Screen Weekend

I managed to devote a little more time than usual to movie and media consumption on screens big and small (and on a few canvases, too).  I’ll start with a quick pointer to an exhibit I caught at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art, The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, which featured a number of paintings, sculptures, and videos that explore the materiality of vinyl records and their role in audiovisual culture.  If you’re in the Raleigh-Durham area, it’s well worth the trip, with a great collection of experimental, avant-garde, and outsider art all focused on the ongoing cultural significance of vinyl in the era of digital music.  Some of my favorite bits included Mingering Mike’s fictive album covers that mock, imitate, and rework pop music album covers in innovative ways.  But the website for the exhibit offers a nice overview of all of the artists who are featured.

I also caught two movies this weekend.  The most visible one, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter was, in some ways, better than I expected.  It followed three central characters, Matt Damon’s haunted psychic, George, a French journalist, and a young British twin, as they seek explanations and emotional resolutions to their brushes with the afterlife.  As usual, Eastwood is comparatively restrained and the cinematography is polished, evoking the classical Hollywood style.  But I struggled to accept some of the film’s logical implausibilities.  George’s brief romantic attachment to Melanie (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) seemed underdeveloped, and much of Melanie’s story, especially her interactions with a world-renowned scientist who asserts that scientific evidence exists for an afterlife, weren’t very believable (which makes me wonder if some scenes were left on the cutting-room floor). Eastwood’s a capable filmmaker, so it worked a little better than I expected.

Finally, I also caught Edward Burns’ latest, Nice Guy Johnny.  There has been a lot of discussion of Burns’ strategy to release the film via VOD and on iTunes, and for “small” projects like Burns’ film, I think it’s a sensible strategy.  But the film itself offered a relatively standard coming-of-age story, nothing that really broke through for me.  A “nice guy” named Johnny (hence the title) is prepared to sacrifice his dreams of becoming a sportscaster to satisfy his snotty fiancee’s middle-class ambitions, so he travels to New York to interview for a job at a box manufacturer (isn’t that what Milhouse’s dad does on The Simpsons?).  Then, of course, he meets the laid-back woman who encourages him to pursue his dreams.  They hand out on the beach by a bonfire at night and talk.  Complications ensue.

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