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Week 7 Big Ten Power Poll: Jeff Goldblum Roles

I hope someone in Houston is happy.

In times like these, it is appropriate to focus on the things that bring us together. What am I talking about? No, not the Bible, not the Constitution, not “the troops,” but the cultural touchstones that bring a smile. No matter what faces us, we can all enjoy the quirkiness that Jeff Goldblum brings to every role. He has been in films that have defined the zeitgeist since the 1970’s, and hopefully we will have him for many years to come. His appeal is not limited to the United States, as a temporary statue erected near Tower Bridge attests.

The iconic recumbent pose, with a chair for scale.

As someone who grew up with HBO in the 1980’s, I have been immersed in Golblum’s work most of my life. The man can chew scenery, and he is almost always the most interesting person on screen. What is not to like? He has swarthy good looks, a playfulness, and an intelligence that flashes whenever he moves his eyes. Underneath it all is one thing - a fundamental oddness that is captivating. Mr. Goldblum contains multitudes, and it takes an actor this interesting to capture the range of characters we have in the Big Ten. Accordingly, this power poll will rate the conference teams and assign each a role from Goldblum’s oeuvre.

All images made by Nate Peterson.

Ohio State (#1) - Seth Brundle in The Fly

High: 1 Low: 1 First Place Votes: 17

The Fly is the ultimate Jeff Goldblum movie. He stars in the tale of an eccentric scientist that is trying to perfect matter teleportation. After some gruesome failures, he achieves a breakthrough and is rejuvenated. Everything is great, until there is a fly in the ointment. Actually, there is a fly in the teleporter, and Brundle is slowly transmogrified into a man-fly. It is tragic and gross. Great film.

What I am getting at is that OSU is the class of this conference, and is stacked with excellent talent, with a single-minded perfectionist as a head coach. Did you know that Ohio State only ran for 92 yards against Minnesota? No worries, though, since Dwayne Haskins threw for a million yards (again). What if he gets hurt? Ohio State is transforming from the running identity that has served it well for so many years, and the change to a primarily passing offense might not lead to the results they are looking for. We likely won’t know until they play MSU or Michigan. Perhaps there will not be a verdict until the playoff.

Tawny: [after Seth says it’s Tawny’s turn to teleport] I’m afraid.

Seth Brundle: Don’t be afraid.

Ronnie: No. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Michigan (#2) - Michael in The Big Chill

(High: 2 Low: 3 )

UCLA, or Michigan?

The Big Chill is a great ensemble movie from the early eighties. It is also a testament to baby boomer self-regard. The movie revolves around the funeral of a gifted classmate that committed suicide. A band of friends - Michigan alums - gathers, takes drugs, and watches Michigan beat Michigan State. They commiserate and realize that through this trial, they remain great even though they have surrendered their ideals. Of course. Goldblum takes a turn as Michael, the former ace student reporter who now works for People magazine. He is grating on everyone, hits on the women, and eventually he takes a ‘lude and passes out - to everyone’s relief.

Michigan is that character. I am not sure that the Quaalude solution is still available, though. The Wolverines definitely kicked the Badgers sideways last weekend.

Michael: [Dialogue in video being watched by several characters] Nobody thinks they’re a bad person. I’m not even claiming that people always think they’re doing the right thing; they may know that they’re doing something dishonest or insensitive or manipulative but they almost always think that there’s a good reason for doing it. They almost always think it will turn out for the best in the end, even if it just turns out best for them, because by definition what’s best for them is what’s best. In addition, you instantly come up against the question of style. My style may be too direct, perhaps given my style I seem more nakedly opportunistic or jerky or... what was the other thing?

Sam Weber: Manipulative?

Michael: Whatever, really all that’s happening is I’m trying to get what I want. Which is what everybody does, it’s just that some of their styles are so warm or charming or sincere or otherwise phony that you don’t realize they’re just trying to get what they want. So you see, my transparent efforts are in a way much more honest and admirable.

Iowa (#3) - Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park

(High: 3 Low: 5)

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

“Your coaches were so preoccupied with whether or not they could go for it on fourth and one on the thirty-eight, that they didn’t stop to think if they should. Punting is winning.”

