"...And the Oscar for Best Documentary goes to....Life Itself, Directed by Steve James."
Richard Roeper said that Roger never spoke of a movie after they watched it and left it for the show. When they saw Monster, Ebert said "There is your Best Actress.". Well...here is your Best Documentary.
I will be completely honest in telling you that I have no idea how to write this review. No one should be able to tell you how they wrote it or how they judged it - because it was straight from the man who lived it. Life itself is Roger Ebert's life. Life itself is Steve James' documentary.
Roger documented so much of his life that all Steve James had to do was put it together and show us what Roger wanted us to see. This brilliant piece of work shows Roger Ebert narrating his own documentary thanks to the audio version of Life itself. It is tied together with Steve James gathering the characters from Roger Ebert's movie (his life) and getting them to talk about their performances in this man's film. Roger says, at the beginning of this film, that "he was thrown into the movie of his life"...and later people talk about him not just being a character in this film, but he is also the director. This movie (life) inspired a lot of people and truly made people understand film a lot more.
The brilliance of this documentary is the audio book of Life itself. This, to me, is the most important part. You are seeing these events in Roger's life happening and you are hearing about them, from him, years later in his life. You can't hear his tone, but you hear his words and every word has a meaning.
This film takes your before Roger Ebert, the film critic, and takes you to Roger the teenage writing prodigy that he was. You meet his friends in the newspaper game, you meet his adversaries in the newspaper game, you meet drunk Roger, sober Roger, asshole Roger, husband Roger, friend Roger, blogger Roger, deep friend Roger - You meet Roger Ebert.
Roger documented his life and obviously wanted to share his story. He trusted Steve James to do this. This story is not complete without what Steve did to get people that knew him to talk about their experiences. More importantly this movie would not exist if you did not feel that you were with Roger during the worst time possible for him health-wise, but one of the best times possible for his excitement. You are literally with him on his death bed with Chaz, and if you were a fan, it makes you that much closer to an idol and an icon.
This is a film that I will revisit at least once a year and ponder what he would have thought about films today. I watched Life itself on VOD and I know that Roger cherished films on the big screen, but this is how he would have watched it in his final days.
One of the biggest inspiration that Roger Ebert gave me was the E.T. affect. You can only have a first viewing of a movie that moves you one time and you can never get that feeling back. I can honestly say that I can watch Life itself again and still feel like a 12 year old watching Siskel and Ebert on television and being inspired.
He found his voice in film, he was the voice of film, and he lost his voice in film.
Hey. Roger, I'll see you at the movies.
VOD is brilliant as it gives you a chance to sit alone with the medium and truly be alone with it. Grab your headphones and your laptop and be alone.