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Critics Consensus: Rich in detail and warmly affectionate, Life Itself offers a joyful yet poignant tribute to a critical cinematic legacy.

Critics Consensus: Rich in detail and warmly affectionate, Life Itself offers a joyful yet poignant tribute to a critical cinematic legacy.

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Critic Consensus: Rich in detail and warmly affectionate, Life Itself offers a joyful yet poignant tribute to a critical cinematic legacy.

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Critic Reviews for Life Itself

With Ebert’s blessing and encouragement, Life Itself is a warts-and-all look at how the son of an Illinois electrician and housewife became a prolific writer who spent 46 years as the film critic at the Chicago Sun Times.

What comes through most in Life Itself, a film named after Ebert’s 2011 memoir, is his great, open-minded vigor.

If you aren’t moved by Life Itself, you ought to have your heart examined.

The film’s core is footage shot during the last four months of Ebert’s life, when he had lost most of his jaw and was unable to eat or speak. It’s hard to see him in this state, which makes his frequent cheerfulness and humor all the more remarkable.

No less than James’s capital punishment documentary At the Death House Door, this asks us to think long and hard about what it means to die with dignity.

That [Siskel and Ebert] weren’t very nice to each other might be the too-easy takeaway of outtakes of their on-set interactions. James allows that relationship to be more complicated and vital.

My only complaint about the expansive, emotional documentary “Life Itself,” about legendary film critic Roger Ebert, is that you really can’t complain about it.

A celebration of the life of the most important film critic of the past 50 years, a man of the people as well as a film connoisseur.

. a revelation, an approach to the life of a fascinating man we only knew through his work. [Full review in Spanish]

While Life Itself falls more into the category of “posthumous celebration” than “in-depth documentary,” it does an excellent job of painting a visual portrait of a man who was often polarizing, yet almost universally admired.

In [Steve] James’ affectionate telling, Ebert’s life, itself, was bountiful indeed.

Life Itself is the kind of film that reminds you why you love the movies.

Audience Reviews for Life Itself

A beautiful tribute to a brilliant writer and inspiring man who was one of the most influential movie critics of all time, showing us his indisputable importance for the Seventh Art, his genius and flaws, and his touching fight with cancer, all in a very honest, unsentimental way.

A wonderfully poignant documentary in which Ebert’s deep love for family, life, and the movies is illuminated through the screen. The movie critic icon would not have wanted his story told any other way.

One of the major things that I was worried about, when seeing this documentary, was whether the director would be able to show the distinct and complex life of Roger Ebert. There were many stages in the evolutions in his life: from experienced newspaperman, to loving husband, to cancer patient. The man helped change the world of film criticism, and was a personal hero and voice of reason for many budding critics. The film tells the unique story of Ebert’s rise to prominence, his presence in the public eye, and his illness, which would eventually take his life. This film does complete and honest justice to the memory of a great man, while also showing his pettiness, his garrulousness, and his affinity for feeling self-important. This is a film that shows a side of the famous scribe that not everyone has seen before, which is always refreshing when dealing with a very famous subject. Beautiful in many ways, this is a must see film for all film lovers.

A wonderful depiction of a man we thought of as the slightly grumpy uncle who visits our homes each week — with his warts and all. The film was informative with great access to the people who could best tell us about Roger Ebert’s life and person. Ebert and his family showed unflagging honesty and strength, even about the most painful and personal issues the audience might want to know about. The director has a talent for obtaining exceptionally personal stories and candid remembrances from those who knew him — something I doubt many filmmakers could have achieved, and the reason this documentary is worth 5 stars. It may have been his final curtain call, but damn! What a show Ebert gave us.

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Life Itself

The only thing Roger Ebert loved more than movies

The award-winning documentary film on Roger Ebert.

Life Itself

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Based on his bestselling memoir of the same name, Life Itself, explores the impact and legacy of Roger Ebert’s life, from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism at the Chicago Sun-Times to becoming one of the most influential cultural voices in America.

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a KARTEMQUIN FILMS and FILM RITES production in association with KATLEI PRODUCTIONS a film by STEVE JAMES LIFE ITSELF post-production supervisor RYAN GLEESON edited by DAVID E SIMPSON STEVE JAMES music by JOSHUA ABRAMS cinematographer DANA KUPPER co-producers EMILY HART MARK MITTEN JOSH SCHOLLMEYER supervising producers CNN Films COURTNEY SEXTON LIZZIE KERNER executive producers CNN Films VINNIE MALHORTA AMY ENTELIS executive producers MARTIN SCORSESE STEVEN ZAILLIAN MICHAEL W. FERRO, JR GORDON QUINN JUSTINE NAGAN KAT WHITE MARK MITTEN
produced by ZAK PIPER STEVE JAMES GARRETT BASCH directed by STEVE JAMES

‘Life Itself’ Trailer: Dan Fogelman Brings Emotion To Big Screen In All-Star Multigenerational Drama

The first full trailer for the Dan Fogelman-directed Life Itself has dropped its first full trailer and it will more than likely have you all up in your feelings.

