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Current events

Rock musician Donavon Frankenreiter plays this week at Belly Up. (Stewart Oksenhorn/Aspen Times Weekly)

It was impossible to listen to Donavon Frankenreiter’s eponymous debut in 2004 without thinking of fellow singer-songwriter Jack Johnson. “Donavon Frankenreiter” featured the same brand of upbeat, laid-back music that seemed to wash in with the surf. Both musicians were, in fact, professional surfers. “Free,” the single played ubiquitously on local radio, could well have been one of Johnson’s songs, not least because Johnson appeared as a guest on the tune. “Move By Yourself,” Frankenreiter’s sophomore release, brings to mind a different set of musicians. The title track, which opens the CD, recalls Stevie Wonder and Sly & the Family Stone with its ’70s keyboard sounds and bass lines. All over the album, strummed acoustic guitars are replaced by synthesizers, wah-wah tones and strings; the effect is like time travel back to 1976. The one thing Frankenreiter doesn’t seem ever likely to ditch is the mellow vibe. He performs Friday, Oct. 27, at Belly Up, his first valley appearance since appearing – on a bill with Johnson – at the 2004 Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival. Don’t expect Frankenreiter to appear solo as he did then; this music calls for backing players.

The scariest things are those that have an element of the unknown – the shadowy figure glimpsed out of the corner of the eye, the quickly forgotten nightmare that causes a vague but palpable horror. Video artist and University of Colorado professor Phil Solomon finds fright in those things barely realized in “Night of the Meek.” The video, part of the Aspen Art Museum’s Colorado Biennial, Part I, is 26 minutes of nonstop shape-shifting. Just as the viewer is about to get a handle on an image, it has passed, visually morphed into the next shadowy object. Out of this black-and-silver kaleidoscope emerge just a handful of solid figures, and they are sufficient to provide a haunting narrative: swastikas, a six-pointed star, soldiers marching (or is it prisoners being marched?), the word “Juden,” the German word for Jew. Add an ominous soundtrack, also created by Solomon, and the experience is at least at unsettling as the average teenage horror film. Part I of the Biennial, featuring work by six Colorado artists, shows through Sunday, Oct. 29. Part II, with six more of the state’s artists, runs Nov. 10-26.

Assuming that “Flags of Our Fathers” merits the raves it is receiving, we can crown 76-year-old Clint Eastwood the greatest American director of the moment. As improbable as that sounds, it’s hard to dispute. After 1992’s acclaimed Western “Unforgiven,” Eastwood sank into a decade of mediocre work, and no one emerges from that abyss in their late 60s. No one but Dirty Harry, anyway. Eastwood’s 2003 gem “Mystic River” was a magnificent reflection on loss, revenge and Boston’s Irish. The following year’s “Million Dollar Baby” was actually a tiny step down, but still good enough to earn (and deserve) the Best Picture Oscar and a Best Director for Eastwood. “Flags of Our Fathers,” about the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and the aftermath for the six men involved, has impeccable credentials. The 2000 book, by James Bradley and Ron Powers, was a surprise hit; the screenplay was co-written by Paul Haggis, who followed his “Million Dollar Baby” script by writing and directing “Crash,” last year’s top Oscar-winner.

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