IFFB Review – “For The Love Of Movies” a love affair with film critics

For The Love Of Movies – The Story Of American Film Criticism
Narrated by Patricia Clarkson
Written and Directed by Gerald Peary
Screened at the 2009 Independent Film Festival of Boston

Ok, folks, picture this  – a film about film critics, produced and written by another film critic.

Does that sound like the beginning of a joke to you?

Having started down the road in 2005 of being a semi-professional film critic, I first noticed For The Love Of Movies – The Story Of American Film Criticism when it was screened at SXSW this year. From the moment I read about it, I couldn't wait to see it. So when I heard it was going to be playing this year's Independent Film Festival of Boston, I was overjoyed.

Then I got the bad news – PNR was denied press credentials this year due to an overflow of press requests.

was too late to buy tickets, and in any case, I have a hard time
getting to the ICA where the film was screening. So I took a chance. I
wrote to the writer and director, Boston Phoenix critic Gerald Peary,
and plead my case. I expected to get blown off – most print reviewers
can't stand internet reviewers, as they see us as the reason that so
many of them are being let go from their paper.

when I got an e-mail back from Mr. Peary indicating that a screener was
on the way.  And blown away as well. Why? Because nearly every Boston
film critic I've come in contact with has been rude and dismissive to
me in the past. So it was a refreshing change of pace. And I couldn't
tell you for sure, but it might have been Mr. Peary who had something
to do with PNR getting press credentials to IFFB after all, the same
day his screener arrived in the mail. It might be a coincidence, but
who knows? And who cares? We got to attend IFFB and bring some great
press coverage to films we would have otherwise missed.

I watched Mr. Peary's film over the weekend on the screener he generously sent me.

really glad I didn't miss it. For not only is the film a generous and
loving portrait of American film critics and film criticism, it was
nice to see that Mr. Peary did NOT leave the internet journalist on the

Over the past couple of years, a war has been quietly
raging between print and broadcast critics, internet blog critics, and
the studios. Variety columnist Anne Thompson has been
leading the charge against the bloggers, and whenever something happens
that the print critics don't like or approve of, you can almost always
count on Ms. Thompson, wonderful writer that she is, being the first
print journalist out there blaming the internet for the problem.  I've
written to her, and other critics and columnists, about this subject a
number of times, but never get the satisfaction of an answer.

studios ignore most of the online critics out there, even though we try
to take it seriously. I for one am trying to make our sites a
legitimate business in the long run, so I can work full time on them,
and the content I hope to provide. Sure, the studios acknowledge the
BIG internet sites and critics – people like Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, and the folks at Rotten Tomatoes and Spout
-  but the sad thing is, we've been around longer than several of the
big sites. And people are ONLY NOW beginning to notice us. It takes
perseverance and decent work to make people notice you.

Some of
the critics in the movie pooh-pooh the internet crowd as well. They
accuse us of being hacks that know nothing of film history, and that we
shouldn't dare bring our opinions out among the web, because after all,
we're nothing more than internet dweebs that are costing them their
livelihood.  To those critics, I would like to say this – maybe if
you'd take the time to embrace the web yourselves, you could walk a
mile in our shoes and find out that we're not the enemy.

We have
begged the studios to take notice of us, and yet none of them have.
They also see the internet critics as the enemy, a case recently
brought back into the front of the argument by the leak of a copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a leak which was decried by both print and internet film journalists, and none louder than Mr. Ain't It Cool News himself, Harry Knowles. A leak which cost FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman
his job for reviewing the film and joking about how he was going to do
all his reviews via illegally downloaded copies from now on.

are NOT the enemy. We want to help the film industry curtail the piracy
too, not cause it. You have less than 1% of the people on the net that
are doing the piracy, and most of them are NOT film critics, or even
legit film columnists – they are simply scavengers out for a buck or a
boost to their hacker rep.  And that's it. Any TRUE journalist is NOT
going to leak a film on the internet.

