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

A Brief Overview
FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES is the first feature documentary to tell the rich, colorful, and undeniably controversial story of the American film critic. Though maligned and often misunderstood, by both the industry and the public, talented and passionate critics have reviewed, analyzed, and scrutinized the cinema for virtually its whole history, a hundred years of informed commentary about the art of the film.

Curiously, filmmakers have neglected the payback of turning camera on the critics’ astonishing history.  Until now.

FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES is brought to you by filmmaker Gerald Peary, himself a long-time critic for the Boston Phoenix and member of the National Society of Film Critics. With Peary’s insider expertise, this documentary unveils the amusing, fractious, amazingly articulate subculture of those who spend much of their working lives in movie theatres, scribbling review notes in the dark.

Here’s an intimate movie which puts faces and voices to the bylines of America’s foremost film critics: Roger Ebert, Richard Schickel, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Kenneth Turan, Stanley Kauffmann, A.O. Scott, Jonathan Rosenbaum. Harry Knowles, and the late Pauline Kael. And more.

What do film critics really think and feel? What do they feel about other critics? From the silent era before bylines, to the legendary Kael-Sarris quarrels, to the contemporary moment, when populist reviewing explodes on the internet and challenges the film critic print establishment, FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES spills all.

FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES is the first-ever look into the obsessive, occasionally cutthroat, yet always witty and urbane world of American film criticism.  Here’s a taste of what you’ll see in this unique feature-length documentary.

  • The Faces and Personalities Behind the Bylines. Up-close, intimate talks with many of America’s key critics, including the veteran voices of Stanley Kauffmann, Andrew Sarris, Richard Schickel, Pauline Kael. First film memories, how they got their jobs, why they become critics, what they adore about movies, etc.

  • A TV Visit to Ebert-Roeper, and a conversation with Roger Ebert on his historic Chicago set, the place of the Nixon-Kennedy debates, several months before it was torn down.

  • Inside the World Trade Center. Just months before the 9/11 tragedy: amazing footage of the 2001 New York Film Critics annual dinner, held at Windows on the World.

  • Critics versus Actors and Filmmakers. An array of voices, pro and con, weighing in on the value of film critics: e.g. filmmakers Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, The School of Rock) and Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World, The Decline of Civilization), columnist Liz Smith, actors Julia Stiles, Matthew Broderick, Laura Linney, Elizabeth Taylor.

  • Candid Words From Women Film Critics. Commenting on their too rare status, words from Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, B. Ruby Rich, and Molly Haskell.

  • What Do “Regular People” Think of Film Critics? Do they read them? An amusing trip to a Massachusetts multiplex, led by the Boston Globe’s spirited reviewer, Wesley Morris.

  • A College Course in Film Criticism? An evening class at Columbia University, taught by The Nation’s erudite critic, Stuart Klawans.

  • The Film Critic as Actor. The New York Observer’s Rex Reed tells the hilarious story of his starring role in the misguided movie, Myra Breckinridge.

  • The Persons of Record. Candid conversations with the two most powerful print critics today: A.O.Scott of the New York Times, and Kenneth Turan of the LA Times.

  • Hollywood Looks at Film Critics. The studio’s take revenge: eye-popping scenes from Hollywood movies in which film critic characters are: negatively stereotyped, ridiculed, bullied, murdered, eaten by alien creatures! The films include Hollywood Shuffle, The Dead Pool, and Gremlins 2. Plus there’s a classic TV routine in which Danny Thomas and Bob Hope spoof Ebert-Siskel.

  • Everyone’s a Critic! An Austin, Texas journey to the cluttered home of’s internet guru, Harry Knowles, who improvises his much-read web reviews while lying on his tiny bed.

  • The “Quote Whores.” A rare glimpse at the shadowy people who provide the rave blurbs for the Hollywood ads. An obscure web reviewer brags that he’s been in ten national advertisements in one year, including offering up the quote that “Cats and Dogs is better than Babe.”

  • A Brief History of American Film Criticism. A whirlwind flashback tour, starting with poet Vachel Lindsay, the first professional critic, and including stops to consider such influential legends as Bosley Crowther, Frank S. Nugent, and James Agee. A journey to Agee’s unmarked Greenwich Village townhouse.

  • American Film Criticism Abroad. Reviewers from Europe, Asia, and Latin America speak to camera at the Rotterdam Film Festival and reveal what American critic has influenced them.

  • The Great Critic Feud: An insider’s peek into the infamous war of American film critics between the avid followers of Pauline Kael (the Paulettes) and those with allegiance to Andrew Sarris (the Sarrisites).

Seasoned film critic and first-time filmmaker Gerald Peary, who has written reviews for the Boston Phoenix and national publications for more than twenty-five years, will guide the audience on this journey into the labyrinthine world of criticism, via voiceover, interview, and wry commentary.

An original musical score will be provided by Washington Post film critic, Desson Thomson, who moonlights in a successful rock band.

(see Key Personnel)


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