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Film Review: Roger Ebert Doc a Titanic Love Story About Movies, Chaz & ‘Life Itself’

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – We’d all be so lucky to live a full life of love, success and dignity. But earning it and then dying with it is the ultimate accomplishment.

The film festival hit “Life Itself” honestly portrays the life and death of a great man that any man or woman can strive to emulate. In the face of terminal cancer and leaving an empire and the love of your life behind, not many people can close the curtains as Roger Ebert did with so much humility, humor and grace.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

But I admit it: I’m typically not a documentary kind of guy. You have to care about the person or the subject or the cause. While the filmmakers always deeply do, many fail to make you feel the same way. “Life Itself” isn’t selling you. Even if this man somehow never touched your life at all, you’ll enjoy learning about one way to live a life truly worth living.

As many documentary biographies often are, “Life Itself” isn’t simply a celebration film about the nation’s most important and influential Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic. Rather, it’s the epitome of a true story. The film centers on why he’s a legend, all the people he touched and how he left the movie industry and life itself better than how found it.

Like so many other movie stars and filmmakers, Chicago director Steve James was elevated to fame because Roger Ebert gave his film “Hoop Dreams” objective notoriety when it was otherwise overlooked. In today’s age of reality TV shows designed to make rising stars famous, Ebert was the original scout long before social technologies made it so easy.

StarRead Adam Fendelman’s full review of “Life Itself”.

His ability to discover rising talent and undiscovered movie gems became one of his lasting legacies. The list of people he deservingly did it for is long and the amount of people who are who they are today because of him is great. “Life Itself” hones in on a few of them including filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.

Fellow film critics A.O. Scott (The New York Times) and Richard Corliss (Time Magazine) are interviewed about how Ebert forevermore changed the face of movie criticism and the entertainment industry at large.

“Life Itself” features Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel, Marlene Siskel, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, A.O. Scott, Errol Morris, Ava DuVernay, Richard Corliss, Thea Flaum, Ramin Bahrani and Stephen Stanton from director Steve James. It is rated “R” for brief sexual images and nudity and language. The film has a running time of 115 minutes. “Life Itself” opened on July 4, 2014 and expands on July 11, 2014. In Chicago, it plays at Landmark Century Centre Cinema. The film is produced by CNN Films and Chicago’s Kartemquin Films. It is distributed theatrically by Magnolia Pictures and at home by Magnolia Home Entertainment.

StarContinue for Adam Fendelman’s full review of “Life Itself”.

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel in Life Itself
Roger Ebert (center) and Gene Siskel in “Life Itself”.
Photo credit: Kevin Horan, Magnolia Pictures

StarContinue for Adam Fendelman’s full review of “Life Itself”.

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