NOW Magazine’s Senior Film Writer Dies

December 19, 2007

It is with great sadness that NOW publishers Michael Hollett and Alice Klein announce the death of NOW‘s long-standing senior film writer, John Harkness.

With NOW since its beginning in 1981, Harkness wrote with definitive authority on film, music and books.

Beyond the pages of NOW, John contributed articles to Sight and Sound, Take One and the Cinematheque Ontario program. He also spent several years as trade reporter for Screen International and Cinema Canada. “Anyone who wants to review film,” he said, “should spend a year covering the industry. It tends to knock out a lot of one’s illusions about the art of cinema.” His book on the Oscars, The Academy Awards Handbook (Pinnacle Press), is currently in its eighth edition.

His favourite interviews over the years were with the subjects he found most intimidating — Susan Sontag, David Mamet, Harlan Ellison and Peter Greenaway. “These are people whom you do not want to ask stupid questions,” he once said.

Harkness’s preferred leisure activity was poker, and he won several poker tournaments in Las Vegas.

Harkness was born in Montreal and grew up in Sarnia and Halifax before obtaining a degree in English at Carleton University. He did post-graduate work in cinema studies at Columbia University, where he studied with the American critic Andrew Sarris and spent a great deal of time in New York’s repertory cinemas. “Fifteen movies a week,” he recalled, “and none of them on tape.”

“John Harkness was simply the best film critic in Canada over the last 26 years,” says NOW editor/publisher Michael Hollett. “He has been an essential element of NOW Magazine‘s success, and his unique vision, bravery and art in expressing it inspired all of us at NOW to strive. He will be sorely missed by all of us at NOW, his family, friends and the film community as a whole.”

Funeral and memorial details are pending.

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