John Podhoretz Articles

The Second Life

A comic bridge across the generation gap.
Apr 20, 2015

The writer-director Noah Baumbach has a gimlet satirical eye for the foibles and follies of the upper-middle class, which he deploys to brilliant and hilarious effect in his new movie, While We’re Young. A childless husband and wife in their 40s, played with beautiful understatement by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, are content with each other but seem to be in a state of paralysis when it comes to moving forward in their careers and lives.

 Read more

The Hit Parade

Liam Neeson in action is worth watching. But for how long?
Mar 30, 2015

Run All Night is unquestionably the best of the seemingly endless series of thrillers Liam Neeson has made since 2008’s Taken made him a most unlikely action star at the age of 56. And yet, rather than being celebrated for rising above the others, Run All Night has been received so poorly by moviegoers one must now presume that Neeson’s surprising later-in-life dash through the international box office as one of the cinema’s most reliable money-makers is nearing its end. 

 Read more

Doomsday Machine

Moviegoing heads for the exit
Mar 23, 2015

Will anyone go to the movies 25 years from now? Will there even be movie theaters 25 years from now? These are not idle questions. New research from the Motion Picture Association of America shows how the moviegoing audience of those between the ages of 25 and 39 has contracted precipitously—dropping almost 25 percent over the past four years.

 Read more

The Long Con

How much longer for pleasant, diversionary cinema?
Mar 16, 2015

There should be movies like Focus every week. It’s a stylish and amusing film with glamorous actors, memorable supporting players, lush settings, and lots of twists and turns. Will Smith plays a successful con artist who chisels people all over the world. He’s amused when a two-bit newbie played by Margot Robbie tries to run a hustle on him—amused and also powerfully attracted, because Margot Robbie may be the most beautiful woman to grace the screen since the 1960s heyday of Natalie Wood and Julie Christie.

 Read more

Is Hollywood Racist?

It depends on which Hollywood you’re talking about
Mar 09, 2015

The question that haunted the American motion-picture industry in the two months leading up to the Academy Awards broadcast was this: Is Hollywood racist?

 Read more

Virtue Rewarded

Including the virtue of keeping a straight face
Mar 02, 2015

When I tell you that, in my opinion, the three novels now known as the Fifty Shades Trilogy are the worst books I have ever read all the way through, I am not telling you anything interesting. To criticize E. L. James’s publishing version of winning the Irish Sweepstakes is to attack a cultural phenomenon entirely beyond the reach of criticism. These three books, originally published as a series of posts on a fan-fiction website, ended up earning their author $95 million in a single year.

 Read more

Movie Magic

A musical love story finds its medium
Feb 23, 2015

I don’t remember when I have been more deeply affected by a film than I was by The Last Five Years, a jewel box of a movie-musical that is unquestionably the best of its kind since Chicago was released in 2003. It is at once a tiny slip of a thing and an emotional blockbuster. Over the course of a brisk 90 minutes, The Last Five Years provides an exhilarating and devastating account of the relationship between a successful young writer and an unsuccessful young actress.

 Read more

Crime of Punishment

A grim, epic allegory of Putin’s Russia
Feb 09, 2015

The director of the new Russian movie Leviathan now lives in Canada. This was a wise decision on Andrey Zvyagintsev’s part—because even though Leviathan received grants from the Russian government and was officially selected to represent the country in this year’s Oscar race, at some point in the near future, Zvyagintsev’s career and maybe his life won’t be worth a plugged kopek in his homeland.

 Read more

Ennobled, Unnerving

One man, one war, and the cost of service
Feb 02, 2015

The overwhelming American Sniper is cast in shadow from start to finish by two real-world tragedies, one very broad and one very precise. The first is the irresolution of the Iraq war, the conflict to which the film’s titular character—Navy SEAL Christopher Kyle—was deployed four times. The second is the 2013 murder of Kyle at the hands of a disturbed veteran he was trying to help. As a result of these tragedies, the movie that tells their stories is haunted and grave.

 Read more

Podcast: American Sniper a Powerful Portrayal of America at War

Hosted by Michael Graham.
2:45 PM, Jan 27, 2015

THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with contributing editor John Podhoretz on his review of American Sniper.

 Read more

Hero as Victim

Is the Alan Turing seen here the Alan Turing who was?
Jan 26, 2015

The Imitation Game is the fanciest ABC Afterschool Special ever made: It takes the inspiring, mystifying, and upsetting life story of a great genius and turns it into a didactic and banal lesson about how people who are “different” are also very, very special.

 Read more

King in Stone

When a historical drama is devoid of drama
Jan 19, 2015

The marketing genius of movies like Selma, the highly praised docudrama about the march in Alabama that triggered the 1965 Voting Rights Act, is that they simultaneously confuse and intimidate critics and audiences by making them feel as though it would be an act of disrespect to speak anything but words of praise for the way they depict life-and-death historical events of great moral moment.

 Read more

A Star Is Born

By any measure, you won’t forget Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Jan 05, 2015

Who is the best young actress in the movies? The obvious answer is Jennifer Lawrence, all of 24 and with a deserved Oscar to her credit for Silver Linings Playbook and a second she should have won for her supporting role in American Hustle.

 Read more

Exodus, Stage Left

The biblical saga gets an up-to-the-minute adaptation
Dec 29, 2014

Raise your hand if you want to see Moses portrayed as an insurgent lunatic terrorist with a bad conscience, the pharaoh who sought the murder of all first-born Hebrew slaves as a nice and reasonable fellow, and God as a foul-tempered 11-year-old boy with an English accent.

