In our age of bloggers, fansites, and media conglomeration, the art of film criticism and the status of the film critic are often assumed to be in crisis. This class will look back at the history of American film criticism--from pioneers like James Agee to giants like Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Stanley Kaufmann and Molly Haskell to contemporary voices like J. Hoberman, Armond White, Roger Ebert, AO Scott, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Manohla Dargis. We will do so through analysis of the films that sparked the inspiration and sometimes ire of these writers, and led them to both define and increasingly defend their role as arbiters of quality and importance. Possible objects of study will include classics like "The Gold Rush," "Citizen Kane," "Double Indemnity," "L'Avventura," "Bonnie and Clyde," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "The Wild Bunch," plus a selection of contemporary films that have stirred up fervent debate. Writings will include short responses to the films and readings and two longer papers.