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

March 17, 2009

gerry_patricia_hiGerald Peary and Patricia Clarkson talk during her voice over for the film.

They say you should write what you know and Gerald Peary does just that with his excellent documentary on the history and state of the current film criticism industry.

As a 30-year veteran in the field, Peary makes an unapologetic love letter to the field he loves. Taking us from the emergence of film reviewers to the development of the first real American film critics, Peary cuts between stock footage, movie clips and interviews to touch upon the 100 year history of film criticism.

What he brings to the medium is something previously only discussed in books and on the internet. Never has there been such a comprehensive documentary on the industry. And it is a dialogue that is never more important than now as critics are losing their jobs left and right. The industry, like all other components of journalism, is under fire right now and Peary’s documentary reminds us of why critics play an important role in our society.

As a wannabe film critic, the movie provides an excellent canon in which to dive into reading. For the general audience, the film provides a context behind the byline. Film critics are not always born wanting to write about movies, some are writers or critics in other fields and come to the job haphazardly. Others fell in love with the medium at an early age.

In the documentary, expect to see several of the critics talk about the movies that made a big impact in their lives and how they came to become critics. Alongside the discussion is a rich historical context including discussion with today’s critics on those who came before them. The movie is truly something for anyone who either loves critics or wonders what the point of having them is. Getting to see the people whose words we know so well on the big screen is quite the treat.

The documentary is narrated by Patricia Clarkson (of Six Feet Under and Lars and the Real Girl fame).

The critics in order of movie appearance:

Harry Knowles         Critic,
Elvis Mitchell             Ex-critic, The New York Times
Roger Ebert             Critic, The Chicago Sun-Times
Stanley Kauffmann         Critic, The New Republic
Michael Wilmington         Ex-critic, The Chicago Tribune
B. Ruby Rich             Correspondent, The Guardian
Scott Weinberg         Critic,
Wesley Morris         Critic, The Boston Globe
Owen Gleiberman         Critic, Entertainment Weekly
Stuart Klawans         Critic, The Nation
Richard Schickel         Critic, Time Magazine
John Powers             Critic, Vogue
Lisa Nesselson         Critic, Screen International
A.O. Scott             Critic, The New York Times
Harlan Jacobson         Correspondent, USA Today
Manny Farber             Ex-critic, The New Republic
Jonathan Rosenbaum     Ex-critic, Chicago Reader
Andrew Sarris         Critic, The New York Observer
Molly Haskell             Ex-critic, The Village Voice
Kenneth Turan        Critic, The LA Times
J. Hoberman             Critic, The Village Voice
Bosley Crowther         Ex-critic, The New York Times
Pauline Kael             Ex-critic, The New Yorker
Lisa Schwarzbaum         Critic, Entertainment Weekly
Rex Reed             Critic, The New York Observer
Richard Corliss         Critic, Time Magazine
Penelope Spheeris         Director, “Wayne’s World”
Leonard Maltin         Critic, “Entertainment Tonight”
John Waters             Director, “A Dirty Shame”
Liz Smith             Columnist, New York Post
David D’Arcy             Ex-correspondent, National Public Radio
Michael Szymanski         Ex-critic,
Karina Longworth         Critic,
Jami Bernard             Ex-critic, New York Daily News
Sarah Polley             Director, “Away From Her”
Richard Linklater         Director, “A Scanner Darkly”
Jeff “The Dude” Dowd     Producer, “Ocean of Pearls”
Doug Liman             Director, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”
David Sterritt             President, The National Society of Film Critics
Marshall Herskovitz         Co-producer, “Traffic”

Narrated by
Patricia Clarkson


SXSW Screenings:

12:00 PM, Wednesday March 18th – Alamo Ritz 2

4:00 PM, Saturday March 21st – Alamo Lamar 3

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2010 6:02 pm

    Why does mineral water that has “trickled through mountains for centuries” go out of date next year?

  2. March 18, 2009 1:16 am

    WOW ! This looks like the best thing since sliced bread !

    • March 18, 2009 7:17 am

      I think you would definitely love this doc. I do not know about the general person who really doesn’t read critics, doesn’t watch too many movies or just doesn’t like documentaries – that person may not enjoy – but then again – do we care about that person really?

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