Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Life Itself

posted by Nell Minow
A
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for brief sexual images/nudity and language
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:Some sexual references and brief images from films
Alcohol/Drugs:References to drinking and alcohol abuse
Violence/Scariness:Scenes of illness, sad death
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:July 4, 2014
A
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for brief sexual images/nudity and language
Profanity: Some strong language
Nudity/Sex: Some sexual references and brief images from films
Alcohol/Drugs: References to drinking and alcohol abuse
Violence/Scariness: Scenes of illness, sad death
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Movie Release Date: July 4, 2014

LifeItselfRoger Ebert, the most influential film critic of all time, gets the film he deserves directed by one of the many filmmakers he championed, Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “The Interrupters”).  It is co-produced by Martin Scorsese, whose emotional appearance in the film to talk about the impact of the support—and criticism—he received from Ebert is one of the highlights.

But this is not the story of a movie critic.  It is the story of a life, a big, grand, messy, vital, generous life.  It was a life with every bit as much drama, comedy, tension, romance, insight, compassion, and, as Ebert would say, civilizing influence and empathy creation as any of the films included in Roger’s pantheon of Great Movies.

Advertisement

The film shows us Ebert as a child in the university town of Urbana, Illinois, as a college student there, as a young newsman who, still in his 20’s, became the movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and later a pioneering presence on television and online. He drank too much until he admitted that he was an alcoholic.  He and Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel created a television show that began on the local PBS channel, WTTW, and then went into national syndication and moved to commercial television.  While some print critics complained that it was stunt-ish, the show elevated serious engagement with movies to a nationwide conversation.  A highlight of the film is the testy outtakes from the show, making it clear that the competitiveness and tinge of animosity that made their on-screen interactions so fascinating were toned down from the real strains between them.  And it turns out Siskel hung out with Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion during the wild era of the 60’s.  “Roger may have written ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,’ but Gene lived it,” Siskel’s widow says with a smile.

Advertisement

The intensity of the competition between the two critics is very funny. So are the outrageously awful clothes and haircuts (there are some things even the ’70s does not excuse) and the amateurishness of the early episodes. But the very real respect and, ultimately, admiration, between them makes it clear that this was one of the most significant relationships of Roger’s life. It was his devastation over Siskel’s decision not to tell anyone about his own illness that made Roger resolve to be very open and honest about his own.

YouTube Preview Image

Ebert had great hungers, which led to excesses, not just in alcohol and food but in work, producing more reviews and books than any other critic and dabbling as a screenwriter in the legendarily awful “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”  Once he stopped drinking, he developed the courage to pursue his greatest hunger, the hunger for love and intimacy.  The man who called movies “an empathy machine” was ready, at age 50, to begin to feel those feelings outside of the screening room.  It is deeply moving to witness Ebert’s transformation through his finding a deep romantic love and a large extended family at age 50 with Chaz.  And then he got cancer, and we see the impact his illness had on his writing. He lost a great deal, but, James shows us, he found more.

Advertisement

Roger loved movies deeply, personally, viscerally. With this documentary, the movies return that love.

[Note: I don’t pretend to objectivity here as I am a big fan of Ebert’s work and very grateful to him for his kindness to me.  I made a small contribution to this film’s crowdfunding campaign.  But I loved the film and I am sure I would have loved it even if I’d never met him.]

Parents should know that this movie includes scenes of illness and a sad death, some strong languages, discussions of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, smoking, and some sexual references and images from movies with adult material.

Family discussion:  What were the most important turning points in Ebert’s life?  Do you agree that film is an “empathy machine?”

Advertisement

If you like this, try: Roger Ebert’s books and his mesmerizing shot-by-shot commentary on Citizen Kane

Previous Posts

Trailer: Eva -- Yet Another AI Robot Movie
This is certainly turning out to be the year of the AI robot.  This one stars Daniel Brühl and this time the robot is a child named EVA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ctMc4DFpik&spfreload=10 ...

posted 8:00:25am May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Today on TCM: Go Back in Time With Time Travel Movies
Tonight Turner Classic Movies has some time travel treats, including George Pal's classic version of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine," starring Rod Taylor and Yvette ...

posted 8:00:19am May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Contest: Win a DVD of Minnie's Pet Salon!
Minnie Mouse has a new business -- a pet salon!  And I have a copy to give away. All the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse friends are bringing their pets ...

posted 2:52:11pm May. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Ashley Judd Movie, "Big Stone Gap," Coming This Fall
Picturehouse will be releasing "Big Stone Gap" this fall. It was filmed on location in Virginia and stars Ashley Judd as Ave Maria Mulligan, who ...

posted 12:29:56pm May. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Illuminate Film Festival
The Illuminate Film Festival opens today in Sedona, Arizona. Its mission is to be the premier film festival for "conscious cinema." Dedicated to spreading enlightened ideas and pushing humanity forward, Illuminate is poised to become a ...

posted 7:00:43am May. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.