Review What's on the Screen | Letters | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Review What's on the Screen 

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What are we to make of the fact that MaryAnn Johanson finds the film Young & Beautiful “infuriating” (Cinema Clips, June 12, City Weekly)? Or that The Other Woman makes her “angry” (Cinema Clips, May 1, City Weekly)?  Or that Maleficent, a kiddie film starring Angelina Jolie, has a “cartoonishly lazy simplicity” (“Fairy to Poor,” May 29, City Weekly)? Perhaps that she should have paid more attention all those years ago when her parents (no doubt) told her “it’s only a movie”?  Or maybe that she was having a bad day, or several of them?  Or maybe that she just hates movies about women, unless the film under review happens to agree with her own political views? 

But maybe there’s another explanation. None of those films were ultimately about what Ms. Johanson thought they ought to be about. Thus, she says, Young & Beautiful should have been about “insight into female adolescence.” The Other Woman should have been more about “revenge.”  And Maleficent should have been “a satisfying fantasy drama.” In other words, Ms. Johanson wanted these films to be altogether different from what they were. Back in days of yore, when Pauline Kael ruled the critical reception of movies from the New Yorker, I think she might have advised Ms. Johanson that the only vital thing about a film review is the necessity to judge what is there, up on the screen, instead of what you wanted to be there, but is not. Doing that is the only way to write a film review that is both fair and, most of all, helpful.

THOMAS N. THOMPSON
Salt Lake City

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