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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

 

curated: “Donald Trump‘s Presidency Was Supposed to Be Great for Art. It Wasn‘t”

Tue Jan 05 2021, 10:31pm | 1 comment

I personally have found it very difficult to focus on anything creative in the past four years (and it only got worse in 2020). And I wasn’t alone…


AWFJ 2020 EDA Awards winners announced

Tue Jan 05 2021, 09:34pm | 0 comments

And the winners are…


new and ongoing dvd/blu/vod releases, US/Can, Dec 15–Jan 01

Tue Dec 29 2020, 04:00pm | comments off

A simple listing of new releases and other stuff currently available.


new and ongoing dvd/blu/vod releases, UK/Ire, Dec 14–28

Tue Dec 29 2020, 03:42pm | comments off

A simple listing of new releases and other stuff currently available.


curated: 10+ minutes of glorious dancing in movies, so you can forget 2020 for a bit

Sun Dec 27 2020, 08:46pm | 0 comments

Just watch these beautifully edited montages…


Greenland movie review: a human spin on the end of the world

Sun Dec 27 2020, 04:02pm | 0 comments

A same-old tale of apocalypse knows we’ve seen this all before, and so centers human drama over disaster porn. It has nothing new to say, but at least it says it well, with notes of horrific grace.


Songbird movie review: screechingly out of tune

Wed Dec 23 2020, 03:03pm | 0 comments

An appalling melange of insipid disaster drama and implausible romance with a bit of dystopian satire thrown in. This is a crass cash-in meant to prey on our pandemic anxieties, not grapple with them.


Farewell Amor movie review: family ties undone, and forged again (#LFF2020)

Fri Dec 11 2020, 07:14pm | 0 comments

Achieves that rare cinematic feat of being specific and universal at the same time. A lovely film, plaintive and poignant, with exquisite performances from a beguiling cast, and ultimately hopeful.


Fanny Lye deliver’d from her own deliverance with the dick-washed US poster for ‘The Delivered’

Thu Dec 03 2020, 09:58pm | 0 comments

It’s the dick-washing of The Sapphires all over again.


Happiest Season movie review: don we now our gay apparel… (#Hulu)

Wed Dec 02 2020, 09:41pm | 7 comments

Finds something fresh and gently feminist in the tropes and claptrap of an overbaked genre. Stewart and Davis have terrific chemistry, and the supporting cast of modern legends of funny is to die for.


“wait, aren’t you poor?”

Wed Nov 25 2020, 09:26pm | 1 comment

I got an email yesterday from a reader, in response to my #LockdownDailyWalk posts, who was all, “Hey, I thought you couldn’t afford to live in the cool parts of London, what’s up?”


Small Axe: Mangrove movie review: parties and protests (#LFF2020) (#BBC/#AmazonPrime)

Tue Nov 24 2020, 11:14pm | 0 comments

A triumph. McQueen brings history to life and makes it sing with zest and passion, with a spirit that endures beyond the strife. A celebration of Black joy alongside a raging against Black oppression.


Proxima movie review: the work of the world

Fri Nov 20 2020, 01:26pm | 3 comments

Brings a fundamental new humanity to the story of those who court great danger in order to advance human knowledge. Eva Green is immense. Writer-director Alice Winocour’s compassion is achingly acute.


Mogul Mowgli movie review: Riz Ahmed goes home and goes big (#LFF2020)

Tue Nov 17 2020, 09:32pm | 0 comments

An uneasy jolt of (pop) culture clash and assimilation angst. Unsettling and electrifying; near-nightmarish and absolutely mesmerizing. Riz Ahmed oozes sweat and rage, pride and power.


The Binge: The Mandalorian S1 (#DisneyPlus)

Fri Nov 06 2020, 10:28pm | 8 comments

Here is the future of Star Wars, one not mired in the narrow threads of the movies’ mythology, but a story that acknowledges that there is a whole big complicated wonderful galaxy to explore.


African Apocalypse documentary review: Black perspectives matter (#LFF2020)

Fri Oct 30 2020, 01:51pm | 0 comments

In an intimate yet shattering documentary, Black British activist Femi Nylander searches for “the imperial history they didn’t teach at school,” and finds it. Heartbreaking, provocative, illuminating.


The Binge: Mrs America (#FXonHulu/#BBC)

Wed Oct 28 2020, 03:44pm | 0 comments

Apart from the value of its explicatory gloss on anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, there is entertaining, gratifying drama in the clash of so many complex feminist women working against her.


