Movies and books

DEADHEAD MILES (1972) was director Terence Malick’s contribution to the trucker film genre, wherein crooked wheelman Alan Arkin makes off with Avery Schreiber’s stolen truck, acquires an eccentric hithchiker sidekick and has a series of vignette encounters involving Hector Elizondo, Charles Durning, Richard Kiel and Loretta Switt. Slightly subversive of the genre in showing Arkin as less a rebel and more an inept, stupid crook; too aimless to hold me, though “Ever have someone talk about how we’ll be free and liberated—and it turns out she’s using the royal ‘we?’”
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (1968) is a stunning Royal Shakespeare Company presentation starring Diana Rigg, David Warner and Helen Mirren as three of the four young lovers whose romances get tangled by the intervention of Puck (Ian Holm) while Oberon (Ian Richardson) and Titania (a young and very good looking Judi Dench) work out their own issues. Quite aside from the quality of the cast, I found this an excellently done production. “I am your spaniel—the more you beat me, the more I fawn upon you!”

HOUSE OF MYSTERY: Safe as Houses feels like a stopgap arc in the ongoing series, mostly setting up for a lot of things to happen in the next TPB collection. The plot has Figg getting involved in a war, two of the House residents trying to change history and Figg’s family engaged in some sort of scheme (one of the things that will bear fruit later). Disappointly short of the series’ usual level.
100 BULLETS: Six Feet Under the Gun, on the other hand, recovers from the disappointing Counterfifth Detective collection with a series of one-shots focusing on the various players (Lono, Wiley, Cole, Dizzy, Benito, Shepherd and Graves). This confirms the implication of previous volumes that Shepherd and Graves are working against each other, though I’m not sure that means they have the agendas they say they do; a good collection.
ADAPTING MINDS: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature by David Buller argues that while evolutionary psychology is undoubtedly the key to understanding the way we think, most of the principles the big names in the field currently embrace (such as our nature being fixed and predetermined by our evolution in the Pleistocene) let alone specific conclusions (stepparents are more prone to abuse kids than biological parents, women are hardwired to find high-status men) are a pile of crap. Buller applies both logic (“Abuse may be more common in a step-parent household, but none of these studies confirm it was the step-parent who was responsible.”) and science (a look at current hunter-gatherer societies shows anything but a fixed, biologically determined approach to childbearing, foodgathering and other activities) to dissect the arguments and questioning whether there can be such a thing as a fixed universal “human nature.” Very good; I’m less sanguine about the long-range prospects for evolutionary psychology than Buller but he does show a number of counter-arguments against the field as a whole don’t hold up.
EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne chronicles the long war of the Comanches against frontier settlers (not to mention most of the other tribes on the Great Plains), its final end and the life story of Quanah Parker, the son of Cynthia Parker (the kidnap victim whose Printed Legend was immortalized in The Searchers) who became chief of the tribe in its declining years, eventually mastering such diverse modern skills as technology, business and graft. Gwynne shows the Comanche as both formidable warriors and thoroughly brutal adversaries (though he’s no fan of white treatment of the Indians) whose skills ultimately fell to a mix of improved weaponry and guerilla tactics developed first by the Texas Rangers then later by cavalry officer Randall Mackenzie (which unsurprisingly didn’t conform to the pitched battles featured in so many movies). A good read.
WHEN THE KING COMES HOME by Carolyn Stevermer is a good fantasy in which a young art student in a Renaissance fantasy kingdom finds herself up to her neck in politics when she witnesses the apparent return of an Arthur-analogy—which turns out to be part of the scheme of a bandit chieftain to seize control of the kingdom. Not first-ranked but a good read.

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5 responses to “Movies and books

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