Andy's Reviews > Life Itself

Life Itself by Roger Ebert
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Dec 04, 11

Read in December, 2011

I love Roger Ebert. Starting when I gained consistent internet access in 1997 until his hiatus due to illness in 2006, I believe I read every single one of his movie reviews. They were my Friday treat. I appreciated his originality, literacy and great ability to express himself with the written word. Shortly after he started a bi-weekly "Great Movie" article in the mid-1990s, I sought out all the "Great Movie" titles I could at video/DVD rental shops. I had a list of these movies I kept in my wallet, and I'd search the walls of the better video stores (such as Hollywood Express in Cambridge) to find any of them. I happily relied on Ebert to guide me in my journey through cinema, and I happily increased the scope of movies I appreciated grew an ability to spot and appreciate movie strengths and weaknesses more than before.
When he stopped writing for a year because of his serious illness, I initially didn't know who to turn to for movie guidance, but then I began to appreciate other critics and to rely more on my own feelings more than before. Frankly, Ebert was my crutch for a while.
Since his return to film criticism, I've read many of his blog entries and I appreciate him now more for his general viewpoints, both related to life and movies.
Since I guess I could call myself a true long-term Ebert enthusiast, my reaction to this book may be different than for others. What's most revelatory to me is that there is so much to Ebert's life that I didn't know about. Ebert speaks quite honestly and fully about his personal life, and being the Ebert "know-it-all" that I am, I found that there was so much that I didn't know. This is good. This reinforces to me that I certainly don't know "A LOT" about most people, especially those I only follow via internet or their work, no matter how enthusiastically I follow them. Yes, I was aware of Ebert's sensibilities since his reactions to movies have an openly personal and honest aspect. But as for many of his life's details, of course I knew nothing.
Some of my favorite portions of the book deal with his encounters with prominent movie figures over the years. He documents days spent with Robert Mitchum and Martin Scorcese amongst others. As a movie fan, I found these chapters fascinating. Also, Ebert is a solid story teller, so I enjoyed his remembrances of traveling around the world, his recollections of his initial forays into the newspaper world, and his detailed account of times with his longtime working partner Gene Siskel. Ebert has a curiosity and enthusiasm about the world, himself, other people and cinema which is contagious. In general, I think this book brings together Ebert's viewpoints and approach as much as much as a memoir can do. I recommend this.
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