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Life Itself (Roger Ebert)

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Via Ebert's Twitter:

Whoa! My memoir has been optioned for a doc by Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") and Steven Zaillian, with Martin Scorsese as exec producer.

EW.com:

Ebert’s memoir chronicles his more than 40-year career as one of the nation’s best-known movie critics, his struggle with alcoholism, and his battle with thyroid cancer, which has left the 70-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winner unable to speak, eat, or drink.

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If this ever comes to fruition, could Ebert review it if he wanted to? Or would that violate some unwritten rule? Even if he didn't review it (which I can't imagine he would actually do), he would surely write about it on his blog or somewhere, and that could conceivably create all kinds of complications that don't exist for other documentaries (or movies in general) on living subjects.

Is there any precedent? Has there ever been a movie about a real-life critic before? (I'd kind of like to see a documentary on André Bazin, although since Bazin is no longer with us that would be a quite different animal.)

Edited by Rushmore

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I believe Ebert has avoided reviewing any of Russ Meyer's films, because he happened to write one of them. So, yeah, I doubt he would "review" this film -- though I'd be surprised if he didn't discuss the film on some level at his blog.

Link to our general thread on Ebert.

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Magnolia will distribute Life Itself.

 

 

One of the best films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Steve James‘ documentary about film critic Roger Ebert Life Itself, has just been picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures. The company reportedly beat out several suitors including IFC, Oscilloscope and The Weinstein Company. They’re looking at a summer theatrical and on-demand release followed by a screening on CNN.

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Bit too reverential for my taste....maybe too soon? But does capture so much of what people loved about Ebert. For a James film, it didnt quite have the deeper resonances I was expecting, but it was still an excellent job of synthesis.Maybe I am just uncomfortable with the saintification of Roger...and I have been struggling with the new trend, wrought by social media, whereby dying becomes a public performance art. I suspect I may grow to like this a bit more as time passes, but with a title like "Life Itself" the bar is set pretty high.

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Bit too reverential for my taste....maybe too soon? But does capture so much of what people loved about Ebert. For a James film, it didnt quite have the deeper resonances I was expecting, but it was still an excellent job of synthesis.Maybe I am just uncomfortable with the saintification of Roger...and I have been struggling with the new trend, wrought by social media, whereby dying becomes a public performance art. I suspect I may grow to like this a bit more as time passes, but with a title like "Life Itself" the bar is set pretty high.

 

Dying as public performance art has a LONG pedigree, FWIW. Early Christian martyrdom being a prime example. 

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Bit too reverential for my taste....maybe too soon? But does capture so much of what people loved about Ebert. For a James film, it didnt quite have the deeper resonances I was expecting, but it was still an excellent job of synthesis.Maybe I am just uncomfortable with the saintification of Roger...and I have been struggling with the new trend, wrought by social media, whereby dying becomes a public performance art. I suspect I may grow to like this a bit more as time passes, but with a title like "Life Itself" the bar is set pretty high.

 

Dying as public performance art has a LONG pedigree, FWIW. Early Christian martyrdom being a prime example. 

 

I don't think you and I are tracking on the same wavelength here, but, yeah, whatever. 

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Bit too reverential for my taste....maybe too soon? But does capture so much of what people loved about Ebert. For a James film, it didnt quite have the deeper resonances I was expecting, but it was still an excellent job of synthesis.Maybe I am just uncomfortable with the saintification of Roger...and I have been struggling with the new trend, wrought by social media, whereby dying becomes a public performance art. I suspect I may grow to like this a bit more as time passes, but with a title like "Life Itself" the bar is set pretty high.

Dying as public performance art has a LONG pedigree, FWIW. Early Christian martyrdom being a prime example.

I don't think you and I are tracking on the same wavelength here, but, yeah, whatever.

I suspect, but am not sure, that we may be tracking closer than you suspect (i.e., that my idea of martyrdom may be closer to what you mean about dying as performance art than you think my idea of martyrdom is). 

 

I could be wrong. 

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Ebert is definitely a worthy subject of a documentary, but I felt the film dragged a bit and played it too safe and predictable.  I much prefer Edward Herrmann's excellent reading of Ebert's autobiography.  My thoughts are a bit more fleshed out here:  http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com/2014/07/life-itself-dir-steve-james-usa-2014_21.html

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Andrew, do you know where the Ebert recordings of Life Itself come from in this film? Like you, I heard the Hermann-narrated audiobook, which I loved. I'm not aware of another Ebert-read version out there. Maybe James had Ebert read the passages we hear in the film, although by the time the project started, Ebert's voice was long gone, right? 

 

I just watched this and was, unlike others here, deeply affected by the film. Not just the poignance of Ebert's condition, which I thought I'd heard dominated this film, but the history and nostalgia of seeing all those clips from Sneak Previews and its successors. I had no idea about Gene's Playboy-manion past (!), and had never seen or heard from his wife until this movie.

 

Speaking of wives, I'm deeply affected by Chaz Ebert, particularly her insistence about not following through

with Roger's "Kill me" request, or with his DNR, although she came to peace with it in Roger's final moments

.

 

I haven't seen many documentaries this year, but this is easily my favorite.

Edited by Christian

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No, I don't know the origin of those recordings - that's an interesting question. 

 

Yes, Chaz was/is an amazing woman.  (I do love the footage of them together, as well as Roger's recounting of their courtship and life together in his autobiography.)  Roger was a very lucky man.

 

Have you seen Particle Fever?  I haven't seen many docs this year, either, but that's gotta be my favorite so far.

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I never posted my review of the film here. I liked it, but didn't love it. Which is kind of sad considering how much Ebert meant to me and how much I've come to expect from Steve James.

 

My review.

 

Of course “life itself,” is too big a topic for one documentary. A good documentary could have been made about each of the main topics: about Roger’s early life as a newspaper man; the challenges of the various incarnations of the tv show (be sure to read Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s “I killed At The Movies” for more insight into the challenges of the show and its demise); and his late-in-life illness and rebirth on the internet. Instead, some of the meat seems a bit stripped from bones of this final product. In the effort to cover everything, some pieces don’t get the attention they deserve.

It would be easy to damn the documentary Life Itself with faint praise, simply because it doesn’t quite live up to what I hoped for it, given that it is about one of the most influential writers in my life and directed by the man who made one of the most wonderful documentaries of all time. But it is still worth seeking out as a fine tribute to the man who was undeniably the most important film critic in the world for most of my life.

 

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Saw it.  Don't understand the acclaim.  I think the rapturous reviews have more to do with a critical admiration for the man himself, than the actual documentary.

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