I will accept no other possible reason. And Affleck is at the absolute top of his meathead, lunky, variously charming and off-putting form. He oozes casual misogyny and poor-me entitlement as naturally as breathing, something I don’t recall ever being as effective an element in his performances. If his Batman/Bruce Wayne is even half as interesting, I might actually see the new Snyder film.

Now then, a more long-winded review follows. Spoilers ahoy!

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