The surprising and entertaining life of renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert (1942-2013): his early days as a freewheeling bachelor and Pulitzer Prize winner, his famously contentious partnership with Gene Siskel, his life-altering marriage, and his brave and transcendent battle with cancer.
It's entirely possible that sending the audience out feeling lousy was intentional
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The film's masterful storytelling did its job. The message was clear. No need to overdo.
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Now admittedly, I was not very familiar with Roger Ebert's work or career until right before I watched this film; I actually was surprised to learn that he had passed away, due to the fact that I still see reviews from his website everywhere. My only real knowledge of him was that he was essentially the go-to film critic, and the primary face of film criticism. But after watching this film, I don't feel like I know every single bit and piece of the man's work, and because of that I feel like this movie did exactly what it wanted to do, for better or for worse. "Life Itself" strikes the perfect balance between informing the viewer on its subject while still not spoon feeding the viewer; we aren't given every little detail of Ebert's life, but a flowing narrative that informs us on his character and his career. This movie serves more it seems as a visual companion piece of his autobiography, as many excerpts from it are used in the film, and in that regard I think it really works very well. This film never paints Ebert as perfect, but it always shows the right balance of sympathy and realism to really feel like Roger Ebert as a person is encapsulated well in this film. This movie isn't about a movie critic as much as it's about a man's life. A man who just happened to have a deep passion for film criticism. And ultimately, this film does an excellent job of representing a man whose impact on the realm film criticism very well, albeit with the occasionally pacing issue or interview that feels a little unnecessary. Overall, I can definitely recommend "Life Itself" to any movie fan. 8.7/10
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Crafted with care, told with affection & paying a heartfelt tribute to the life & career of arguably the most celebrated film critic of all time, Life Itself is both an informative documentary & a captivating biopic that offers an interesting insight into the life of Roger Ebert whose passion & love for cinema made him an iconic figure not only in film criticism but the whole film culture.Interspersed with archive footages, interviews with colleagues, friends & family, snippets from his famous TV show with Gene Siskel, images from few of the lesser-known flicks he gave his voice to, and also including live sessions with Roger Ebert himself when he was battling cancer, Life Itself is an expertly assembled documentary that sensibly explores the remarkable legacy he left behind.Directed by Steve James, Life Itself attempts to find a fine balance between Ebert's personal life & work but ends up being more about Ebert the man than Ebert the legendary critic, which definitely isn't a complaint for whatever moments did make its way into the final picture is highly fascinating. The film glances at both the positive & negative aspects of Ebert in equal measure but never with a judging eye.It is amusing when discussing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls which was written by Ebert himself, is painful when showing his fight with cancer & the resulting physical disability, is emotionally moving in the most unexpected moments but the best part of Life Itself is the Ebert & Siskel segment for it ingeniously captures their often contrasting opinions, their endless disputes, their initial contempt yet tremendous respect for each other and the lifelong friendship that was born from it.One an overall scale, Life Itself is a touching, entertaining, inspiring, heartwarming & heartbreaking cinema that emits a deep sense of warmth throughout its runtime. Filmmakers filming a biopic such as this often have the tendency to get a little carried away but it's good to see James not mourning over Ebert's death and instead celebrating his life & the profound impact he had on so many lives. Brimming with passion, love & endearment from beginning to end, Life Itself is a must-watch for all. Two-thumbs way up!
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Like the age we live in, this movie is aggressively vacuous and narcissistic.A good biography uses the particular to teach us something more general. It uses the individual subject to dig up some truths about their life that apply not just to that particular individual, but also to the world we live in. To Life Itself, you could say.So a biography of Napoleon, ideally, shouldn't just teach us about Napoleon's particulars; it should teach us about France, Revolution, War, Power, Love, Death, Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, &c. And preferably how this all relates to the world we live in today.This biopic documentary about Roger Ebert taught us something about Rogert Ebert, his personality and quirks, but hardly anything more. We learn nothing about film, nothing about film criticism, and hardly anything about TV or show business. We learn about almost nothing that related to the world Robert Ebert lived in and absolutely nothing about the world we live in.All this movie basically says: 'Me! me! me! me!,' but about someone else. We love films like this, I'm sure, because we're secretly hoping that, when the time comes, someone will lionize and eulogize us in the same way. It's a sort of 'projected narcissism'.That this documentary is universally acclaimed is telling of age we live in.
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To begin, my rating could be a little off compared to avid documentary watchers because I am not a huge of documentaries. Since documentaries are pieces of non-fiction, I look for some great detail in the true story to inspire me or make me think about the world today. This movie did not do either of these things for me, and I found it interesting primarily because I enjoy the movies and know Ebert's status as a film critic.This documentary didn't seem to have too many things to say about Ebert other than that he was a great writer, he could be a jerk to his partner Gene Siskel and vice versa, and he was struggling the last few years of his life due to his having cancer. What I liked to see was his motivation to keep writing even in bad circumstances. What I didn't like was that the film didn't touch too much on the good aspects of Ebert's relationship with Siskel. Everybody would say the two were trying to battle, to convince each other, which is entertaining, but there weren't too much positive things to say about the partnership other than that. In fact, the first thing they say about the two is that they were rival film critics from different newspapers.One thing that interested me is that they seemed to admit that what Ebert and Siskel did was not necessarily in-depth criticism on movies like the writings by Pauline Kael, but rather trying to relate to their audience and saying why or why not people should see the movie. That does seem to be a responsibility that film critics take, and it is probably why they were considered the "best" critics of their time, because they could persuade the audience rather than analyze the films.Don't get me wrong, there is a section that really interested me where Ebert would analyze a movie frame by frame along with a participating crowd. That I would have liked to see some time in my lifetime - it is a very interesting concept for a "show."This film seemed to have little to say that I didn't already know or could at least guess the answers to. Nothing in this film surprised me, but it was interesting none the less. If you want an insight into Ebert watch this movie, but you'd probably get a better glimpse of what he was about if you read some of his writings - especially in his "great movies" section.