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I don’t know whether to be heartened or depressed by What She Said, a terrific documentary about the life and work of legendary film critic Pauline Kael. In her own words — through vintage TV and radio clips as well as her writing read out in narration by Sarah Jessica Parker — and tales told by others — most notably including her daughter, Gina James — we hear how challenging it was to make a living as a critic; the abuse she took from readers, including death threats; and just the general awfulness of men, in her personal life as well as professionally, who simply weren’t interested in listening to any woman’s enthusiasm about anything, and particularly not if she disagreed with him.

Damn. Kael’s struggle is my struggle, and that of many female film critics, and that of many women in the world no matter what field we’re in. To know that even the great Kael was in the same position is… well, is it a good thing or a bad thing that not much seems to have improved? Is there hope for me yet, or is even the best-case outcome of my life’s work going to be a difficult path to travel? Continue reading…

EDITOR’S NOTE: What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for December 20, 2019

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her AWFJ.org archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).