Pomo Picks

What to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Week: Aug 12

The content in our queues, from Valley of the Dolls to Jurassic Park

By Portland Monthly Staff August 13, 2020

Barbara Perkins, Sharon Tate, and Patty Duke in 1967’s Valley of the Dolls, which managing editor Margaret Seiler has not seen. But she is reading (and loving) the scandalous, bestselling book it’s based on.

There’s a lot going on right now. Maybe you’re protesting, maybe you’re donating, maybe you’re keeping tabs on the way your representatives are responding to the present moment. Keep doing that!

Our lives are not one thing, though, and you’re also probably looking to escape, however briefly, into a show or a book or an album that might help you shut out the world or understand it a little better. To get the wheels turning, here’s the stuff filling our queues at Portland Monthly this week, from the Valley of the Dolls to Jurassic Park

Kamala Harris & Mindy Kaling Cooking Masala Dosa

This sweet family cooking segment dates back to November, 25 2019, when Kamala Harris was still in the running for the Democratic nomination. I hadn’t seen it until yesterday, when it suddenly reappeared on Twitter following Harris’s historic VP nod. (In our defense, we had … other things going on that particular week in November.) It's nice to learn more about Harris's Indian heritage—and it doesn’t hurt that Mindy Kaling is, as ever, warm and wonderful. —Marty Patail, editor in chief

Jurassic Park

I remember watching it in the “Big Theater” at Salem Cinema. A bunch of half-melted Milk Duds in my hand, jaw agape, and Jeff Goldblum’s shirtless charisma unbeknownst to my 13-year-old self. The film? Jurassic Park. An absolute wonder at the time from Steven Spielberg with dinos courtesy Industrial Light & Magic. (Side note: 1993 was a killer year for rewatchable classics, boasting the likes of Dazed & ConfusedHocus PocusTombstone, and Mrs. Doubtfire. What a year of pizzazz!)

Jurassic Park (just added to Netflix) has it all: Laura Dern instilling feminism and a love for plants into countless youngsters, Sam Neill working that askew bandana, and Goldblum being just incredibly peak Goldblum, all mixing together in the most delightful way. The cameos start coming and as they say, don’t stop coming, with Samuel Jackson, Wayne Knight (aka Newman!), and BD Wong all bringing quotable lines to the party. The kiddo actors are impressively good, and those clever velociraptors are still scary as hell. Turn up the volume when the classic theme song hits, it brings a surprising amount of feels with it.
But please do not stop there. Keep the paleontological party going with a double hitter and roll right into Jurassic Park: The Lost World. This sort of wonderful, sort of terrible sequel brings back Goldblum, now joined by familiar faces Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn. Additional terror ensues in a madcap way, but this flick has a dash more Godzilla thrown in. All of it still makes more sense than 2020. Enjoy. —Eden Dawn, style editor

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Every once in a while I shake free of my self-imposed mandate to soak up the capital-I Important cinematic canon and remember how much I love Julia Roberts. By “Julia Roberts” I kind of mean “late 20th-century movie stars and the mid-budget studio fare they produced,” but I also kind of mean Julia Roberts. I’d never seen her in My Best Friend’s Wedding despite nudges from several friends, and earlier this week, as I watched my beloved roommate pack up and split for the Middle East, I figured firing it up on Hulu might soothe me. It did, and then some. 

The basic premise, for my fellow delinquent twenty-somethings: Julia Roberts is a single food critic (this is established very conspicuously in the opening scene and not mentioned again for 74 minutes) who made a pact with her best friend Dermot Mulroney that, if they’re both unwed by 28, they’ll marry. With 28 fast approaching, he calls to let her know he’s met and fallen for a wealthy 20-year-old (Cameron Diaz) and the wedding is in a week. Roberts, confused and embittered, flies to Chicago to break them up.

