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John Oursler

John Oursler is a freelance film blogger who lives and works in New York City. By day he helps non-profits make money. His passion for film remained a constant over the years, which has led him back to film criticism on a regular basis. As an undergrad he tended to look at media through the lens of queer theory, which still informs his viewing habits to this day. He spearheaded Sound on Sight's LGBT Column and welcomes contributions from those with a penchant for equitable film coverage.

‘Omar’ plays out more like a Bourne-style espionage thriller rather than a gripping wartime drama


Omar Directed by Hany Abu-Assad Palestine, 2013 The chronic, seemingly unsolvable Israeli/Palestinian conflict provides the perfect backdrop for narrative storytelling, as all the pieces are in place for a tense, personalized historical rendering. In fact, two other films this year have already addressed the issue: The Attack, from Lebanese director ...

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What Have The Movies Taught Us About AIDS?


The answer ranges from “not a lot” to “not the right things,” depending on how closely you observe. In the generation (30 years) since HIV/AIDS became a maligned social epidemic, only two American studio films, Philadelphia and now Dallas Buyers Club, have addressed the disease forthrightly. Other films have touched on ...

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NYFF 2013 Dispatch: ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’; ‘The Immigrant’; ‘Bastards’; ‘Gloria’

Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Dir. Ben Stiller) The trailer for Ben Stiller’s newest directorial effort is life-affirming, anthemic, and seems like a heartstring-puller in the best possible way. Trailers are often misleading. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is occasionally satisfying white-guy wish fulfillment, as if Network’s Howard Beale ...

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NYFF 2013, Day One Dispatch: ‘Like Father, Like Son’; ‘Stranger by the Lake’; ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’; ‘Nobody’s Daughter Haewon’


Like Father, Like Son There’s a sweetness and emotional weight to Hirokazu Kore-eda’s tales about children and family dynamics that instantly recalls another great Japanese auteur, Yasujiro Ozu. Kore-eda’s previous film, 2011’s I Wish, follows a pair of brothers who plot a long-traveled reunion following their parents’ separation. Over the ...

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TIFF 2013: ‘Child’s Pose’ an unflinching critique of Romanian society

Child's Posse

If we learned anything from Jackie Weaver’s character in Animal Kingdom, it’s that you should never underestimate a man’s mother. Calin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose continues the Romanian cinematic renaissance most often associated with Cristian Mungiu, another director whose films unflinchingly task modern Romania’s conservative dogma. Mungiu’s recent films, this year’s Beyond the Hills and 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, position female protagonists as national symbols of struggle, the consequence of either religious or political polemics.

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TIFF 2013: ‘Omar’ a hardened, well-made film about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict


The chronic, seemingly unsolvable Israeli/Palestinian conflict provides the perfect backdrop for narrative storytelling, as all the pieces are in place for a tense, personalized historical rendering. In fact, two other films this year have already addressed the issue: The Attack, from Lebanese director Ziad Douerir, and Zaytoun, from Israeli director Eran Riklis; each look at the personal toll caused by war. Inherently polemical discourse rarely makes much of an impact on the opposing side, and while bridge-gapping is sometime present in films dealing with this Middle Eastern crisis, it’s understandable when a more hardened approach is taken. Such is the case with Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar, a well-made Palestinian film that presents the experience with little interest in broaching peaceful dialogue

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TIFF 2013: ‘Gerontophilia’ a surprisingly heartfelt comedy from Bruce LaBruce


Gerontophilia, or the sexual preference for the elderly, is the eponymous subject of the new film by Bruce LaBruce, iconoclastic Canadian director of subversive narrative porn such as The Raspberry Reich and Hustler White, among others. Given what goes on in other LaBruce films, amputee sex, “terrorist chic” sex, zombie sex, etc., the subject matter of his newest didn’t necessarily alarm the way it would for nearly other living filmmaker, Lars von Trier being a potential exception.

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TIFF 2013: ‘Our Sunhi’ uses a freewheeling approach to greatly satisfying ends


The TIFF programmer introducing the new film from South Korean master Hong Sang-soo mentioned that because Hong is so prolific (he’s currently shooting another film) he couldn’t be at the premiere of his own film. It’s not uncommon for filmmakers to miss their own premieres, even at world-renowned international film festivals.

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TIFF 2013: ‘Belle’ is period with purpose

Belle 4 (1)

Ah, period piece films. It’s kind of a silly term if you think about it, since any historical time ever is technically a period, the film itself being the artistic piece of the equation. These films don’t really constitute a genre on their own, and they’re most commonly referring to something in the far past, though certainly not exclusively. Some people hear of a film referred to as a “period piece,” and the first things that come to mind are nobility and dogmatic rulers, oppressed women, and way-paving.

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Director and Actress Duos: The Best, Overlooked, and Underrated


Riffing on Terek Puckett’s terrific list of director/actor collaborations, I wanted to look at some of those equally impressive leading ladies who served as muses for their directors. I strived to look for collaborations that may not have been as obviously canonical, but whose effects on cinema were no less ...

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‘I’m So Excited’ is both delightful to watch yet deceptively discursive


For three decades, Pedro Almodovar has been the most internationally successful purveyor of queer cinema. His first film, 1980’s Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap, was released just two years before Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s too-soon swan-song, Querelle. Though the directors possess distinctly different approaches to the medium (Almodovar hasn’t yet gone sci-fi ala World on A Wire, for instance), their films were among the first brashly and unapologetically queer films that were both critically accepted and widely seen.

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A (straight) person’s guide to talking about queer cinema

Growing up gay as a suburban teenager in the mid 90s, my access to queer culture was severely limited (ie nonexistent). Before the proliferation of the internet, one relied on the “gay” section in bookstores and video stores, if there even was one, to seek out examples of visible representation ...

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