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

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

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gerald Peary
Produced by Amy Geller
Written by Gerald Peary
Starring Roger Ebert
Owen Gleiberman
Stanley Kauffmann
Harry Knowles
Narrated by Patricia Clarkson
Music by Bobby B. Keyes
Cinematography Craig Chivers
Nick Kurzon
Amy Geller
Edward Slattery
Edited by Sabrina Zanella-Foresi
Aleksandar Lekic
Release dates
  • March 17, 2009 (2009-03-17) (SXSW)
Running time
81 minutes
Country United States
Language English

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is a 2009 documentary film dramatizing a hundred years of American film criticism through film clips, historic photographs, and on-camera interviews with many of today’s important reviewers, mostly print but also Internet. It was produced by Amy Geller, written and directed by long-time Boston Phoenix film critic Gerald Peary, and narrated by Patricia Clarkson. Critics featured include Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times, A.O. Scott of The New York Times, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times, and Elvis Mitchell, host of the public radio show The Treatment.

Many more critics, journalists, and writers from the present and past appear in film clips and interviews. Among them: Jami Bernard, Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris, Molly Haskell, J. Hoberman, Harlan Jacobson, Stanley Kauffmann, Stuart Klawans, Leonard Maltin, Janet Maslin, Wesley Morris, Rex Reed, B. Ruby Rich, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Richard Schickel, David Sterritt, Pauline Kael, Richard Corliss, and Gene Siskel.

Other figures from film history appear in photographs and include Vincent Canby, Bosley Crowther, James Agee, Otis Ferguson, Vachel Lindsay, and Frank E. Woods.

Bringing the history of film criticism up to the present, the film introduces internet-based critics Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News and Karina Longworth, who wrote at the time for


Gerald Peary says, "For the Love of Movies is the first feature documentary to tell the rich, colorful, and undeniably controversial story of the American film critic ... I had to sort of invent what I think is the history of film criticism, because there wasn’t any formally written book on it."[1]

Partly due to difficulties in getting financial backing, the documentary took nearly a decade to make.[2] Peary says, "I guess one of the things that happened during that period was the so-called decline of print journalism ... eight years ago, film criticism still seemed a viable profession ... by now, there are over fifty critics who are made redundant"[3]

Filmmaker Magazine asks: What is the crisis of criticism? Gerald Peary replies: Simply that if you are a print critic you are in danger of losing your job at any moment. As newspapers are worried about dropping dead, it seems like film critics are a particular target. The film begins by saying, "There are 24 critics who have lost their jobs in the last several years," but since we finished the film, many more have lost their jobs. A lot of people are tagged with a title of ex-critic, but they were not ex when we filmed them just a few years ago. Sure, you can work on the web, but if you do that you're not getting paid much, or at all. And critics should be paid — this isn't an amateur thing to do, it's not like Sunday painting.[4]

"It's a stop-the-bleeding movie," Peary tells Variety. "I hope that those who watch the movie value criticism and will read it and demand it in their newspapers."[5]

Peary laments, "Today, people select which movies to see based on advertising. Lots of excellent little pictures — foreign, independent, and documentaries — are passing through without being seen. The only way to get people to go to those films, because they have no advertising budgets, is reviews by good critics ... We want people to read criticism. One way to motivate people to do that is by showing the critics’ faces and letting their voices be heard."[6]

Critical reception


For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism premiered at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival in 2009. It was broadcast on TCM France and TCM Spain, and was shown in February 2011 on the Documentary Channel. In addition, it has been shown at the following venues:


  1. Gerald Peary interview by Robin Berghaus of BU Today, 12 Nov 2008
  2. For the Love of Movies, DVD release New York Times, 28 May 2010
  3. Edinburgh International Film Festival: Interview with Gerald Peary by David Cairns of Shadowplay, 28 July 2009
  4. 1 2 Interview with Gerald Peary by Scott Macaulay of Filmmaker Magazine, 24 March 2009
  5. 1 2 review by Anne Thompson of Variety, 08 April 2009
  6. Movie Love by Robin Berghaus of BU Today, 10 September 2009
  7. Interview with Gerald Peary by Victoria Large of Not Coming to a Theater Near You, 10 November 2009
  8. review by Michael Guillen of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, 23 April 2009
  9. review, at Bullfrog Films, 20 April 2009
  10. review by Eugene Hernandez of indieWIRE, 16 November 2009
  11. essay by Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell of David Bordwell's Website on Cinema, 03 April 2009
  12. review by Ty Burr of The Boston Globe, 09 September 2009
  13. review by Chris Faraone of The Boston Phoenix, 03 September 2009
  14. review by Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, 13 March 2009
  15. review by Chale Nafus of the Journal of the Austin Film Society, 01 January 2010
  16. review by Joe Leydon of Variety, 27 March 2009

External links

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