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by Sam C. Mac Music Retrospective

Cui Jian | The Power of the Powerless

September 2, 2019

Sometime during the tour behind 1994’s Balls Under the Red Flag, Cui Jian started employing the title of his most recent album as the name of his band, as well. This was Cui poking fun at himself, and his bandmates, suggesting a sense of ‘powerlessness’ in their struggle against unassailable authoritarian forces. The name “Cui Jian and the Balls Under the Red Flag Band” didn’t stick; by 1995, the marquees just read “Cui Jian” again. However, the sentiment did —…

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#KickingtheCanon by John Oursler Film

Fallen Angels | Wong Kar-wai

Rarely has a film’s meaning been so contingent on purposefully disconcerting stylistic contrivances. In Fallen Angels, Wong Kar-wai and his longtime cinematographer Christopher Doyle use their collaborative efforts to create an urban environment that feels at once hermetically sealed and overwhelmingly expansive. Not just a mere portrayal…

June 3, 2015
#KickingtheCanon by Vadim Rizov Music

Elliot Smith | XO

Pretty much all songs on all of Elliott Smith’s released recordings are immaculate on both the structural and engineering fronts, which doesn’t make them any less occasionally uncomfortable to listen to. At the moment of its release and after, XO was presumably forcing fans to choose an…

April 10, 2015
#KickingtheCanon by Jonathan Keefe Music

Dixie Chicks | Wide Open Spaces

Wide Open Spaces can be counted more as a reboot than as a debut. Sisters Martie Seidel and Emily Robison had originated the Dixie Chicks with vocalist Laura Lynch as a cowgirl-themed act who played bluegrass and Western swing on a series of independent albums during the…

March 27, 2015
#KickingtheCanon by Matthew Lucas Film

The Thin Red Line | Terrence Malick

Whenever anyone mentions the 1998 Oscars, the conversation inevitably turns to the great “injustice” of Shakespeare in Love beating Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture. But the real injustice of the 1998 Oscars wasn’t denying Ryan the top prize, it was in not rewarding Terrence Malick’s masterpiece, The Thin Red…

February 9, 2015
by Calum Marsh Retrospective

Taste of Cherry | Abbas Kiarostami

Part of the appeal of a film like Taste of Cherry—Kiarostami’s minimalist masterpiece, all white-canvas stretches of silence and inaction—lies in its openness to interpretation, in how it invites us to invest meaning in it rather than simply extract the meaning imposed upon it.…

September 5, 2011
In Review | Online film and music criticism