Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Roger Ebert's life is celebrated and dissected brilliantly in the new documentary "Life Itself." Director Steve James ("Hoop Dreams) began shooting five months prior to Ebert's knowledge of his impending death, which designates us as fellow travelers on a sad yet glorious journey.
Ebert's passion and proclivity for writing started early, in grade school. He wrote, published and delivered the Washington Street News on a daily basis. Fast forward to 1967... while working for the Chicago Sun Times part time, he was appointed as film critic when the previous one retired. It made him the youngest to have ever done so.
From TV's "Siskel & Ebert" (included is footage in which they fought with one another) to scripting the screenplay for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" (described by him as "a delirious adventure") to writing over 6,000 film reviews, Ebert enriched our lives through his love of film.
The venerated critic was applauded by so many for his accessible style of writing and the honesty it exuded. Director Martin Scorsese (executive producer) admits to taking Ebert's criticism as "a learning tool" and is moved to tears talking about how Ebert's admiration saved his career. Erroll Morris ("Gates of Heaven") also notes that without Ebert's support he never would have been successful. And Werner Herzog ("Cave of Forgotten Dreams") dubs him "The Soldier of Cinema."
James employs the use of archival footage, interviews with colleagues and close friends, film clips, family gatherings and painful "conversations" with Ebert during his last days with his beloved wife, Chaz. He cites Ebert's last blog after 46 years as a film critic entitled, "A Leave of Presence." It indicates that he's "going, but will remain." James' inspiring documentary stands as a tribute to an honorable and gifted man who changed the way we look at movies.
"I was born inside the movie of my life ... I don't remember how I got into the movie but it continues to entertain me."
Born June 18, 1942
Died April 4, 2013