Life Itself (★★★★)

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life_itself_ver2Roger Ebert meant so much to the entire film community and when it was announced that there would be a documentary about his life and struggle after cancer, nearly every cinema lover jumped at the opportunity.  Ebert, as well as his wife Chaz, inspired millions with their love, story, and the simplicity of living life with films as the central focus.  Life Itself by director Steve James is an intimate and respectful look into the life of a man who too many people didn’t get the chance to know.

I should start with talking a bit of what film criticism is to me.  The picture inspires you to look inward and search for the reasoning behind such a love.  Bloggers, critics, journalists, there are many names for all of us that exist in newspapers, internet sites, and forums around the world.  We all love cinema and believe we can, and bring something different to the table of criticism.  When I decided that I wanted to write about the movies, I knew I didn’t want to be the academic critic.  I’m not someone who analyzes the deep themes and symbolism of the movies.  Doesn’t mean I don’t see them, it’s just something I didn’t set out to write about.  My approach was always simple.  Be able to tell people if a movie is good or not.  I write from the heart.  That’s why you will often find typos, misusing grammar, etc..  I have never pretended to be a genius.  Trust me, in school and in life, I’ve been pretty average when it came to academics and overall expectations.  Where those have been my “shortcomings,” I’ve been blessed in other ways with family, friends, and a killer staff.  Roger Ebert was the academic critic who didn’t believe that he was the tip of the iceberg.  He knew there were many more of us that would claim to change the game and his time, was borrowed time on this earth.

In Life Itself, Ebert is captured in some of his most vulnerable moments but ironically, at his strongest point in his life.  We witness him battle the heartbreaking truth, that his time with us is limited and there isn’t much time left.  But before we venture off into our Ebert of the past few years, director Steve James tells us a fascinating and beautiful story of Ebert’s life, starting off in the film criticism industry, and what he brought to so many people.  We get first person accounts from some of the world’s most prestigious filmmakers and actors like Martin Scorsese, and first person accounts from Ebert’s early days from many of his closest colleagues.  It offers so much insight into the legacy of a man who offered so much to the world.

Through outtakes from the Siskel & Ebert show, to intimate and rich portraits from his many adventures around the globe, through Life Itself, we become even closer to a man we hardly knew, and in essence, become closer to ourselves.  It’s one of the finest films of the year and one that should be considered as the first documentary ever to be nominated for Best Picture.  If there’s a film that breaks the barriers for all movie-lovers everywhere, Steve James’ Life Itself is it.

Magnolia Pictures will release LIFE ITSELF on iTunes/OnDemand and in theaters this Friday, July 4, 2014.

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7/4/14 Theaters

Albany, CA: Albany Twin
Atlanta, GA: Midtown Art Cinemas 8
Cambridge, MA: Kendall Square Cinema 9
Campbell, CA: Camera 7
Chicago, IL: Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema
Claremont, CA: Claremont 5
Dallas, TX: Magnolia Theatre – Dallas
Encino, CA: Town Center 5
Los Angeles, CA: The Landmark
Minneapolis, MN: Lagoon Cinema
New York, NY: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
New York, NY: Sunshine Cinema 5
North Hollywood, CA: Laemmle NoHo 7
Pasadena, CA: Playhouse 7 Cinemas
Philadelphia, PA: Ritz 5 Movies
Portland, OR: Living Room 6
San Diego, CA: Hillcrest Cinemas
San Francisco, CA: Embarcadero Center Cinema 5
San Rafael, CA: Smith Rafael Film Center
Santa Ana, CA: South Coast Village 3
Scottsdale, AZ: Shea 14 Theatre
Seattle, WA: Harvard Exit Theatre
Washington, DC: E Street Cinema