 Read more

Wrestlers and Brothers

A weird, tragic, compelling tale tainted by politics
Dec 15, 2014

Foxcatcher is a slow, gripping, fact-based movie about a bizarre and lonely heir to the Du Pont fortune whose obsession with the sport of wrestling eventually led him to commit a pointless and vicious murder. What makes Foxcatcher compelling is that its story, its setting, and its characters are so odd, so singular, so unlike anything we’ve seen before.

 Read more

Hope and Glory

A century commanding the show business heights
Dec 08, 2014

This book is something of a Rube Goldberg machine. Its author, Time theater critic Richard Zoglin, makes enormous claims about the cultural importance of his subject: He calls Bob Hope “the entertainer of the century,” the first person to be a star in every medium, the man seen by more people in person than anyone else in history, even the inventor of stand-up comedy. But the book that contains these claims is so turgid it belies them.

 Read more

Climate Change

What can we learn from decoding this message?
Nov 24, 2014

You want to like Interstellar. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a big, juicy, fancy, ambitious, emotional epic about the future of humankind. It has a killer lead performance by Matthew McConaughey.

 Read more

Portrait of an Age

The high-end literary adaptation is now the province of HBO
Nov 17, 2014

The HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, featuring the Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand delivering what may be one of the greatest performances ever recorded, is nothing short of a masterpiece.

 Read more

My Dinner with Riggan

I’m OK, you’re OK, and you’re entitled to your opinion
Nov 03, 2014

If you go see the universally praised Birdman, the story of an over-the-hill film star trying to make a comeback by starring in a Broadway play, I hope you enjoy yourself. I really do. That’s what movies are for—to provide enjoyment, a few hours of diversion. Genuine art transcends that shallow goal.

 Read more

Who Done What

Feckless men, reckless women, flawed casting
Oct 20, 2014

In the universe according to Gone Girl, men are no great shakes: They’re inconstant and weak and foolish. But women .  .  . ah, women. They’re smart, resourceful, infinitely clever—and profoundly dangerous.

 Read more

Men at Work

When the going gets tough, these two get going
Oct 13, 2014

Right now at your local multiplex, Denzel Washington is appearing in The Equalizer, a lousy picture in which he is required to display almost supernatural killing skills—and he is entirely believable even though the movie is not, even for one second. You might say he’s playing Liam Neeson, or at least the Liam Neeson character from Taken.

 Read more

Shock and Aww

Too many touching moments for comfort
Oct 06, 2014

For years, people have been telling me to read Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You (2009), a comic novel about a dysfunctional Westchester family whose secrets and lies and disappointments all come out during a week in which its members gather to mourn the passing of the patriarch.

 Read more


Apparently, the criminal life has its downside
Sep 29, 2014

There’s nothing quite so pointless as a movie about gloomy and depressed criminals. Why watch two hours about life on the other side of the law if there’s no kick to it? Crime movies are fun because they acknowledge the pleasures of transgression even as they show the wages of sin.

 Read more

The Big Slide

Fans aren’t exactly flocking to the cineplex
Sep 22, 2014

The summer of 2014 confirms it: Hollywood is dying. By “Hollywood,” I mean the industry that produces mainstream, conventional movies that are made and distributed by big studios.

 Read more

Real Time Passing

Not so mad about the boy, but the premise is promising
Sep 01, 2014

If you know that Boyhood has been rapturously received as a revolutionary work in the annals of American filmmaking, it is almost sure to disappoint you. I know this, because I saw it two weeks after it opened and it disappointed me, even though I knew I was seeing something no other filmmaker had ever really tried before and that the experiment was an undoubted success.

 Read more

Ladies Leading

Women rule Hollywood, and men are box-office poison
Aug 11, 2014

The age of the male movie star has passed. Welcome to the age of the female movie star. 

 Read more

All Aboard

Snow, dystopia, trains, inequality. What’s not to like?
Aug 04, 2014

I don’t know what it says about the movies these days that the best one I’ve seen so far this summer is a completely insane thriller set on a train in perpetual motion around a post-apocalyptic earth on which the have-nots are packed like sardines in the caboose while the wealthy live in splendor in the front.

 Read more

Monkey Business

The ‘Apes’ franchise goes unintentionally comical
Jul 28, 2014

If you really want to know what a bunch of simians—whose IQs have been boosted by drugs to the human level (or higher, maybe even to the Kardashian level)—would do with themselves if that same drug wiped out all of humanity, then you really have to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It’s quite an achievement. For its first 15 minutes, Dawn is history’s first nature documentary about animals that don’t actually exist in an environment that doesn’t actually exist.

 Read more

The Comfort Zone

Latest trends in the modern moviegoing experience
Jul 21, 2014

Something interesting happened a year ago: The movie theater a few blocks from my house was radically redesigned. This came as a surprise, for the AMC 84th Street wasn’t failing in any way. Indeed, from its opening in 1985 to the present day, it has been one of the most successful theaters in America (for a decade, the highest-grossing).

 Read more

Death and the Maiden

There’s a flaw at the heart of this unpretentious tearjerker
Jun 30, 2014

The key to understanding the publishing sensation called The Fault in Our Stars—John Green’s young-adult novel that has dominated bestseller lists for more than two years and has already sold more than nine million copies worldwide—is first to imagine Holden Caulfield in the 21st century. Then imagine that, rather than being anxious and upset and in a funk for no good reason, Holden Caulfield actually has a very good reason, which is that he has terminal cancer.

 Read more