For the Love of Movies
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema on Sunday, September 26
Review by: Larry Thomas
For The Love Of Movies: The Story Of American Film Criticism sounds like dry subject matter for a documentary. Certainly those in other facets of the movie industry – stars, directors, producers – would seem more interesting subjects for examination. And to a certain extent, that’s true. But film critics are a special breed. They do what they do not for fame or money, for the most part, but because they are so enamored of the subject they cover that it’s impossible to imagine doing anything else. At least while it lasts.
The film does attempt to give a brief time line in the development of film criticism, and touches on several famous names from the dawn of the art. And since it has a comparatively short running time and very little production budget the key word here is brief. It’s difficult to do “in-depth” justice to almost any subject in just 80 minutes with very little money. In fact, the budget is so low that several representative film clips come from films in the public domain, meaning the copyright has expired so that anyone can use them with paying royalties. But that’s not to denigrate the films used in any way. For example, if you’ve never seen Phil Karlson’s 1952 tough-as-nails heist flick Kansas City Confidential, the scene used is enough of a tease to entice you to immediately run out and get a DVD copy.
Granted, the upsurge in media reporting in the past couple have decades has put faces on film critics more so than at anytime in the past. We’ve all gathered around the tube watching Roger Ebert, Rex Reed, Molly Haskell, and more recently, the New York Times’ Tony Scott ply their trade. But for those of us who have been long-time aficionados of film critics and criticism, it’s a nice chance to see and hear the likes of Stanley Kauffmann, Andrew Sarris and Kenneth Turan.
Unfortunately their herd is thinning. The decline of print journalism in America due to the rise in Internet reporting and blogging has cost many fine writers their jobs. And while that may not be a pleasant fact, it is the future of journalism in general. One of the film weaknesses is that it sees the future as “the end” instead of “the future.” As long as there are films being made and shown, there will be film critics, in whatever form of expression they choose. As one critic is quoted in the film “being a film critic means finding someone who’s willing to pay you to do what you love.”
For The Love Of Movies: The Story Of American Film Criticism is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema. There is one showing only, this evening at 5 o’clock, in the Carnegie Arts Center in Covington. Following the film, stick around for a discussion about films with two local critics: myself, and WNKU’s Craig Kopp.
For more information about Cincinnati World Cinema and the film, go to our website at wvxu.org. And we’ll see you “at the movies”… to coin a phrase.