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Short Takes
A PRIMATE'S MEMOIR By Robert M. Sapolsky In this gem, the scientist and noted essayist trains a wry wit and a highly perceptive eye on his two-plus decades of observing baboon behavior in Kenya. Sidesplitting vignettes about monkey politics alternate with equally hilarious tales of misadventure on the backroads of East and Central Africa. Sciencephobes needn't be worried: there's nary a page of neuroendocrinology in the book. A supporting cast of tribal misfits, postcolonial weirdos and marginally psychotic truck drivers will keep you chuckling from start to finish.

THE MEXICAN Directed by Gore Verbinski Feckless Jerry (Brad Pitt) is sent south of the border to retrieve an antique pistol for his Mob bosses. His girl, spunky Samantha (Julia Roberts), thinks this desertion is just another of his many failures at intimacy and leaves him for a new life in Las Vegas. On her way, a soulful hit man (The Sopranos' James Gandolfini) takes her hostage in an attempt to focus Jerry's attention on his job. Half comedy, half action piece, the movie runs sputteringly on the not inconsiderable charm of its stars. But basically it is languid, indeterminate and uninvolving.

STANDARDS Tortoise This band swims the murky gulf between jazz and rock in search of fresh riffs. Entirely instrumental, the songs start with simple melodies that slowly make their way to climaxes full of overlapping rhythms that alternate between funky and mechanical. The Chicago quartet makes sure that the beat holds sway over melodic noodling; it's the percussion and keyboard textures that impress. Standards presents a slightly more guitar-heavy version of the usual Tortoise weirdness. These tunes are nothing like those to be found in a standards fake book. Is there a Grammy for Best Misnomer?

KENNETH JOSEPHSON: A RETROSPECTIVE Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City What a treat! A man with a sense of humor and a sense of awe, Josephson contrived some of the most beckoning brainteasers of postmodernism, especially in the 1960s and '70s. When an anonymous arm holds up a Polaroid of clouds against a cloudless sky, all certainties about certainty are gently undone. And when a parked car is twinned in the radiance of a wet street, you realize that if the world is a funny place, it's because the eye and the mind are jokers of the highest order.

THINGS YOU CAN TELL JUST BY LOOKING AT HER Showtime, March 11, 8 p.m. E.T. If she is in this movie, one thing you can tell just by looking at her is that she is famous. Director-writer Rodrigo Garcia snagged Glenn Close, left, Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Holly Hunter and others for this showcase for actresses: five closely observed studies of loneliness and fleeting moments of connection in suburban Southern California. If the stories sometimes use Creative Writing 101 devices (like a quasi-prophetic homeless woman), the total effect is as spare and haunting as the film's arid, beautifully shot setting.

March 12, 2001 Vol. 157 No. 10

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