followups and links

1) Following up on my recent post “Death in a Box,” this article in the New York Times caught my eye: “The Mystery of My Obsession With Agatha Christie.”

2) Following up, to some extent, on my last post, I have two thoughts about the movie Star Wars: Rogue One.

a) This article talks about all the difficulties there were in getting the movie made — a very common story these days where the huge corporations which control movies and the directors and writers who create them are often at odds, and the writers and directors often come and go because of it. But, as the article points out, in some cases, like this one, the movie ends up pretty damn good anyway.

In spite of the “troubled production”? Because of the “troubled production”? Who knows, and who cares. Movies, like all works of art, are exactly as good as they are. It matters not how they got that way. And I like Rogue One a lot.

b) As I talked about last time, there are quite a few “cavalry” moments in Rogue One, and they’re great despite the fact that (spoiler) every significant character in the movie who doesn’t have to survive dies.

(The movie takes place right before the original Star Wars, and a few of the characters from that movie are also in this one, so of course those specific characters are going to live.)

Rogue One is kind of the Les Miserables of Star Wars movies. Everybody dies, but they die for a cause, and we know that the cause ultimately wins.

Also, the movie gives us Darth Vader for a total of about ten minutes, and he’s magnificent. Villains don’t always need history and psychology and motivations and weaknesses (Vader was much diminished by getting those things later on) — sometimes they just need height and black armor and a deep voice and a lightsaber and a brutal fighting style (and a certain amount of sardonic humor — but the humor kept appropriately separate from the fighting). None of the Marvel movies have come even close to giving us a Darth Vader.

3) I’m still thinking about, and poking around in, Across the River and into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway. It helped a bit to read the things he said about it to A. E. Hotchner right after the book was published, and I see now (I think) what he was doing in the beginning and ending chapters, which are quite good.

What he was trying to do in all those chapters in between, however, where the book veers from duck hunting to Colonel Cantwell’s weird and tedious (and doomed) romance with a young countess less than half his age, I have no clue. Yet.

It’s tempting to think that Renata is really just a fantasy lover that the colonel has conjured up as he’s nearing death, but Hemingway apparently anticipated this interpretation and there are quite a few things in the book which seem to have been placed there to discourage that idea.

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