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

I recently watched For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism on Netflix. If you are a movie fan--whether casual or over-the-top like me--or a writer, you really should watch this documentary.

Apparently, it took several years for the producers to get financing so this film didn't premiere until 2009, and it was recently made available via Netflix. Unfortunately, I could find no DVD copies for sale.

The development of American film criticism is told through film clips, old photographs, and interviews with some of today's top reviewers. These reviewers' venues were mostly print but some were from the Internet.

Story Opens

Film criticism, like print publishing, is under attack. The story opened with the statement that 28 film critics had lost their jobs in the last few years. If you are doing business on the Internet, you may understand the reasons why this is happening, and you also realize that those losing jobs are print critics.

Amateur and Pro Differences

In fact, it's probably not the mystery that the documentary makers seem to think it is. It boils down to why pay a critic to review films when everyone on the Internet does it for free. Of course, there's a world of difference from amateur reviews posted online and carefully considered criticism that can bring a deeper understanding to a film. Just as online reader reviews bear little resemblance to a journalistic review, an online fan movie review can't usually be favorably compared to a review by an experienced film critic.

Moving Forward

All that aside, the documentary is like sitting around and listening to some very intelligent people talking about one of my favorite subjects: movies. Produced by Amy Geller, written and directed by long-time Boston Phoenix film critic Gerald Peary, and narrated by actress Patricia Clarkson, the documentary features 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.

The list of famous reviewers from the past read like a Who's Who of Film Criticism--like Pauline Kael, Rex Reed, and Gene Siskel to just mention a few. Film criticism was born a few years after the birth of the movie industry. Figures from film history are shown in photographs, and their contributions to fledgling film criticism are explored.

My Two Cents

The documentary takes viewers on a journey from the early part of the twentieth century to the modern day where critics ply their reviews on the internet. This is must-see modern history for anyone who loves movies. Judging by the worldwide popularity of film, that's just about everyone on the planet.

Read the Wiki about this documentary, and/or view details on IMDB.

Many years ago I was in a shop in Mexico on the night of the Academy Awards. The shop owner had a ham radio. I caught pieces of his conversation in Spanish with other people in the shop. I realized he was saying actors' names. A few minutes later, he whooped and spoke rapidly in Spanish. I recognized the movie title. Everyone cheered. I remember thinking, "Wow, they're interested in the Oscars."

Takeaway Truth

That's when I first realized how life altering entertainment media can be.


  1. Thanks, Joan, for your insightful review. DVD copies are available at at Best, Amy Geller (producer)

    1. Hello, Amy! Thank you for the purchase information. I really enjoyed your documentary. The educational content flowed smoothly from past to present, engaging the viewer and providing an intimate conversation with some of the most respected names in film criticism.