Dryden Theatre celebrates American film criticism with the series "For the Love of Movies" Rochester, N.Y. - The Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House shines a spotlight on American film criticism with a series of screenings in November and December. "For the Love of Movies: The History of American Film Criticism" celebrates those people of letters whose words are devoted to moving pictures, by presenting a number of movies that provoked particularly inspired and influential essays, including Meet Me in St. Louis, Saturday Night Fever, and Rashomon. "As news media continue to shift away from the printed page to the electronic page, and as studios rely less and less on the considered writings and opinions of learned film critics to spread the word about their latest releases, there is no more appropriate time for this series," said Jim Healy, Eastman House's assistant curator of motion pictures. Boston Phoenix film writer Gerald Peary's new documentary For the Love of Movies: The History of American Film Criticism - which he'll present in person Friday, Dec. 11 - begins with a somewhat ominous observance for those who write or read about cinema: "Today, film criticism is a profession under siege. According to Variety, 28 reviewers have lost their jobs in the last several years." Although American film criticism is evident as early as 1911, this survey takes us back only as far as 1937, when the lean and tough writings of Otis Ferguson (whose bright career was cut short by his death in WWII) appeared in praise of fast-paced and efficient genre films, like the MGM thriller Night Must Fall. The most important U.S. film critic of the immediate postwar years was the gifted James Agee, who wrote lovingly of films that celebrated small-town family life, like Meet Me in St. Louis, a film that concentrates on "making the well-heeled middle-class life of some adolescent and little girls in St. Louis seem so beautiful that you can share their anguish when they are doomed to move to New York." While The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther dominated with his post for more than a quarter century, his two biggest contributions were in championing important foreign releases like Kurosawa's Rashomon and inspiring a whole generation of film critics to rebel against what they saw as his rather conventional tastes. That generation included New York-based writers Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, whose own argument over the auteur theory spawned two separate groups of cinephile acolytes. The '70s saw the move of film criticism to television with the birth of a weekly review program featuring Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, but both critics continued to write voluminous columns for their respective Chicago daily newspapers. Meanwhile, Siskel and Ebert's generation also includes a number of critics with unique styles and great passion for the movies, like Dave Kehr, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Stuart Klawans, who have largely remained devoted to the written word. At each screening, the Dryden will provide a complimentary copy of the related review with each ticket.
Everyone's a Critic
Oct 22, 2009 by I Love New York Staff