Monday, July 07, 2014

Life Itself

 A new documentary from "Hoop Dreams" director, Steve James that examines the life and unfortunately, the death of film critic, Roger Ebert. The film is based on Mr. Ebert's book of the same title and it follows him from his early days at college writing for the school paper until his untimely death from cancer.

    It is an unflinching portrait of Mr. Ebert, the man and the critic and whether or not you agreed with his reviews, you still had to admire him for (along with fellow critic Gene Siskel) for making film criticism accessible to mainstream America. It was Mr. Ebert and Mr. Siskel who brought the world "Two Thumbs Up" when they would agree on a review. Many would argue that Mr. Siskel was the better critic and probably deserves a documentary of his own someday but it's Mr. Ebert who reminds us that he has won a Pulitzer Prize and is a critic of the people.

    The film balances flashbacks, film clips and interviews evenly to represent Mr. Ebert's contribution to film and more importantly to his family and the world. We see scenes from some of his favorite films and great clips from the TV show Mr. Ebert shared with Mr. Siskel for so many years. We learn that he married at age 50 to an African American woman named Chaz and that they had a wonderful marriage for 19 years. Many of scenes with Mrs. Ebert  after her husband's cancer diagnosis and subsequent deterioration are so raw and honest that they are hard to watch. However, it is Mr. Ebert love of life and fighting determination right to the end that you will remember and admire.

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