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

Where to Watch For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism


For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, released in 2009, is a provocative documentary that walks audiences through the rich and turbulent history of American film criticism, infusing depth and nuance to the art of film review. The film is directed by Gerald Peary and features well-known personalities from the film criticism industry including Patricia Clarkson, who contributes as the narrator, Harry Jay Knowles, and Elvis Mitchell.

The film begins with an exploration into the early days of film criticism, marked by enthusiastic pioneers who found themselves spellbound by the burgeoning industry of motion pictures and sought to provide their observations and understanding to the public. During these nascent stages, film criticism was a considerably disorganized field of media discussion, initially dismissed by many eminent literary critics and even the film industry itself. The documentary subsequently tracks the development of American film criticism as a respected profession and cultural influence, focusing on key figures such as Frank E. Woods, Robert E. Sherwood, and Otis Ferguson, who played crucial roles in popularizing and legitimizing the field.

Apart from an historical perspective, For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism also explores the dynamics of contemporary film criticism. Highlighting the golden era of criticism in the 1960s and '70s to the rise of TV and internet as platforms for critiques and reviews, the film dissects the evolution of the interaction between critics, filmmakers, and the audience. It underscores the power dynamics, disagreements, and transformative shifts in the field while focusing on the personalities that dominated it, including Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris. These influential critics had markedly different perspectives and styles that were often at odds with each other, thus creating a vibrant competitiveness that shaped the art of film criticism.

Moreover, the documentary discusses the importance and relevance of film critics in relation to both filmmakers and audience. It navigates the complex realities of filmmakers' expectations for positive reviews, the audience's craving for guidance, and critics' aspirations to provide accurate and insightful evaluation of the films. The film further delves into the growing phenomenon of celebrity criticism, exploring whether this recent trend is threatening the place of traditional film critics or if it’s merely another development within the ongoing evolution of the field.

The film doesn't shy away from pointing out the present-day issues plaguing the world of film criticism. It explores concerns such as declining readership, adaption to the ever-changing media landscape, and the ongoing struggle to shape public opinion and taste. The exploration extends to the vulnerability and controversies that modern-day film critics face, as seen with issues like critics being banned from screenings, the authorities restricting critics’ freedom, and more.

Narrator Patricia Clarkson lends her eloquence to the film, tying together the rich tapestry of stories and perspectives with her seasoned vocal delivery. Moreover, the voices of Harry Jay Knowles and Elvis Mitchell contribute personal anecdotes and insights, providing viewers with an insider's understanding of the business. Other psychologists, filmmakers, journalists, and bloggers also present their outlooks in a series of interviews, adding more layers of complexity and depth to the film.

Visually, the film makes use of archived footage, movie clips, and photography which bridges audiences to the past and provides tangible evidence of the evolution of cinema and film criticism over the years. The film’s soundtrack too, ranges from vintage tunes to contemporary themes, enhancing the overall narrative arc and transitioning smoothly between different time periods.

In closing, For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism tells an intriguing story of the evolution, significance, and challenges of film criticism in America. Filled with colorful personalities and historical insights, the film serves as an enriching source of information for anyone interested in the film industry, the art of criticism, or the complex matrix of relationships and tensions that exist between filmmakers, critics, and audiences. The film is a must-watch for movie lovers, providing a unique behind-the-scenes view of a crucial component of the film industry that often remains unexplored and underappreciated: the film critic.

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is a Documentary movie released in 2009. It has a runtime of 81 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.3..

Gerald Peary
Roger Ebert, Owen Gleiberman, Stanley Kauffmann, Harry Knowles
Also directed by Gerald Peary
For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is available on .