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Current Events

Emilio Pereda and Paola Ardizzoni/Sony Pictures ClPenelope Cruz stars in Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," showing this week at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House.

A professor of geography and physiology, Jared Diamond earned a Pulitzer Prize not for the elegance of his prose, but for thinking big. Very big. His 1997 book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” was subtitled “The Fates of Human Societies,” and the Pulitzer-winning work does nothing less than examine the development of humankind – why society developed earliest in certain places, and not in others. Diamond goes into precise detail as to how these advances took place, explaining that it has to do not with the people but their environments, especially the plants and animals in their midst. The book, one of four by Diamond, reads like a text book, but it stimulates the imagination, and gets readers to share his curiosity about how we got from there (specifically the Fertile Crescent, the area now known as the Middle East) to here. Diamond speaks on Thursday, Feb. 18 at the Wheeler Opera House in the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Winter Words series.

Where does a great song come from? Guy Clark might respond with a shrug of the shoulders: In the title track to “Somedays the Song Writes You,” he sings, “There’s no rhyme or reason/ Ain’t a damn thing you can do.” A different point of view: Clark himself is the force behind a bunch of musical gems. The West Texas native is a bit of an underground phenomenon, but singers including Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris have covered his songs. Moreover, in the ’70s, Clark’s Nashville house was the spot where Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell learned their craft. And the album “Somedays the Song Writes You,” released in September, shows that Clark’s own voice is as true and pure as it is dusty and creaky. Clark makes what might be his first Aspen appearance, Friday, Feb. 19, at the Wheeler Opera House; fellow Texan Radney Foster opens.

With his exaggerated emotions and visual style, and his unflinching take on sensuality, Pedro Almodovar was never too far from film noir. With “Broken Embraces,” the Spanish filmmaker dives in fully, spinning a tale of overlapping identities, ominous imagery, lust and fate, all of it rendered with heightened feeling. Penelope Cruz stars as a secretary-turned-actress who dazzles two men: an obsessive industrialist and a passionate movie director. The action moves from 1994 to the present, and the storytelling perspective takes similar jumps. It’s slightly clumsy and derivative, but Almodovar gets the most from his actors, and even a minor work from this director is a reason to embrace the movies. “Broken Embraces” shows Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 16-17, at the Wheeler Opera House.

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