Fogelman is best known for the tearjerking hit NBC series This Is Us so it only makes sense that he would translate that on to the big screen with the Amazon Studios multigenerational family drama. As seen in the trailer above, it is almost guaranteed that you will be grabbing for the tissues at multiple moments of his movie.

The story follows a New York couple that goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child. The movie follows the unexpected twists of their journey and how they create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes. Life Itself examines the perils and rewards of everyday life in a multigenerational saga featuring an all-star acting ensemble including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Olivia Cooke, Sergio Peris- Mencheta, Laia Costa, Alex Monner and Mandy Patinkin.

Life Itself opens in theaters September 21.

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Movie Review: Life Itself

Movie Review: Life Itself

There’s another movie I’d wanted to see about the life of Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun Times movie critic and part of the Sneak Previews duo with Gene Siskel from the Chicago Tribune. Their syndicated movie review show ran for years and I always enjoyed their insights and recommendations. Their combative style and adversarial natures were fun to watch, both cocky and sure that their opinion was the absolute right one; each jockeying to get in the LAST WORD! As a movie buff, I have them to thank for many of the movies I’ve seen and have been alerted to – always knowing that a “two thumbs up” meant GO and SEE it!

It was sad seeing Roger’s debilitated state at the end, losing nearly his whole throat and jaw to cancer, his lower face almost tragically comical in expression. Gene died a decade before of cancer, in his early 50s. Through it all, Roger’s mind was certainly unimpaired and with a keyboard to communicate, he lasted through a lot – more than I think I would have. He found love late in live (at 50) and had nearly 20 years with his darling (Chaz), who he had met at A.A. – and he reminded us all to enjoy every moment. “See you at the movies!” was one of his final missives. Indeed. The final words from Chaz about the moment of his passing were quite heartfelt and touching – the pain and helplessness and final release of someone beloved to you. To the haunting sounds of Dave Brubeck, surrounded by hands joined in love, they let him go. Death is still jarring and shocking and surprising! But, it was nice to see it portrayed with such grace, dignity and LOVE.


How far the cinema has progressed since his first foray at review writing in the 60s – amazing! I’m reminded of how powerful and long lasting and touching creatives can be – whether it’s through the movies, through art, through writing. I’ll probably never be in a movie – but writing or creating art? I can do that. This has inspired me to start writing/blogging again. Things that last long after you’re gone and make someone’s life a bit happier, it’s all good. Make it so.

‘Life Itself’ Trailer: Check Out the Roger Ebert Documentary By Steve James

Posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 by Germain Lussier

“A vast, entertaining and thought-provoking look at Roger Ebert the man and icon.” That’s how I described Steve James‘ documentary Life Itself when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Now you can see some of that film for yourself.

Based on Ebert’s autobiography of the same name, the documentary tells Ebert’s life story via the framework of our own love of the movies. James, who is best known for Hoop Dreams, takes great care to specifically illustrate not only how Ebert changed the face of film criticism, but how he helped us all discover our own passion for the movies.

Magnolia picked up the film out of the festival and is bringing it to theaters and on demand on July 4. Now, the first Life Itself trailer has been released. Check it out. Read More »

‘Life Itself’ Poster: Roger Ebert Keeps His Gaze on the Screen

Posted on Monday, May 12th, 2014 by Russ Fischer

The release of the new Life Itself poster is as good a reason as any to talk about the film. Hoop Dreams director Steve James adapts the book by the late Roger Ebert to create a vivid, detailed, and moving portrait of the film critic. Life Itself is not wide-eyed deification, but a clear-minded portrait of Ebert that is both funny and unflinching. It’s a great film that champions Ebert’s vision of film and writing as a means to reach other people, moreso than the simple data of his life-long tenure as a film critic. It’s a film worth seeing. For now, see the poster below. Read More »

Magnolia Will Distribute Roger Ebert Doc ‘Life Itself’

Posted on Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Germain Lussier

One of the best films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Steve James‘ documentary about film critic Roger Ebert Life Itself, has just been picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures. The company reportedly beat out several suitors including IFC, Oscilloscope and The Weinstein Company. They’re looking at a summer theatrical and on-demand release followed by a screening on CNN.

Roger Ebert Doc ‘Life Itself’ Starts IndieGoGo Campaign Allowing Early Viewings for Fans

Posted on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Germain Lussier

Steve James‘ documentary Life Itself, about the life of film critic Roger Ebert, is well into post-production. It looks as if the film will be finished early in 2014 and, to simultaneously help raise the final funds to finish the film as well as allow fans to see it early, the production has started an IndieGoGo campaign.

You can find the link to the IndieGoGo here. For as low as $25, you’ll get a link allowing you to stream the movie once it’s finished and well before the theatrical release. With a higher donation, you can attend live screenings, visit the editing room, and much more. All funds raised in the next month (they’re aiming at $150,000) will go towards post-production items such as original music, animation and graphics, color correction, audio mixing, music licensing and archival footage. Read More »

Steve James Vows To Finish ‘Life Itself,’ The Roger Ebert Documentary

Posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2013 by Germain Lussier

Despite the terrible news of legendary film critic Roger Ebert‘s passing, the film about the man himself will go on. Steve James, the Oscar-nominated director of Hoop Dreams, took to Twitter to tell everyone that despite the tragic news, he and producers Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian will finish Life Itself, a documentary on the life of Roger Ebert based on his memoir of the same title.

