John Powers

John Powers is the pop culture and critic-at-large on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He previously served for six years as the film critic.

Powers covers film and politics for Vogue and Vogue.com. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Harper's BAZAAR, The Nation, Gourmet, The Washington Post, The New York Times and L.A. Weekly, where he spent twelve years as a critic and columnist.

A former professor at Georgetown University, Powers is the author of Sore Winners, a study of American culture during President George W. Bush's administration.

He lives in Pasadena, California, with his wife, Sandi Tan.

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2:01pm

Fri March 20, 2015
Movie Reviews

'Seymour': A Loving Portrait Of An Acclaimed Classical Pianist

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2:16pm

Thu March 19, 2015
Book Reviews

'A Little Life': An Unforgettable Novel About The Grace Of Friendship

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 1:52 pm

America is hooked on stories of redemption and rebirth, be it Cheryl Strayed rediscovering herself by hiking the Pacific Trail or the late David Carr pulling himself out of the crack-house and into The New York Times. We just love tales about healing.

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2:41pm

Tue February 24, 2015
Television

Fair Warning: Watch One 'Foyle's War' Episode, And You'll Want To Watch Them All

Michael Kitchen stars as Foyle, a widowed police superintendent in the coastal city of Hastings in England. His sidekick is his driver, Samantha Stewart, a vicar's daughter played by Honeysuckle Weeks.
Acorn TV/ITV

The satisfying thing about TV crime shows is that they offer a sense of closure. The unsatisfying thing is how much of life they must leave out to do it. Like, history. Whether you're talking CSI or Sherlock, crime shows tend to take place in a weirdly hermetic universe where the characters may change — like in True Detective — yet the historical moment in which they live remains largely irrelevant background.

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3:03pm

Wed January 28, 2015
Movie Reviews

Full Of Complexity And Ambivalence, 'American Sniper' Shows The Cost Of War

Bradley Cooper (right) plays Chris Kyle in American Sniper. The film has become a cultural phenomenon and has spawned knee-jerk squabbling.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In the years following the invasion of Iraq, it became a truism that Americans simply didn't want to hear about the war — especially at the movies. While there were scads of films about Iraq, including Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, none was able to attract a big audience. Until American Sniper.

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12:13pm

Wed January 21, 2015
Movie Reviews

'Leviathan' And 'Red Army' Deliver A Peek Inside Russia, Now And Then

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 1:27 pm

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2:31pm

Fri August 22, 2014
Movie Reviews

Werner Herzog's Audacious Early Films Showcased In New Boxed Collection

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 3:51 pm

Werner Herzog's 1972 film Aguirre, the Wrath of God was shot along the Amazon in Peru. It probes one of the filmmaker's themes: an unsentimental look at humankind's relationship to landscape and nature.
Courtesy of The Shout! Factory

There are lots of good filmmakers, but only a handful are always, unmistakably themselves. One of these is Werner Herzog, the 71-year-old German director who now lives in L.A. Herzog has done things nobody else would do for a film — like trying to tug a 350-ton steamship over a small mountain. This has made him notorious as a wild, love-him-or-hate-him monomaniac — an image he's been canny enough to milk.

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3:14pm

Thu August 14, 2014
Movie Reviews

British Comedians Take A 'Trip To Italy' And Make Fun Of Each Other

Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 4:44 pm

Compared with The Trip, in The Trip to Italy Coogan (right) is gloomier and Brydon is more ambitious.
Courtesy of IFC Films

Back in the '90s, there was a Hollywood comedy — I can't remember which one, I'm afraid — that became a surprise hit. Afterward, the movie's producer had this great line. He said, "If we'd known it was going to be so popular, we would've tried to make it good."

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3:15pm

Wed July 23, 2014
Movie Reviews

'A Hard Day's Night': A Pop Artifact That Still Crackles With Energy

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 5:19 pm

The Beatles perform one of their songs while filming A Hard Day's Night in 1964.
Evening Standard Getty Images

Back in 1964, movie audiences were treated to three hit musicals. Two of them — Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady — won scads of Oscars. But it was the third that announced the future, and it did so from its opening chord.

What followed from that chord was what we call The Sixties.

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3:44pm

Tue July 8, 2014
Movie Reviews

'Violette' Evokes Exasperating Self-Pity, A Trait The French Like

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 7:03 pm

In the new French film Violette, Emmanuelle Devos plays a fictionalized character based on Violette Leduc, the trailblazing French novelist.
Courtesy of Adopt Films

Americans put a lot of stock in being likable. Pollsters take surveys of the president's likability. Test screenings check whether we like the characters in movies. And when a literary novelist like Claire Messud mocks the notion that fictional characters should be someone we'd like to be friends with, writers of popular fiction attack her for snootiness.

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1:26pm

Thu May 8, 2014
Movie Reviews

Two Italys Take A Road Trip In 'Il Sorpasso'

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 8:33 pm

Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

If the road movie has a home, it's surely the United States. After all, the settling of America was itself a kind of humongous road picture — all those wagons rolling across the new continent's spectacular vastness. And with our ceaseless love of movement, we became the first people to be transported — in every sense — by the automobile. Small wonder, then, that so many famous Hollywood films, from It Happened One Night to Thelma & Louise, are all about hitting the road.

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