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm movie review: punching way the hell up (#AmazonPrime)

Thu Oct 22 2020, 11:31pm | 3 comments

A work of breathtaking audacity. This is as perilous as comedy gets, and it’s very, very funny, often shockingly so. Sacha Baron Cohen’s scathing cultural strikes land like extinction-level asteroids.


Love and Monsters movie review: building a future at the end of the world

Tue Oct 20 2020, 07:27pm | 0 comments

This pleasantly silly-sad apocalypse, melancholy with a dash of optimism, smashes clichés and finds fresh angles on the familiar. Dylan O’Brien has a self-deprecating charm; there’s a great dog, too.


Totally Under Control documentary review: detailing Trump’s coronavirus catastrophe

Thu Oct 15 2020, 09:35pm | 2 comments

If you’ve been paying attention, not much is surprising in muckraker Alex Gibney’s timeline-driven rundown of Trump’s COVID crimes. But there is immense value in seeing it all laid out so clearly.


Faith Based movie review: God is in the details

Fri Oct 09 2020, 06:39pm | 9 comments

I love the initial cynicism of this sendup of Christian cinema, and love even more how it goes on to punch up rather than down, and embraces sincerity and friendship with good cheer and gentle zing.


2067 (aka Chronical: 2067) movie review: future schlock

Sun Oct 04 2020, 06:45pm | 0 comments

Generously, this is a 15-minute short padded out to an unforgivable, patience-trying two hours, there’s so little in the way of fresh ideas or engaging characters. Kudos for making time travel boring.


All In: The Fight for Democracy documentary review: the pushback against voter suppression (#AmazonPrime)

Fri Oct 02 2020, 09:24pm | 0 comments

Enlightening, enraging history of all the ways in which the United States has tried to bar citizens from voting, plus a primer on what Americans can do right now to ensure that our voices are heard.


on Christmas coming early, and the international differences in pigs-in-blankets

Thu Oct 01 2020, 11:21pm | 8 comments

2020 gonna 2020.


I Am Woman movie review: more a purr than a roar

Thu Oct 01 2020, 10:40pm | 0 comments

A winsome Tilda Cobham-Hervey leads a rote rags-to-riches tale, though its rampant sexism is a villain women will recognize. Needs to be seen, even if it’s not quite the tribute Helen Reddy deserves.


The Binge: Years and Years (#BBC/#HBO)

Thu Sep 24 2020, 04:23pm | 0 comments

I’m obsessed with this British miniseries following one family through a dystopian 2020s. It’s completely harrowing, very nearly soul-crushing. Yet I cling to its tenuous optimism and profound beauty.


H Is for Happiness movie review: Q is for Quirk, F is for Forced

Tue Sep 22 2020, 07:49pm | 0 comments

Offbeat portrait of an unconventional girl is all over the place, sometimes detouring into the cringeworthy, as it tries to depict the emotional familial confusion its tween protagonist is navigating.


Blackbird movie review: the bell tolls, ever so tastefully

Mon Sep 21 2020, 09:49pm | 1 comment

The to-die-for cast can’t quite save this melodrama from its trite obviousness, in which rage and grief are matters of tasteful, upscale lifestyle. But they at least make it passingly watchable.


Mulan (2020) movie review: girl (and film) at war with the world (#DisneyPlus)

Fri Sep 11 2020, 09:47pm | 11 comments

Acceptably inoffensive, if less than wholly engaging. At least Liu’s strong, stately Mulan is a wonderful role model for girls who aren’t much interested in conformity and adhering to expectations.


#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump documentary review: science backs up the horror we can all plainly see

Thu Sep 03 2020, 10:45pm | 28 comments

Mental-health professionals, bound by ethics to point out danger, discuss how President Donald Trump is uniquely dangerous, a literal menace to society. Nay, not “discuss”: they are screaming it.


the summer of my discontent is over (she said optimistically)…

Mon Aug 31 2020, 09:55pm | 6 comments

It’s the last day of August. I have chosen to take this as a sign that it’s time to leave my funk behind and kick myself back into creative gear.


Bill & Ted Face the Music movie review: not-so-strange things are afoot…

Sat Aug 29 2020, 08:10pm | 12 comments

The chill zen and goofy charm of GenX’s philosopher-fools remains intact, but their latest adventure is too familiar a retelling. Still, “Be excellent to each other” won’t ever not be worth heeding.


Tesla movie review: less than electrifying

Fri Aug 21 2020, 09:39pm | 2 comments

Hawke is warm and empathetic, but the film’s artificiality is at odds with a celebration of the visionary’s life and work, and finally offputting. I wish this were either more earnest or more bonkers.