My Best Friend’s Wedding is a fluffy movie, but it’s also kind of a mean one. Roberts does straight-up bad things over and over again, and she’s rarely punished—the darkness is weirdly compelling. There’s also enough there to read it as a queer allegory, and I love nothing more than making not-gay things gay: Roberts fawns over Mulroney in secret, never daring to voice her actual feelings, yearning in gender-neutral pantsuits and finding ultimate comfort in her chosen family. There’s a dash of actual queerness too, in Rupert Everett, who steals the movie as Roberts’s gay editor, and in a super-famous scene I had never heard of, he gives a monologue about meeting Dionne Warwick in the psych ward that erupts into a full-blown performance of “I Say a Little Prayer for You.”

This movie will not save your life, but it’s a little squirrelier and more interesting than I expected (it also features a Paul Giamatti cameo—he’s a bellhop who tells Julia Roberts “this, too, shall pass” while she smokes a cigarette in a hallway). It made me think about how men’s hair was better in the ’90s, it made me miss packed train stations and wild, tonally-inconsistent Hollywood fare for adults, and yes, in the end, it made me cry a little. Conner Reed, arts & culture editor

Nice White Parents

If you only know the PTA from movies like Bad Moms or HBO’s Big Little Lies, Nice White Parents, a new podcast collaboration between the New York Times and the folks who brought us Serial, will be a real eye-opener. Personally, as a white public school parent whom I suppose prefers to think of herself as nice, it makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable ... which is absolutely the point. The three episodes released so far chart the history of the School for International Studies (SIS), a public school in Brooklyn for grades 6–12  built in the so-called "fringe zone" between a sprawling public housing project and the increasingly white, leafily gentrified Cobble Hill neighborhood. 
Producer and narrator Chana Joffe-Walt is unsparing in her portrayal of how us nice white parents, dutifully scrabbling for the best opportunities for our own kids, have molded schools to our own advantage, at the expense of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous parents and kids. It's not that there's anything wrong with wanting the best for your own children. That's natural, and pretty universal among parents—but when that means sustaining a longstanding system that's powerfully devastating to others, we've got problems.
In Brooklyn, a critical mass of white parents decide to enroll their kids in SIS and build a dual language French program for them from scratch, without much regard to the needs of the mostly Black, Latinx and immigrant families who are already there. Suddenly, one arm of the PTA is working mightily to raise $5,000 to put a spring carnival for the whole community; the other group is hosting a swanky, high-ticket Manhattan gala with the French embassy that brings in $100,000 in one night.
The debate over PTAs raising money to fund teachers is a longstanding one in Portland, where a handful of majority white public schools (including my own children’s) bring in six figures a year, and use the money to pay for extra teachers and programs, though one-third of all money raised is shared among schools across the district. Conversations are already underway about reforms to this system locally; Nice White Parents adds thoughtful fuel to that fire. —Julia Silverman, news editor

Valley of the Dolls

Sound and the Fury. Ulysses. Anna Karenina. I’ve checked off those classics. But it took months of a global pandemic to finally drive me to pick up a book I feel like I’ve heard about all my life but never read. The time has finally come for Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann’s runaway bestseller from 1966, which became a ridiculous but iconic film (or so I’m told—I’m reading the book first) with Patty Duke and Sharon Tate.
Said to be based on the lives of some big names from early Hollywood, the story is the classic tale of a young innocent who moves to the big city and falls in with (gasp) theater people, leading to great scandal and depravity. I’m just over 100 pages in, and already not one but two young women have, as they say, lost their virginity, one also discovering certain oral pleasures and the other ordering her first scotch on the very same night as the end of her maidenhood. As soon as I’m done fanning myself from the shock and pondering how I’ll explain to my children the prevalence of women’s intact hymens as frequent plot points in Western literature, I’ll read on.
You probably know what happens next (I hear it involves drugs), but please don’t tell me. In these difficult times, a trashy novel that shocked my mother’s generation is just the distraction I need. Margaret Seiler, managing editor
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