My favorite Ebert reviews were for the films he frowned upon, because it always affirmed his resident-bad-ass status. For example, when Rob Schneider took out a full page ad in Daily Variety to attack the credentials of a film critic who bashed “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,” saying “He didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven’t invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who’s Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers,” Ebert boldly joined the battle, saying, “As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.” Another personal favorite involved Kick-Ass, with Roger Ebert’s negative review inspiring barbs about his age from the movie’s angry filmmakers. Ebert nutshelled his cutting response on twitter, simply saying, “Them: I was too old to get it. Me: My problem was that I got it.” And let’s not forget his infamous feud with Vincent Gallo, who called Ebert a “fat pig” in reaction to his negative take on ‘The Brown Bunny.” Ebert replied with a play on Winston Churchill, saying, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I shall be thin, and he will still be the director of ‘The Brown Bunny.'”
Though Roger Ebert allowed us into his life with movie reviews, blog posts, interviews, and his own television shows, ‘Life Itself,’ gives us a new look at the legend. Directed by Steve James, the film lets us in on the lighter side of Roger Ebert, with a beautiful glimpse at the love he shared with his wife, Chaz, who clearly kept him going during his more challenging days, which Ebert always met with joy. He poetically described her impact on his life, saying, “Her love was like a wing pushing me back from the grave.” We also get a window into his iconic partnership with Gene Siskel, with funny videos of their feud, which eventually transformed into a loving friendship.
There’s no doubt that Ebert’s life work is inspirational. But what’s more inspirational, is how he lived his life. He was happy in the face of great difficulty, he refused to let his illness define him, and even in the most physically challenging state, his family and his writing brought him joy. I feel grateful for this incredible glimpse into Roger Ebert’s life.
Watch the trailer below, and see the film on the big screen. That’s how Ebert would have wanted it.