USA, 2008, 81 minutes
Sun, May 3 / 3:45 / Kabuki / FORT03K
Mon, May 4 / 6:15 / Kabuki / FORT04K
Thu, May 7 / 8:40 / PFA / FORT07P
For a century, film critics have separated the wheat from the chaff and made the case for great films. But who will make the case for these bleary-eyed, ink-stained devotees? Boston Phoenix film critic Gerald Peary sharply evaluates the history of critical-analytical writing on moving pictures in this stimulating tour through the rise, fall and reorientation of film criticism in the United States: Early silent-era plot summarizers give way to the daily newspaper reviewers of the ’30s, replaced by auteur-theory debaters of the ’60s, succeeded in turn by the alt-weekly thinkers of the ’70s who, finally, face extinction via the past decade’s upsurge in bloggers. Peary’s documentary begins by calling film criticism “a profession under siege,” but this is no strident whine from a victim class. It’s a smart look at key figures and how they’ve changed public consciousness of both the movies and criticism itself. Peary prioritizes the wry over the dry, even giving Andrew Sarris the opportunity to dish on his adversary Pauline Kael, who was not above gay-baiting her rival in the early stages. (His retort: “I took one look at Pauline, and she was not Katharine Hepburn.”) In addition to the iconic Sarris, interviewees include The New Republic’s stately Stanley Kauffmann, self-starting phenom Harry Knowles (aintitcoolnews), pop-and-academic theorist B. Ruby Rich, Boston Globe daily reviewer Wesley Morris, the Los Angeles Times’s sometimes embattled Kenneth Turan and breakthrough newspaper-to-TV critic Roger Ebert. Few opinions are shared, but all stand shoulder-to-shoulder on a broad and abiding love of film.
Presented in association with the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. West Coast Premiere.
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