I must say I really am a fan of documentaries. I tend not to be too excited on the prospect of going to them. But once I’m there, I just relish in learning so much more about a person or a piece of History etc.. “Life Itself” is a marvelous documentry based on a memoir written by the famous chicago-based movie critic, Roger Ebert , who had a national reputation and a dominant personality.
I’ve gone to movies all my life and became a little bit more crazy about it may be the last 10 years or so. But I remember well before that in the ’80’s and ’90’s, noted, arch-rival, Chicago newspaper movie critics TV show called “At the Movies” (which most people just called Siskel & Ebert.) They were a brand like Micheal or Oprah and their were the definitive movie critics in the US . Their show had huge ratings and when a film got a double thumbs up from these two, then great success followed and a couble thumbs down was the box office kiss of death.
No doubt the best part of this show was watching these two true movie aficionados argue fervently about their likes and dislikes like over a beer at a bar vs in front of a huge TV audience.
I don’t really recall much about them outside of their movie critic ovie life nor all their other related talents. Clearly this story on a Ebert which was directed by his friends Martin Scorsese (who Ebert would equal skewer his movies too when appropriate).
This film is a a very nice reflection on the life journey of the talented Mr. Ebert. The documentary traces his early love of writing and publishing when he was just a boy right thru his college newspaper editor days at Illinois. Then in his post college years, while at graduate school in Chicago, he finds a journalism career that captivates him along with with a city that adopts him.
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Interspersed throughout are flash forward to Ebert today battling horrid throat cancer which causes his jaw to be removed. This pretty shocking visual combined with an ever present smile really makes the film work.
Initially a tough as nails journalist and a hard drinker, the film follows his journey, his successes and some failures. After giving up drinking and being single, around the age 50 he finds the love of his life Chaz. A proud and remarkably loving wife and best friend, she embraces Roger for who he is. And when he turned sick and had a horrible
7 year run of pain etc., she was right their with and for him. Their interracial marriage and his being so welcomed into her family shows a softening of his personality and a beautiful relationship.
The visual of this vibrant rockstar talent now visually and verbally impacted is quite an eye-opener. However through the magic of the Internet and his fingers, he continued his movie criticisms, reviews , insights, blogs etc. right to the end and became more revered than ever in those last years.
Thank you The Showcase theatre in Asbury Park for again bringing in such a fine film and sharing it with us. This place is priceless.