Like Malcolm, Coach Ferentz is a believer in the tried-and-true mechanisms that have molded the world throughout time. A good running game, solid defense, physical football, and punting are a proven formula for Hawkeye success. Iowa went all “air raid” this week with six touchdown passes. Relax, five of those passes were to tight ends. Iowa football strategy is as old as time, and as young as the rocks - but it sure as hell works.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: [looking at a huge mound of dinosaur feces Nebraska press clips] That is one big pile of shit.

Penn State (#4) - New Jersey in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai...

(High: 2 Low: 6)

First of all, it occurs to me that many of you have not seen the cult masterpiece The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. What are you doing with your lives? Here is a short trailer to demonstrate its general weirdness:

Buckaroo Banzai (played by Peter Weller of Robocop fame) and his band of Hong Kong Cavaliers are a group of renaissance men. They are surgeons, engineers, scientists, rock stars, crime-fighters, and comic book heroes. Buckaroo encounters Goldblum’s character, New Jersey, during an operation and invites him to join the group. He is a bit of a mismatch, though, as he shows up to a scientific sortie in his rock star outfit - dressed as a cowboy for some reason. He eventually fits in, to a certain degree.

Anyway, it is a wonderfully campy film. There are aliens, there is John Lithgow, there is Christopher Lloyd, and also Ellen Barkin. The good guys overcome an evil alien genius and save the world, but Goldblum’s New Jersey is mostly just happy to be there. The Nits had a chance to make a statement on homecoming against MSU - after a bye - and were sort of just along for the ride. Neither New Jersey nor Penn State are doing much that matters. Someone else will have to save the world. The Nittany Lions will have to settle for dominating the state.

Buckaroo Banzai: You ever thought about joining me full time?

New Jersey: Whatya mean, you serious, do you have an opening?

Buckaroo Banzai: Uh huh. Can you sing?

New Jersey: A little, yeh, I can dance.

Michigan State (#5) - Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok

(High: 3 Low: 7)

The icy hand of Mike Dantonio, reaching up from the underworld of the B1G to claw Penn State back to its nether-regions.

Goldblum goes full Goldblum in this movie. He is part despot, part impresario, with a questionable moral backbone. All of the “thugtan” memes lead to this choice. So does the character’s name. “Grandmaster” sums up the way that Coach Dantonio utilizes his formula of running, defense, and shoulder chips to win games.

The game against Penn State is a perfect example. They did what they always do - draw the opponent into their style of game. They stuck to the plan and Dantonio pulled the strings. I think that the result surprised the coach, as a flash of glee passed across his face as the final touchdown was scored.

Grandmaster: What happened to my manners? I haven’t properly introduced myself. Come on. Follow me. My name is Grandmaster. I preside over a little harlequinade called the Contest of Champions. People come from far and wide to unwillingly participate in it. And you, my friend, might just be part of the new cast. What do you say to that?

Wisconsin (#6) - Alistair Hennessey in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

(High: 3 Low: 8)

Alistair Hennessey : [about the pirates’ three-legged dog, who is whining] Uh, what’s your dog’s name?

Steve Zissou : [thinks a moment] Cody.

[Alistair rolls up a newspaper, and hits the dog with it]

Alistair Hennessey : Be still, Cody.

On Wisconsin.

Goldblum played a small role as the villain Alistair Hennessey in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Similarly, Wisconsin played a small role in its last game against the Michigan Wolverines. It was not pretty, and the Badgers were soundly beaten (and robbed) at their own game.

Alistair Hennessey : Is this my espresso machine? Wh-what is-h-how did you get my espresso machine?

Bill Ubell : Well... uh... we fuckin’ stole it, man.

Northwestern (#7) - Donald Ripley in Powder

(High: 5 Low: 11)

Northwestern gets this film because of its intellectual reputation. Goldblum plays a scientist in this film, as is often the case. He plays it straight, and if I recall correctly, performs a role as the moral center of the film.

Northwestern is playing it straight this season, too. They are going to throw the ball, and they are not even pretending to have a running game. Their defense is formidable and I like most everything the institution stands for. But one fact remains - they almost lost to Nebraska at home.

Donald Ripley: It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.

Powder: Albert Einstein.

Donald Ripley: When I look at you, I have hope that maybe one day our humanity will surpass our technology.

