Life Itself: Two Thumbs Way Up
Life Itself is based on the best selling Memoirs of Roger Ebert of the same name and is directed by Steve James. His first documentary "Hoop Dreams" was given a huge Thumbs Up by Roger himself.
Life Itself recounts the life of Roger from when he started as a school newspaper editor and how he became a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times by innovating on how movies were reviewed. Then he went on to television where he developed a type of sibling rivalry on and off the air with Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune. Together they created and used the phrase "Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down" at the end of their reviews which became a cultural reference in the 80's and still is today. I truly believe this was the birth of the modern movie reviews which made it fun and entertaining. Please find below a sample of At the Movies: The worst movies of 1983.
Roger was very open about his alcoholism and how he remained sober from the late 70's. James also illustrates how Roger embraced the use of the internet where at the time some believed it would kill film criticism. In reality, on the contrary, it widened its audience. All this comes together beautifully with the addition of the old pictures, the interviews and the portrayal of Roger with his battle with cancer. Roger did not want to be like his friend Gene and keep his sickness a secret. That is why he was very open about his cancer and its complications. Despite loosing his lower jaw, Roger continued to voice his opinions through his blog and kept on writing until the end. We saw that he was surrounded by a loving family that supported him until the end.
What a documentary!!! This was an excellent tribute of a man who like everyone had his highs and lows but found unimaginable success in a field where no one, at the time, really gave much credibility. Roger Ebert is the one that brought credibility to this profession. I agreed with most of his movie reviews which through time, became for me a point of reference when it came to movies. This documentary also made me discover some areas of his life I was not aware (for example his involvement with the Cannes Festival) which is the role of a documentary. The storytelling and the back and forth from the old days to the recent ones was very well put together and made the flow of the documentary interesting. This documentary provokes emotional responses which I rarely felt watching a documentary. It made me laugh, made me think and at times made me sad. This was a great and fitting tribute to a man that brought us so much to this industry. Two thumbs Way Up!!!!!
Please find below the movie trailer of Life Itself: