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LIFE ITSELF: THE ONLY THING ROGER EBERT LOVED MORE THAN THE MOVIES By RICK BALDWIN

“Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second.”—Jean-Luc Godard

A voice, everybody has one.  It’s not always an audible modulation bellowing from the hole on your face.  You can sound your voice through art, writing, music, or just by being a humble, good citizen out there today trying to make this place we share a little bit better.  Sometimes you won’t find your voices until you hit your 30’s while some are lucky to have their epiphany when they are children.  Today’s feature focuses on a man that knew he had a voice from a young age, so grab some popcorn, we are off to discuss the Oscar nominated documentary on film critic Roger Ebert, Life Itself (2014).

Life Itself documents Ebert’s professional and personal life as a nationally renowned film critic with the Chicago Sun-Times.  The film chronicles Ebert’s youth, he fell in love with film and writing.  He landed the job of film critic before collaborating with director Russ Meyer on the production of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.  Ebert went on to receive a Pulitzer Prize (the first for a film critic), battles alcoholism through the decadent 1970’s, and finds national acclaim in the 1980’s when he and rival film critic, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, hosted their popular TV show, At the Movies (1982).  Ebert was devoted to writing and analyzing films before finally settling down and getting married at 50 years of age.  Ebert and wife Chaz were dutifully by each other’s sides personally and professionally until his death.

Life Itself was directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams (1994) and the title is taken from Roger Ebert’s bestselling memoir.  Life Itself is very intimate, funny, painful, and uplifting as you see a man that went on to become a legend in his craft and loved by most that he came in contact with due to his charming and caring nature away from the typewriter or TV cameras.  The film makes use of footage and interviews with Ebert during the final months of his life and friends, colleagues, and family were interviewed to drive home the point of just how important Ebert and his columns were to filmmakers, fans, and anyone who enjoyed the art of cinema.

Sadly, the film also captures the final days of Ebert and his disfigurement from cancer, along with his strong work ethic and ability to stay positive no matter what hand was dealt in life.  Roger was inspiring during his battle with thyroid cancer and went public with his physical disability to put a new face on the disease and make everyone aware.  Ebert was always larger than life, a fighter, witty, and an influential voice for society through his film criticism.  Overall, Life Itself is a very solid film with a great message and a very interesting look about a unique character and a good man.  Life Itself should be a hit if you’re a fan of Ebert, a film historian, or a cinephile.

So are you going to use your voice for positive change and help enlighten your fellow man?  Are you going to put those wheels in motion and use that voice for good and not for selfish gain?  Get out there and make a difference, and if you see a positive change in you and those affected by you for the good, — you get two thumbs up.

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