Sunday, February 14, 2010

He Lost It at the Movies

FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES: THE STORY OF AMERICAN FILM CRITICISM
(Gerald Peary, US, 2009, DigiBeta, 81 mins.)


[amelie]

Patricia Clarkson narrates Gerald Peary's brief, yet illuminating survey of film criticism in the United States. While recounting the history of the form with movie clips and review excerpts, the Boston Phoenix veteran solicits comments from a range of writers.

Stanley Kauffmann (The Nation), for instance, credits silent-era poet and critic Vachel Lindsay (1915's The Art of the Moving Picture) for recognizing "that the arrival of film was a key moment in the history of human consciousness. It was going to change the way people thought, dreamed, and fantasized." And he was right; it has.

Peary profiles other early voices, like Robert Sherwood, who went on to write the Oscar-winning movie The Best Years of Our Lives; James Agee, who penned The African Queen; and Bosley Crowther, who signed his own death warrant when he panned groundbreaking pictures like Bonnie and Clyde in The New York Times, paving the way for tougher-minded talents, such as rivals Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris.

From there, Peary moves on to television and internet voices, from Roger Ebert to Karina Longworth, now head critic at The L.A. Weekly. Other speakers include A.O. Scott (The New York Times), Kenneth Turan (The Los Angeles Times), Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Richard Schickel (Time), and Wesley Morris (The Boston Globe).

Like a lot of first-time filmmakers, Peary could've organized his material better (cut a few comments, expanded others). Astute viewers will also notice that he must have initiated the project nearly a decade ago as he includes Manny Farber, who has since passed away, and Ebert, who has since lost the ability to speak (after a battle with cancer), but there's plenty of good stuff here for anyone interested in film.

[poster]

For the Love of Movies opens at the Northwest Film Forum on 2/18. Director in attendance at 8pm. The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. between Pike and Pine on Capitol Hill. For more information, please click here or call 206-829-7863. Images from SFGate.com (Bruno Calvo/Miramax) and JonathanRosenbaum.com.

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