And Mr. Peary – he gets
it. He sees that the internet is the wave of the future and that a
great many critics have their own websites, or maintain areas of their

Former New York Times reviewer Elvis Mitchell
– He also gets it. He thinks that everyone has a right to their
opinion, and commented on that subject, basically stating that no one
critic has a right to think that their criticism is any better or worse
than anyone else. I KNEW there was a reason I've always enjoyed his
reviews and columns…not to mention his work on his excellent radio
show/podcast, "The Treatment".

Why must you be paid to be a
critic? Several critics queried in the film mentioned this as a
requirement to be a critic. Sure, I'd love to make money for my site
and our popular podcast Subject:CINEMA, and it's slowly starting to happen. But it's not always possible. Does that make me any less of a legitimate critic? The Boston Society Of Film Critics thinks so – I was turned down for membership last year. Hell, i can't even get the Online Society of Film Critics
to answer my applications – three times in three years, and not even a
letter of rejection. How unprofessional is that? At least I got an
answer from the BSFC. And they're a bit behind the times, seeing as how
New York has formed it's own online society, and several other cities
are now admitting film bloggers to their ranks.

It's been the
independent filmmaker who have truly embraced the internet journalists.
They have helped nurture us as we have helped nurture them. I'm proud
to be a voice in promoting wonderful smaller films of the past few
years, like Decker's Once Upon A Film, the about-to-be-released Still Green, and other blink-and-you'll-miss-it films like Black Irish, Man In The Chair, and Fierce People.

must apologize for going on my soapbox, but nothing makes me crazier
than someone telling me i'm not a legitimate critic – i've been
reviewing movies for most of my 46 years on the planet, and i've been
doing it on a regular basis online for almost five years. It's my
passion, and I love it.

Back to Mr. Peary's film….

portrait of criticism from it's starting point in the early 20th
century through the present day is absolutely fascinating. It's a
thorough look at some of the most influential and best known critics
throughout the past century, and some of them I freely admit to having
never heard of, but now that I know about them, I am going to seek out
their work. People like Otis Ferguson, who sounds fascinating.

it is equally a portrait of the kind of criticism that has been around
throughout each decade, each era of film and its changing morals, those
who believe in the art of film vs those who believe in the fun. The
extended look at the wonderful and hilarious rivalry between legendary
critics Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael is fantastic, with
interviews and clips of each explaining how they approach a film.  I
don't know whether I could be considered a "Paulette" because I do have
my own group of auteurs, but I know I always loved her biting, and
often hilarious, writing and when she died in 2001, the critic world
lost a true devoted lover of films.

I grew up in the era of TV film critics, and seeing the early footage of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on
local television in Chicago was many things – enlightening because both
men believed in their reviews and defended them against each other
until Siskel's untimely passing in 1999, and hilarious because of the
hairdos and clothing from the mid 70s. It was informative, and showed
mor than ever how different today's critics approach a film as opposed
to the old school prose of James Agee or Bosley Crowther.

It also provides a glimpse into the thinking processes behind some of film criticism's best known voices, such as Richard Schickel, A.O. Scott (argueably my favorite critic currently in print, even though I rarely if ever agree with his opinions), Lisa Schwarzbaum, and the legends that are Roger Ebert, Rex Reed, and Elvis Mitchell.

Overall, For The Love Of Movies
is just that – a loving look at movies and movie criticism as the
critics see it. I suspect that the film will eventually show up on PBS
or IFC, and when it does, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Oh, and
Mr. Peary? Thank you for your consideration in taking our site and our
work seriously and in sending me a screener. It's much appreciated, and
nice to know that we do have a few friends among the print journalists
out there…I wish everyone else were as kind, considerate, and open as
you have been…(and it would have been nice to have been included in
your internet journalists…but since most people still aren't aware of
us…well, that's ok…)

MY SCORE: 5 stars (out of five stars)

For more on For The Love Of Movies, check out their website at http://fortheloveofmovies.net