The Films of Steve James
Joe and Max
No Crossover: The Trial Of Allen Iverson
Life Itself (January 27/14)
A fascinating, poignant documentary, Life Itself explores the life and career of iconic film critic Roger Ebert - as director Steve James details Ebert's early days as a student reporter right through to his well-publicized battle with cancer. James has clearly been given incredible access into his subject's day-to-day life - ie the movie follows Ebert as he deals with a variety of medical issues - and it's worth noting that the film is, as a result, occasionally quite difficult to watch. (There is, for example, a squirm-inducing sequence in which Ebert's air tube is cleaned out.) For the most part, however, Life Itself comes off as an engrossing look back at the various milestones in Ebert's career - with, of course, the highlight being his storied partnership with Gene Siskel. Rather than rely purely on clips to tell the tale, James offers up a variety of intriguing interviews with some of the folks that knew Ebert best - including friends, colleagues, and wife Chaz. It's in James' conversations with the latter that Life Itself receives much of its emotional potency, and it's worth noting, too, that the movie grows more and more heartbreaking as it approaches its inevitable conclusion. The end result is a frequently riveting piece of work that's sure to leave both fans and neophytes alike satisfied, with the movie ultimately standing as a lasting testament to Ebert's indelible impact on the world of film criticism and cinema in general.