LIFE ITSELF – Review by Susan Granger

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Film critic Roget Ebert knew he wouldn’t live to see this documentary based on his 2011 memoir of the same name. In a particularly poignant scene, he tells director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) that he knows that his thyroid cancer has metastasized to his spine, saying, “It is likely I will have passed when the film is ready.” Indeed, Ebert died in April, 2013, at age 70. Read on…

Filmed during what would be the last five months of Ebert’s life, he reveals his regret that he never got to say goodbye to his contentious ‘frenemy’ Gene Siskel, who concealed his brain cancer diagnosis back in 1998 out of fear that Disney would replace him on ABC’s “Siskel & Ebert.” That affected Ebert so much that he was determined to not to make the same mistake, even though numerous surgical procedures left him without a lower jaw and unable to eat, drink or speak.

Ebert’s wife Chaz is equally forthcoming, admitting for the first time publicly that she met Roger at Alcoholics Anonymous, not at a Chicago restaurant where they were reportedly introduced by columnist Ann Landers. Chaz also reveals she was not aware that Roger had signed a “Do Not Resuscitate” order until the day of his death.

Beginning with Ebert’s definition of cinema as “a machine that generates empathy,” this biopic covers Ebert’s career and personal life – from his early days at the Chicago Sun-Times to his popular television show and his final years, when he enthusiastically continued to post reviews. While Ebert was both celebrated and criticized for his thumbs-up-or-down judgments, he was also the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. Included in this narrative are interviews with Ebert’s director friends Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, and Ramin Bahrani (“Man Push Cart,” “Chop Shop”), whom Ebert championed, along with critics A.O. Scott of the New York Times and Richard Corliss of Time magazine.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Life Itself” is an unflinching, engrossing 8, an inspirational tribute to America’s most influential film critic.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×
Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.