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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12:11pm

Thu June 21, 2012
Television

'The Newsroom' Caught Up In A Partisan Divide

Originally published on Thu June 21, 2012 12:56 pm

In Aaron Sorkin's new HBO drama, The Newsroom, producer MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) and anchorman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) tackle real hard-hitting news stories and call out those who don't tell the truth.
HBO

If anyone in Hollywood wears his idealism like a boutonniere, it's Aaron Sorkin. As The West Wing made clear, Sorkin loves telling stories about principled individuals — especially liberals — struggling with institutions that might compromise their integrity.

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12:30pm

Wed May 2, 2012
Pop Culture

Sherlock: A Character Who's More Than Elementary

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 1:04 pm

Basil Rathbone (right) as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1945.
AP

One of my favorite professors, the late Ian Watt, taught that there were four great myths of modern individualism: Faust, Don Juan, Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe. This always got me wondering which, if any, pop-culture heroes might endure in the same way. James Bond? Luke Skywalker? The Avengers? C'mon. In fact, there's only one who I feel sure will last — Sherlock Holmes.

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11:28am

Tue April 24, 2012
Book Reviews

'Death And The Penguin' Captures Post-Soviet Reality

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 11:32 am

When you hear the words "Russian novel," you probably picture something as big and heavy as an anvil. Yet ever since the fall of communism, we've seen the ascent of Russian novelists who are shorter-winded and jauntier.

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2:33pm

Wed March 14, 2012
Movie Reviews

On DVD: Inside Bill Clinton's Campaign 'War Room'

George Stephanopoulos (left) and James Carville advised President Clinton during the 1992 election. Their strategic sessions in Clinton's "War Room" were filmed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker.
October Films/Everett Collection

I think everyone can agree that the Republican Party's search for its presidential nominee has been a long, strange trip. For me, one of the strangest things about it is that, after all this time, I barely know who's running Mitt Romney's, Rick Santorum's and Newt Gingrich's campaigns. You see, over the past 30 years, political strategists have gone from being shadowy figures to being celebrities in their own right.

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10:53am

Wed February 22, 2012
Movie Reviews

After 'Putin's Kiss,' A Young Girl's Change Of Heart

The documentary Putin's Kiss charts four years in the life of Masha Drokova, who became famous as the girl who publicly kissed Vladimir Putin.
Courtesy of the filmmaker

There's a great moment in Tom Stoppard's play Jumpers when a husband tries to convince his wife that an election has been democratic. "I had a vote," he tells her, to which she replies, "It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting."

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11:52am

Thu January 19, 2012
Movie Reviews

In 'Miss Bala,' Bullets And Beauty Pageants Collide

Originally published on Thu January 19, 2012 1:57 pm

Stephanie Sigman plays Laura, a beauty queen drawn into the world of Mexican drug cartels, in the film Miss Bala.
20th Century Fox

If you read the headlines, you know that the Mexican government is engaged in a long, deadly battle against the country's astonishingly powerful drug dealers, known as narcotraficantes or simply narcos. Hardly a day goes by without news of another shootout or massacre. Nearly 50,000 people have died in the 5-year-old drug war, the majority of them innocent citizens.

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11:48am

Tue January 17, 2012
Movie Reviews

'A Separation' Of Hearts, Minds And Ideas In Iran

Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) are at odds first about whether to leave Iran for life abroad — and then about more pressing issues.
Sony Picture Classics.

Over the past 30-odd years, we've grown used to thinking of Iran and the United States as enemies — from the Ayatollah Khomeini dubbing America "The Great Satan" to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which has led President Obama to spearhead international sanctions and some of his Republican rivals to talk of bombing Iran.

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12:38pm

Tue November 1, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Tinker, Tailor': The Greatest Spy Story Ever Told

Alec Guinness starred in the 1979 BBC adaptation of John le Carre's novel Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy. The series has just been re-released on DVD in anticipation of the release of a new film version of the Cold War-era spy drama.

Acorn Media

When I was 12, I was hooked on James Bond, both Ian Fleming's elegantly pulpy novels and the cartoonish movies they spawned. One day, my friend's older brother, who went to Harvard, tossed a paperback onto my lap and said, "Here's the real thing, kid."

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11:34am

Tue June 14, 2011
Movies

The Art Of Mimicry: A 'Trip' Down Memory Lane

Best Impressions: Steve Coogan (right) and Rob Brydon trade barbs and impersonations in The Trip.
Phil Fisk IFC Films

A few nights ago, I put on Warner Home Video's new Blu-ray of one of my favorite adventure films, The Man Who Would Be King. Based on a story by Rudyard Kipling, this 1975 tale stars Michael Caine and Sean Connery as two roguish British soldiers who scam their way into taking over the country of Kafiristan. It's a terrific movie, and as it unfolded, I was struck that Caine and Connery have been part of my life since I was a kid. I could recognize their voices in my sleep.

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11:12am

Wed April 27, 2011
Remembrances

David Foster Wallace's Legacy: A Trove Of Good Reads

Writers love to grumble about the popularity of self-help books, yet they, like everyone else, are always looking for someone who'll teach them how to live. Just think of all those guys who learned their masculinity from Hemingway or those classy-sounding books with titles like How Proust Can Change Your Life or How To Live: A Life of Montaigne.

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11:46am

Wed April 20, 2011
Movie Reviews

The Past, Always Present In The Atacama Dark

Perhaps the most famous line in late-20th-century literature comes from Milan Kundera. "The struggle of man against power," he wrote, "is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

One man who has never stopped struggling is Patricio Guzman, the Chilean filmmaker who was imprisoned during the U.S.-backed coup that toppled Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende, and installed a military dictatorship that lasted the next 17 years. Guzman's documentaries have done as much as anything to keep alive the world's memory of what happened to his country that Sept. 11, 1973.

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11:14am

Fri March 25, 2011
Remembrances

Elizabeth Taylor's Legacy: AIDS Activist, Movie Star

I was raised to dislike Elizabeth Taylor. My mother, who taught me about the movies, disapproved of her countless men — she never forgave Liz for stealing Eddie from Debbie — and flat-out scoffed at her acting. "She's only beautiful," Mom would snort, a line I found convincing — until I reached puberty. Then, like almost every man in the world, I felt the tidal pull of that violet-eyed, raven-haired beauty, whose ethereal perfection contained within it the promise of carnal delight.

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