Life Itself

Time to tackle a big fish.

Roger Ebert. A lot of people like the guy. Like, a super lot of them. Especially people who like movies. Especially people who consider themselves to be movie reviewers or critics. And then there is me, Geophysicist by day, and movie watcher by night. And I can say I never really cared one way or another.

When Ebert died, a lot of people I knew in real life wanted to talk to me about it and make sure I knew and what I thought about it. I thought that it sucked that someone died of course, but it didn’t affect me in any negative way.

For those that don’t know, before Ebert, movie reviewers were basically interchangeable. But he came in with a fancy vocabulary, an ability to write a review quickly, and a way to connect it with the every man that he became a big deal, even winning a Pulitzer Prize. He is probably the sole reason movie reviewers/critics exist as they do today. Whether that is a good thing is debatable of course.

And of course, this documentary, Life Itself, titled after his book, tells the story of his life and career and was filming during his final months alive.

In The Movies
He turned into a poltergeist when watching movies, apparently.

You can’t talk about Roger Ebert without talking about Gene Siskel. For over 20 years, these two Chicago men got to go on television and argue and talk the new movies in theaters that week, and the crowds loved it. No one could compare to those two and those two opinions became the only opinions that seemed to matter.

But we also get to hear about Ebert’s career in college, his first journalism jobs, and what he did after the TV show. He was also an early adopter of really liking social media/internet it seems, and wanted all of his life’s work online for anyone to read. Which is why his name is a website, and they have people posting reviews to carry on his legacy there.

And of course, we also get his family life, his children, his wife, and the final months of his life, the surgeries, and the setbacks.

Now for someone who didn’t really care about the man, I found myself surprised when his death occurred that I was tearing up a little bit. That’s some quality film making. The narrator is reading excerpts from his autobiography throughout the film, so it is really easy to feel like I knew the man by the end of the movie. Roger Ebert was a fascinating individual, and well, it sucks that he is gone.

3 out of 4.

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