For a hundred years, virtually the history of American movies, film critics have championed this medium they so unabashedly love. They advise audiences in deciding what movies to see, and why. Better, their reviews illuminate the film-going experience, suggesting paths for readers to enter cinema more deeply, thoughtfully, appreciatively.
I have been a film critic for thirty years, writing for magazines and newspapers, and, the last twelve years, for The Boston Phoenix. This is a pro-critic film. At a time when American critics are being laid off and fired, and when their influence has diminished, For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is an unapologetic defense of a profession under siege.
I know intimately many of my colleagues, and had unprecedented access interviewing them for the camera. I talked to several dozen critics, including writers for newspapers (The New York Times, The LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, etc,), magazines (Entertainment Weekly, The New Republic, etc.), blogs and websites (aintitcoolnews.com, spout.com.)
Along with Producer Amy Geller, (PBS’s Murder at Harvard and The War that Made America), we set off to capture the voice of these critics on film. My first desire is for an audience to become intimate with the reviewers behind the bylines, so it can be understood how critics think about and see movies. How did they come to their jobs, and to their abiding love for cinema? Those interviewed vividly describe scenes from movies which, seen as children, made an indelible impression, and which transformed their way of viewing.
Also, today’s critics comment on American critics of the past – Robert E. Sherwood, Otis Ferguson, James Agee, etc. – whose work inspired them. I offer a history of American film criticism, from the time of The Birth of a Nation to Bosley Crowther’s 27-year reign at The New York Times, from Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel on TV to amateur reviews on the Internet. I touch upon the infamous Pauline Kael-Andrew Sarris debates, and show the antagonist relationship between youthful web reviewers and veteran print critics.
There have been American critics who, simply, are great literary stylists. Among these:
Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael, James Agee, and Manny Farber. A further object of my documentary is to spread appreciation for such first-rate prose and original thinking. I hope that this film motivates audiences to consider reviews by the best American critics, whether in print or the Web, as a key component in watching movies in a deeper, more thoughtful, way.
Writer/Director – Gerald Peary
Gerald Peary has been a much-published North American film critic for more than twenty-five years. His cinema articles have appeared in many newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe, and in film periodicals around the world, including Film Comment, Cineaste, Sight and Sound, and Positif.
Since 1996, he has been a weekly film critic and columnist for the Boston Phoenix. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics, and FIPRESCI (the International Film Critics Association). He has been president of critics’ juries at many festivals, including Karlovy Vary, Rotterdam, Bangkok, and Vienna. A Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Peary heads the film program at Suffolk University, Boston. He was a Fulbright Scholar, studying Yugoslavian Film Comedy in Belgrade, and Acting Curator of the Harvard University Film Archive. Since 1997, he has been the curator of the Boston University Cinematheque, bringing filmmakers to BU to discuss their craft.
His eight books include co-editing the anthologies, The Classic American Novel and the Movies, The American Animated Cartoon, and Women and the Cinema: A Critical Anthology. His latest book is John Ford: Interviews. He has worked in film production as a story editor for the documentary filmmakers, Errol Morris and Ron Mann, and he has written screenplays in collaboration with the Serbian filmmakers, Slobodan Sijan and Srdjan Karanovic. Several of his original screenplays have been optioned.
Producer – Amy Geller
Amy Geller got her start in film as television field producer and production manager for J. Arnold Productions, whose work is seen regularly on network television, A&E, HBO, MTV, and CNN. Since, Geller has acted as producer and line producer on numerous shorts and documentaries, including the PBS/BBC broadcast docudrama Murder at Harvard, made for “American Experience.” Geller also produced the Sundance Institute-supported, independent feature, Stay Until Tomorrow (2005), a prize-winner at several film festivals.
The War That Made America, a four-hour PBS mini-series in January 2006, was Geller’s most ambitious, high-budget production to date, recreating for television the French and Indian War. Geller currently works as a Production Supervisor and Producer for NKP Media in Newton, Massachusetts, producing videos for publishing clients that include Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Houghton Mifflin, and Prentice Hall.
Editor – Aleksandar Lekic
Aleksandar Lekic has been an all-around video production person for the past 10 years. As a producer/videographer/editor, he has focused on documentary profiles of several non-profit organizations that have done good work around the globe. His documentary shorts have appeared on PBS, WorldlinkTV, as well as on Serbian national Television. Aleksandar also edited and co-produced short fiction films for the LA-based film company, Anima Films.
Editor – Sabrina Zanella-Foresi
Zanella-Foresi has been making films since 1991. She has directed, produced, and edited more than 20 experimental and non-fiction short films and videos. Her feature-length editing credits include: Shadow of the House: Photographer Abelardo Morell, directed by Allie Humenuk (2007); Twisted, directed by Laurel Chiten (PBS Independent Lens, 2007); A Jew Among the Germans, directed by Marian Marzynski (PBS Frontline, 2005); Damrell’s Fire (PBS, 2005), American Wake (2004), and Touched (2003). She has acted as consulting editor on several documentaries, including For the Love of Movies, Buddy, and Anya: In and Out of Focus. Zanella-Foresi also has six years of university teaching experience in Film/Video Production and Film Studies at Boston University, Harvard University, Emerson College, University of Massachusetts—Boston, and the Massachusetts College of Art.
Composer – Bobby B. Keyes
The Boston Phoenix writes that guitarist Bobby B. Keyes, “evokes an entire era of classic playing.”
He has recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis, Ben E. King, New Kids on the Block, and Robin Thicke, and been a studio player at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. One of the great guitarists of New England, Keyes defines our American musical heritage with his unique and original blend of rock, country, rhythm & blues, swing, and jazz. His songs can be heard on his CD, Lady Luck, and in live performance with the Mystix and the Bobby Keyes Trio.
This documentary has been funded in part by the Poss Family Foundation, The LEF Foundation and the Helios Foundation. It was produced in association with the Filmmaker-In-Residence Lab, WGBH Boston. Our fiscal Sponsor is Central Productions. We also thank the Suffolk University College of Arts & Sciences, Suffolk University Department of Communication & Journalism, and Boston University Department of Film & Television for their in-kind support.
The producers deeply appreciate all the financial and moral support provided by friends, family, and colleagues during the seven years it has taken to complete FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES.