One-Question Interview with MaryAnn Johanson

11/25/2009 Posted by Admin

By Christopher Smith

Among my favorite film bloggers is MaryAnn Johanson, who I've been reading and appreciating for years.  And so, when this "One-Question Interview" series started, she was high on my list.  If you've read her blog,, you know how good she is.  If you haven't, then allow me to introduce you to the spirited conversations that take place there.  MaryAnn starts the conversation, and then she jumps right into it, usually swinging and taking no prisoners.  It's her fearlessness that I like most, not to mention the mind behind it.  Last night was our first conversation together, and likely not our last.

So, to the question:  "You chose to blog about movies--why was that important to you?"

"Well, I actually started writing about movies online long before the word "blog" was coined. I started in 1997, when hardly anyone was reviewing movies online. And I started because I'd always been a worshipper of movies, to the point of going to film school at NYU in the late '80s because I thought I wanted to make movies. Turned out, I was more interested in writing than in being a film director, and I dropped out. A few years later, when the Web was going through its birth throes, I realized I could combine my love of writing and my love of movies by reviewing films on this Internet thing. I started in September 1997, and since there wasn't much competition back then, the site managed to catch on, and it all sort of snowballed. Twelve years later, the site is one of the most popular movie-review sites on the Web, and among movie sites run by a single person, as is, I'm not sure anyone is getting better traffic than I am. Among sites devoted to the reviews of a single critic, there are only a few more popular than mine (such as Roger Ebert's and James Berardinelli's).

"And that is sort of important to me, the traffic, because I do write for an audience. I have no interest in writing something that no one wants to read. Which is kind of ironic, maybe, because I didn't start out that way. I had no idea, back in 1997, whether anyone would want to read my ramblings on movies. Turns out people did want to hear what I had to say. And yet, if there's one primary impetus behind my reviews, it's that my reviews are usually about me trying to figure out why I feel about a movie the way I do. I mean, it's easy to say "I hate it" or "I loved it," but why do I feel that way?

"Today, more than a decade into something that started as a lark, I am so grateful for my readers, and for the smart, witty, ongoing conversation we have at And I continue to be astonished that we've managed to maintain as high a level of conversation as we have, when the comments sections of so many blogs seem to descend into something unreadable.

"As for the movies themselves... well, as I like to say, I love movies, but I hate what Hollywood does to them, sometimes. And while I do review across the full spectrum, including foreign films and indies, my favorite movies do tend to be studio films, when they're done well. And I'm also fascinated by what popular movies -- whether they be good or bad -- say about us as a culture. Why is one movie popular and another movie a flop? So that's important to me, too: placing films in the larger context. Another thing I like to say: It's not just a movie. It's a lot more than that."

Check out MaryAnn's excellent work at

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