Review for Life Itself
Roger Ebert was quite frankly the greatest critic of movies that has ever existed. Whenever I review a film I always feel like if I am being too harsh or too positive I would look to what Ebert would say. But sadly with his passing in 2013 I don't have that. Life Itself is a wonderful tribute to a man who was one of the biggest supporter of the movies. Whether it was an independent movie or a blockbuster he was the only opinion that mattered.
Steve James' documentary charts Ebert's days from a humble writer, to film critic with his many ups and downs along the way. We see Ebert's excesses with alcohol, his work Russ Meyer and his classic partnership with Gene Siskel who also sadly died in 1999. His work as a critic was honoured with a Pulitzer Prize and he even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Throughout we hear from people who Ebert worked with and those whose work he supported. Directors like Martin Scorses, Werner Herzog and Steve James himself whose classic film Hoop Dreams was declared by Ebert as one of the greatest of all time. Throughout you see just how beloved he was in the industry and you also sadly see the toll that the cancer that ultimately claimed his life took on him. Filmed in his last few months we hear much from his wife Chaz Ebert and it is sad that this isn't a film that Roger himself couldn't have given his iconic Thumbs Up to.
Extras include an interview with Director Steve James which is a nice look at how he created the documentary. He obviously had a deep affection for Ebert and wanted this to be the tribute that he truly deserves. There is a wealth of extra footage and interviews which really compliment the documentary itself.
Unlike most where I say 'Why didn't you put them in?' I can understand why as most are just little asides and stories such as his first date with his wife Chaz and his first article published. Though they really should have included the infamous Rob Schneider 'Your Movie Sucks' story. Also included is the wonderful tribute made to him at Sundance after his death, which is simply fabulous. Finally to round it all up are two Trailers.
Life Itself is a wonderful documentary that really does Roger Ebert justice. It seems bizarre that it was nominated for Best Documentary Oscar as it thoroughly deserved it. I enoyed rewatching the classic moments from Siskel and Ebert at the Movies and reliving some of the moments from his past. It cannot be understated how much of an effect he had on the movie industry and though I will never be able to review to his quality, I can only hope I can encourage more people to watch this, read some of his work and experience just how great a critic he was.