She Dies Tomorrow movie review: when it feels like we all die tomorrow

Wed Aug 19 2020, 06:44pm | 0 comments

Filmmaker Amy Seimetz evokes a taut, cursed mundanity, an allegorical contemplation of culture at its most basic level: when it fails and everyone is hopeless. Accidentally hits our pandemic mood.


Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America documentary review: brave new day care?

Fri Aug 14 2020, 08:45pm | 0 comments

Is this a documentary about quality day care for the smallest kids, or a slick PowerPoint presentation for policy wonks about the economic need to churn out cooperative corporate cogs from babyhood?


it’s too hot to think; my laptop concurs

Wed Aug 12 2020, 12:04pm | 0 comments

This is all very frustrating. I was looking forward to getting back to work this week, and nature has thwarted me.


The Secret Garden movie review: weedy with misplaced eeriness

Fri Aug 07 2020, 05:07pm | 0 comments

Pointless adaptation of the beloved children’s novel soaked in a gothic spookiness that seems to deliberately misunderstand the story. Neither literal enough nor magical enough. My heart was unmoved.


The Secret: Dare to Dream movie review: I’m positive this is awful

Tue Aug 04 2020, 10:53pm | 0 comments

Nice Guy garbage man Josh Lucas negs sad sack Katie Holmes. Based on the pernicious self-help philosophy that insists that everything wrong with your life is your fault. You know: feel-good romance!


I’m back for more BBC World Service’s “The Arts Hour” again today, Saturday, August 1st

Sat Aug 01 2020, 07:42pm | 0 comments

My second pandemic-lockdown, recorded-from-home appearance…


Radioactive movie review: science, bitch (#AmazonPrime)

Sat Aug 01 2020, 06:28pm | 0 comments

Rosamund Pike is perfection in this intellectual romance, an unsentimental portrait of a woman striving to be appreciated for her mind at a time even more anti-woman than today. Feminist and flinty.


I hate this timeline…

Mon Jul 27 2020, 08:59pm | 0 comments

During lockdown I have been on a roller coaster of emotional reaction when it comes to my creative work…


First Cow movie review: new world, same as the old world

Thu Jul 23 2020, 09:25pm | 0 comments

A simple story about friendship. A revisionist Western reworking fables of masculinity and frontiers. A softly savage deconstruction of the American dream, of capitalism itself. An astonishing movie.


Last and First Men movie review: a sobering message from the future (#EIFF2020)

Thu Jul 23 2020, 03:15pm | 0 comments

A mesmerizing, haunting contemplation of the headiest issues we ever confront: evolution and extinction, the depths of time, the meaning of life. Screams with ominous alarm for the human future.


John Lewis: Good Trouble documentary review: how to bend the arc of history

Mon Jul 20 2020, 09:27pm | 0 comments

Essential portrait of the US Congressman and civil-rights activist, for its lessons in the power of passive resistance to injustice, and its underscoring of how America has regressed in recent years.


Greyhound movie review: Tom Hanks goes a-LARPing (#AppleTVPlus)

Fri Jul 17 2020, 07:17pm | 0 comments

How very kind of Tom Hanks to lend his gravitas and inescapable likability to a bunch of WWII naval reenactors on their weekend-getaway “crossing the north Atlantic in 1942 dodging U-boats” campaign.


The Sunlit Night movie review: room to breathe and think in wide-open spaces

Wed Jul 15 2020, 06:30pm | 0 comments

A ramble with appealingly messy people rethinking their priorities that is perhaps more charming and touching than it might have been if this pandemic summer didn’t have so many of us doing the same.


have you found a new movie normal?

Mon Jul 13 2020, 09:00pm | 0 comments

I’d love to hear how, as a movie fan, you’re coping with this new entertainment environment.


The Old Guard movie review: saving the world, one century at a time (#Netflix)

Thu Jul 09 2020, 06:22pm | 0 comments

There’s plenty of bruising action, but this fantastic slice of comic-book pulp emphasizes the humanity of its immortal heroes. Gina Prince-Bythewood elevates the familiar with emotional authenticity.


Little Girl (Petite Fille) documentary review: what little girls are made of (#EIFF2020)

Thu Jul 09 2020, 02:01pm | 0 comments

Lovely verité documentary about eight-year-old Sasha, who was born into a boy’s body but is definitely a girl. An inspiring portrait of someone asking for so little: to be accepted for who she is.


my 2020 film ranking at the year’s midway point

Mon Jul 06 2020, 09:03pm | 0 comments

A sneak peek at my FULL ongoing ranking of 2020’s new movies. (This post is free for all. Join my Patreon to keep up with the list as it grows over the rest of the year.)


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