First show: July 25
“Richly satisfying. Engrossing, unflinching, moving and comprehensive. An astute and sensitive account of a fully realized man and a life overflowing with abundance and achievement. James has done a wonderful job of telling a colorful life story.”– Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
In 2013, we lost Roger Ebert—arguably the nation’s best-known and most influential movie critic. Based on his memoir of the same name, Life Itself recounts Ebert’s fascinating and flawed journey—from politicized school newspaperman, to Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, to Pulitzer Prize winner, to television household name, to the miracle of finding love at 50, and finally his “third act” as a major voice on the Internet when he could no longer physically speak.
(His TV shows could literally make or break smaller pictures and Roxie Releasing, the daring distribution sister company of the Roxie Theater, like many other independent distributors, benefited both from Ebert’s approachability, as well as his willingness to give equal weight to small art films. Siskel & Ebert reviews were integral to the success of the biggest Roxie Releasing hits.)
Filmmaker Steve James masterfully uncovers the snags and strains hidden under Ebert’s prominence, including his battle with alcohol; his ongoing, sometimes ruthless, conflict with fellow critic Gene Siskel; and scorching debates among film critics about whether their television show reduced criticism to “consumer advice.” Ebert bridged high and low culture, defending film as a populist medium even as he championed films that challenged mainstream aesthetics and expectations. Insisting on bare honesty, Life Itself is as much a love letter to Ebert as it is an expression of Ebert’s own love—for his family, humanity in general, and, of course, the movies. – Caroline Libresco, Sundance. Directed by Steve James. With Roger Ebert and Chaz Ebert. Digital. 2014. 116 mins.
LIFE ITSELF: Upcoming Showtimes