(I just think this is a sweet quote)

Maryland (#8) - Zack Nichols in Law and Order: Criminal Intent

(High: 7 Low: 9)

Since few people watched Maryland play Bowling Green on the Mizlou Television Network ESPN+, I chose something else that too few people saw - Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Don’t get me wrong, this was a solid show. It just never got the audience that it deserved.

Goldblum plays the son of a brilliant psychologist, from whom he is estranged. Nichols is a polymath, and uses his varied talents to solve crimes - in one episode he riffs on the piano to shake the confidence of an aspiring musician. People think of Vincent D’Onofrio when they think of this show, and they should because he is great. Maryland also has a pretty good thing going, but is overshadowed by being in the B1G East.

Captain James Deakins: We need to go public.

Purdue (#9) - Recruiter in The Right Stuff

(High: 7 Low: 10)

The obvious connection won out. In The Right Stuff, Goldblum served as a NASA recruiter out in the field looking for future Mercury 7 astronauts. Teamed with Harry Shearer, the duo serves as comic relief, doing very government employee things like wearing cheap suits and staying in crappy hotel rooms.

Purdue is starting to turn the corner, but the talent disparity persists. Coach Brohm is doing a good job, and weapons on the perimeter can keep them in most any game, given the right circumstances. Getting upgraded talent will be vital.

Liaison Man: You mean for this “space race”, you don’t want our best pilots?

Recruiter: I didn’t say that. We want the best pilots that we can get.

Minnesota (#10) - Slick in Silverado

(High: 8 Low: 11)

Slick is an interesting character in this excellent ensemble piece. He is a traveling gambler who can sweet talk his way into and out of most things. In the end, he tries to destroy what he claimed to love. Sound familiar?

The Gophers put up a decent fight against the Buckeyes this weekend, though it never looked like they would actually win. It will be a battle of Peej’s silver tongue versus Frost’s golden locks in Lincoln. Expect turnovers and rationalizations.

Slick: Excuse me, Sheriff, I’m a gambler who’d like to run an honest game in your town. To whom do I speak about that?

[notices the dead man lying in the dirt]

Slick: I hope it’s not this gentleman.

Indiana (#11) - Deputy Kovacs in The Grand Budapest Hotel

(High: 8 Low: 12)

Goldblum makes an appearance as the executor of a murdered dowager’s will. His appearance is on point, and he looks every bit the part in the cast. But, Kovacs doesn’t last long, and a cruel fate awaits him.

Indiana is a card carrying member of the B1G, but its role seems to be merely looking the part. Sometimes, success dangles in front of the Hoosiers but the they never grab it. Like Kovacs, Indiana gets murdered and exists as fodder. I’m sorry, but that is how it is written in the script.

Deputy Kovacs: Did he just throw my cat out of the window?

Illinois (#12) - David Levinson in Independence Day

(High: 11 Low: 13)

Goldblum stars as the MIT-educated David Levinson in the blockbuster Independence Day. It was his character’s idea to put a virus in the mother ship’s computer. Through his cleverness, he averts armageddon. Will Lovie find a way to turn this around? Illinois got a win against Rutgers, but regressed last week against Purdue. The long-suffering Illini fans that remain are becoming fatalistic.

David Levinson: A toast, to the end of the world.

Nebraska (#13) - Lacey Party Guest in Annie Hall

(High: 12 Low: 13)

Goldblum’s one line in this movie demonstrated the shallowness and ennui of a time and place (an LA party in the 70’s).

[a guest is calling his meditation guru]

Party guest: This is Mr. Davis, I forgot my mantra.

That is Nebraska football right now, in a nutshell.

Rutgers (#14) - Freak #1 in Death Wish

(High: 14 Low: 14 LPV: Once again, all of them)

Most of you did not even know he was in this movie, did you? Death Wish was a big deal in the 70’s, and served as a cultural indicator (along with Dirty Harry) that the backlash against liberal criminal justice policies was real. The series provided Charles Bronson with a lucrative later career, but boy - it does not hold up well today.

Jeff Goldblum as a street thug? Raping and slashing? That does not match up with everything else we have seen from him. Rutgers as a member of the Big Ten? As a football team? Surely, you jest. Somehow the disconnects match. These things are similar in that they do not belong, or at least they are horribly miscast.

Freak #1: We want money, mother, now get it!

I hope you enjoyed it.