Life Itself: A sweet memoir by film critic Roger Ebert for himself as much as us

I picked up Life Itself wanting to learn more about the film industry and what makes a good movie. However, only a small part of the memoir covers these topics. The majority of it covers people involved in Ebert’s life.

It was interesting learning about the idiosyncrasies of industry pros like John Wayne, Woody Allen, and Martin Scorsese; less interesting learning about Ebert’s drinking buddies and distant relatives.

Life Itself does a good job of preserving Ebert’s memory, a mediocre job of entertaining a hobbyist film buff like me. I learned a lot about Ebert’s life, only a little about film. But that’s what a memoir is: A story about someone’s life. So I can’t be disappointed, especially because Ebert seemed like a genuine man.

He did what he loved doing: covering the beat and writing, which makes this a must-read for journalists who love movies.

As a young journalist, Ebert was given the opportunity to write film reviews and seized it, not expecting greatness. However, he naturally achieved it by staying true to his craft and finding ways to do his job well. He didn’t merely interview movie people; he looked for the truth in them. To do this, he listened.

It seems like he was always destined to be a listener. He might have even been the best one ever, which didn’t change after surgeries literally left him speechless. And maybe it hasn’t still. Maybe he’s still listening.

As an atheist, he would call this fantasy, but maybe you believe he is. Believe it if it brings you joy, he would say. He was a sweet and understanding man and part of my childhood.

I believe writing this book helped Ebert live after his surgeries. And because he was a professional writer in a rare, reflective state, he was able to help himself while producing something special for us.

Ebert is still here in this book, in his reviews, and in the people he knew.  He helped me further understand this concept of life.

I’m glad I read this book.

Quotes about life

To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world.

I wondered if perhaps the person we are in school is the person we will always be, despite everything else that comes our way. All that changes is that slowly we become more aware of what matters in life.

Quotes about a movie

One of the most noble undertakings in the history of the cinema is Michael Apted’s “Up Series” of documentaries, which begins with a group of British seven-year-old, and revisits them every seven years.

Something funny Siskel told Ebert

Roger, when I need to amuse myself, I stroll down the sidewalk reflecting that every person I pass thought they looked just great when they walked out of their house that morning.

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