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For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (2009)

Not Rated | | Documentary, History | 31 August 2007 (USA)
The history of American film criticism.

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Relied upon by some moviegoers and reviled by others, film critics for over 100 years have represented a form of journalism that sought to find and judge film as an art in a way others might want to heed. This film presents a comprehensive history of this form of writing as it developed with the film medium itself. With historical profiles on major contributors like Pauline Kael along with interview with contemporary figures like Roger Ebert, the nature of the profession is explored both for its illustrious past and its uncertain future. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

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31 August 2007 (USA)  »

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Por amor a las películas: La historia de la crítica cinematográfica americana  »

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We're dealing with a TV program
29 June 2009 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

'For the Love of Movies' is no more than a pedestrian low-budget TV program written slapdash style and directed by an untalented first-timer. After paying to watch this cheesy video production in a theater, I think it safe to advise anyone interested in the subject that they should wait until it's aired on TV or available on DVD. As a critic and academic, Peary is only competently mediocre at best and, frankly, it comes as no surprise that his first effort as a documentary director is marred by an over-abundance of talking heads (do we really need another sound-bite by the omnipresent endlessly-interviewed Roger Ebert?), clichéd narration based on paint-by-numbers pedagogy, irritating whining over the rise of internet criticism, cheesy production values, poor cinematography and lighting, and the general sense of an essay on film criticism in which logic has been split-haired by a muddled filmmaker who couldn't see beyond his editor's shoulders.

Nothing's treated in depth here and the talking heads are rarely given time to develop their arguments, at least not on-screen. This is a fault often perpetrated by first-time documentary directors in the mistaken belief that the more heads they can cram on-screen, the better chances they have to improve rhythm and pacing. This method works well with DVD featurettes (puff-pieces by definition) but not with ambitious, well-constructed films by Errol Morris or Ken Burns (among other professionals) at their best.

Sure, the program has value as some sort of historical document on American criticism but this rich and potentially fascinating subject ought to have been conceived and helmed by someone with cinematic talent to justify its theatrical release. Desperately lacking visual imagination, originality and daring, 'For the Love of Movies' won't win any significant awards (other than Roger Ebert's embarrassing self-endorsement) and will no doubt be re-edited to a 52' version for TV. You mark my words.


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