23 March 2010 | Thistle-3
For Those Who Love the Movies
It seemed a bit surreal. I'm in a movie theater with a bunch of movie buffs, and more than a few of them review films professionally or just for fun, like me. And, we're watching a documentary about the evolution of movie reviewers.
For the Love of Movies is a film by a guy who did it professionally, Gerald Peary. He's also a professor, and the movie has that instructional tone. He breaks down film criticism by eras, starting with the Talkies and how the papers promoted them in the early 1900s. I've always loved discussing films. My Mom was a school teacher and had teacher friends. Some of them considered themselves to be intellectual, I suppose. We still share our yearly favorites in our Christmas notes to each other. It was interesting to get a perspective on the way reviewing has grown and developed and broadened to the point that 7 year olds do movie reviews on their computers and post them to youtube. "Everyone's a critic," right? For me, the key is finding a touchstone, someone who shares some of my sensibilities, so that I can tell from their review whether I will like the film or not, myself. Though to be honest, I rarely read reviews before I see a movie, because I like to judge for myself. After, I will seek out critiques to see what I missed or didn't know about the film's genesis. It was a revelation to me that people got paid to do what we did naturally, discuss and argue about films, when I first saw the show Coming Soon on Chicago TV. Gene Siskel was my touchstone. Getting to see a bit of their first show ever and hear Gene again was worth the price of admission, and I'm so happy Gerald Peary made that a part of his film. He interviewed Roger Ebert for the movie, and it was pre-serious surgery Roger, vibrant and telling great stories. Gerald also interviewed A.O. Scott from The New York Times, in casual settings, like they were buds and at some screening together or something. A.O. was the first big movie critic to podcast his reviews. And likely, that what made him the best person to take over for Roger, when he retired from the TV gig. You get to see how Tony has developed. Despite his love for Where the Wild Things Are, I really like his style. Style is one thing I found a bit lacking in For the Love of Movies. It switches between history and quips from current critics, and some of the transitions between the parts are very long fade to blacks that I found jarring. The soundtrack is good, and it could have been smoother. It seemed like I was watching a rough cut, but Gerald was in the theater selling DVDs of his doc, so I guess it's done! If you like film and you're interested in criticism, this is an excellent documentary to check out. I liked it and was entertained and informed, and I got to see Gene. So, despite the editing issues, I give For the Love of Movies an 8.