For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism
Friday, November 13 at 7:00PM
Opening Night Panel Discussion
w/ filmmaker/moderator Sean Garrity
and critics:
Robert Enright (Border Crossings)
Randall King (Winnipeg Free Press)
Alison Gillmor (CBC Radio)
and Aaron Graham (Uptown/Cineflyer)

Saturday November 14 at 7:00PM
Sunday, November 15 at 4:00 PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is the first documentary to dramatize the rich saga of American movie reviewing. The film includes interviews with many critics and reviewers including Richard Schickel, J. Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Elvis Mitchell, Andrew Sarris and rare footage of Manny Farber. Directed by The Boston Phoenix critic, Gerald Peary, For the Love of Movies offers an insider’s view of the critics’ profession, with commentary from America’s best-regarded reviewers, Roger Ebert (The Chicago Sun-Times), A.O. Scott (The New York Times), Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Kenneth Turan (The Los Angeles Times).

We also hear from young, articulate, Internet voices, including Harry Knowles ( and Karina Longworth ( Their stories are entertaining, humorous, and personal. Those who hear them may gain new respect for the film critic profession, knowing the faces and voices, and also the history. From the raw beginnings of criticism before The Birth of a Nation to the incendiary Pauline Kael-Andrew Sarris debates of the 1960s and 70s to the battle today between youthful on-liners and the print establishment, this documentary tells all. How did they come to their jobs and to their abiding love for cinema? Peary outlines the critics’ goal to illuminate the film-going experience, suggesting paths for readers to enter cinema more deeply, thoughtfully, appreciatively.


From UPTOWN Magazine November 12, 2009:

Gerald Peary knows criticism
The veteran film critic and director of For The Love of Movies, chats with Uptown about the future of film criticism in print and what makes a good movie reviewer

Who better to direct the first documentary that explores the origins and various permutations of American film criticism over the last 100 years than an actual longstanding film critic?

Gerald Peary, columnist for The Boston Phoenix and past contributor to such esteemed film publications as Film Comment, Cineaste and the U.K.-based Sight & Sound, has been interviewing the field’s many past and active participants for the past eight years.

The long-awaited results have finally been assembled, and Winnipeg’s first-run theatrical presentation will happen at Cinematheque over the course of three evenings.

Justifiably taking up the majority of the running time is the ongoing, seemingly endless debate (OK, make that battle) between the ‘Sarrisites’ and ‘Paulettes.’

In the ’60s and ’70s, when there were actual meaningful heated debates over film culture, the public (and subsequent critics who took up the mantle) aligned themselves with either the Village Voice’s Andrew Sarris, the man who picked up on the auteur movement in France and brought it to America via his book The American Cinema, or the feisty, combative Pauline Kael, who wrote for decades at The New Yorker.

Peary recently spoke with Uptown from his home in Boston about what side of the fence he’s on, the future of film criticism in print, and what qualifies a film critic to be, well, a film critic.

Peary: People watch the movie and can’t figure out whether I’m with Sarris or Kael, but the answer is: I was a Sarrisite when I was a young student at NYU.

I would read him every week in Village Voice, and then American Cinema (Directors and Directions: 1929-1968) came out and it became my first influence.

I began to read Kael a few years later. But I’m not a Paulette, and I’m a sort-of Sarrisite.

Uptown: Do you foresee a time when print film criticism will cease to exist and everything will move to the web?

I’m afraid so. Not that I’m criticizing writers online, it’s just that I’ve been a print person my whole life and sitting in the morning in my big chair with the paper and a cup of coffee is what life is all about.

I think it’s very obvious that we’re moving away from print to an Internet world. That’s the reality. There are just too many damn critics on the web, and although there are some really, really good ones – including young ones – there’s just an ocean of reviewing that becomes very hard to swim towards your way to critics who mean something.

Maybe there’s an audience for niche and horror movies, but the influence critics once had just isn’t there like it used to be. And that makes me sad.

There’s a discussion in the film between several critics on the qualifications you need to become a critic. What’s your take?

The biggest would be to be an incredibly good writer, which is often forgotten about. And you need to have your own style.

But the crucial word for me is contextualization: a critic who can see movies and put them in terms of history or politics or literature and the other arts, or in terms of other filmmakers and director’s own careers or the genres they’re working in.

There’s a great quote from (director) Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunset) in the film about how he can smell in the second paragraph of a review whether the reviewer’s got it or not. And that has all to do with what the critic knows about the movie in question, his career, the genre, other movies. That’s what you really need.

I’m not really focused on the opinion – whether it’s good or bad – that’s the least interesting part.

To me, the most important thing is to get to people to go to movies.

For The Love of Movies is being self-distributed by Peary and his wife, Amy Geller, who produced the film; the DVD contains a staggering 40 minutes of additional interview material. To purchase the disc, visit

– Aaron Graham


~ by cineflyer on November 13, 2009.

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