We are devastated. But we will continue. We will finish the film.

— Life Itself (@EbertMovie) April 4, 2013

Zaillian, James and Scorsese optioned the memoir in 2012 and have been working on the documentary ever since; up until this point, they’ve been working with Ebert’s full cooperation. Read More »

Roger Ebert’s Memoir Optioned by Steve James and Steven Zaillian; Martin Scorsese To Produce

Posted on Friday, September 7th, 2012 by Germain Lussier

The world’s most famous film critic is having a documentary made about him by some of the most famous filmmakers around. Documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) have optioned the rights to Ebert’s 2011 memoir, Life Itself. Martin Scorsese will executive produce. Read more after the jump. Read More »

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Today’s Song: Glass Animals and the Meaning of “Life Itself”

Be like them, lean back and breathe

A long time ago, I learned to not take artists’ descriptions of their own music at face value. Firstly, there is always more to art than words alone can capture – hence the reason the artist creates that music in the first place; it should be allowed to speak for itself. Secondly, sharing full meanings completely breaks that fourth wall, taking away from any mystery or individual interpretation of the music. Listen to any Beatles interview from the 1960s and you’ll find they never revealed the true stories and meanings behind their songs: By and large, they left things to the listener’s imagination. As a result, we’ve been analyzing and reanalyzing those songs for over fifty years!

Likewise, when Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley says the group’s catchy new song “Life Itself” is about a “guy who was born a bit strange, and struggles to become part of society. Because of that, he spends more time alone in his own head, getting stranger, and it becomes an awful cycle of doom,” I must take his words with a healthy degree of skepticism.

That’s not because they’re not true; I do not doubt Bayley’s concise, blog-friendly description of his music. However, there is more to Glass Animals and “Life Itself” than meets the eye – certainly more than Bayley is willing to divulge to the average listener.

Daddy was dumb said that I’d be something special
Brought me up tough but I was a gentle human
Said that he loved each of my two million freckles
When I grew up was gonna be a superstar

I can’t get a job so I live with my mom
I take her money but not quite enough
I sit in the car and I listen to static
She said I look fat but I look fantastic

Watch: “Life Itself” – Glass Animals

The lyrics to “Life Itself” read like a memoir: Indeed, the narrator does seem to be destined for a “cycle of doom” as Bayley relates a tale of innumerable struggles: Never living up to one’s parent’s expectations; unfit for work; staying at home with one’s mother; waking up in strange places.

How to Be a Human Being – Glass Animals

Of course, I say these are “struggles” because that is how I perceive them. What makes “Life Itself” so special is the fact that it is delivered as the subject’s personal account of himself; facts and feelings dance together in this story fit for a therapist’s couch, but remorse about the situation is not one of those feelings. In fact, the narrator strictly denies outside influence and critique through the pre-chorus line, “She said I look fat but I look fantastic.”

Life is a personal journey; we see ourselves and our experiences differently from how we see others and their experiences. Social psychology teaches much about the differences in perception: The fundamental attribution error (also known as the “correspondence bias”) relates a tendency, when explaining another’s behavior, to place inappropriate emphasis on internal (dispositional – trait/ability-based) characteristics, rather than on external (situational) factors. Essentially, we are more likely to judge someone else’s actions based on who they are rather than what they’re going through, whereas we are more likely to judge our own actions based on what we’re going through. Thus, one look at a homeless person is enough to assume he or she messed up in life; all we know is what we see, though. We don’t really know the truth. One cannot turn off correspondence bias and dispositional vs situational thinking, but one can learn to monitor one’s interpersonal judgments and assumptions about others.

I’m waking up, lost in boxes outside Tesco
Look like a bum sipping codeine Coca-Cola
Thought that I was northern Camden’s own Flash Gordon
Sonic ray gun, gonna be a superstar

When listening to “Life Itself” for the first, second and third time, one generally jumps to conclusions about this character who sits in the car and listens to static, “waking up lost in boxes outside Tesco.” Those reactions are entirely warranted – even the narrator is aware of these externally-perceived shortcomings. Something’s up – a lack of ambition, perhaps? He certainly lives in dreams that don’t correlate to reality, but there’s more to this song than the narrator’s individual actions. Only upon detaching one’s own expectations and relying solely on Glass Animals to paint a narrative can the song’s deeper meanings take shape.

A Conversation with Glass Animals: The Musician’s Guide to Human Beings

We can learn a lot once we stop and listen. Consider the chorus:

Come back down to my knees
Gotta get back, gotta get free
Come back down to my knees
Be like them, lean back and breathe

Being on one’s knees is a position symbolic of begging, but the urgency in Bayley’s voice suggests different intent. “Gotta get back, gotta get free,” he projects, exhibiting internal desire for release. “Be like them, lean back and breathe.” Take all these external pressures, roll them into a ball, and throw that ball away. As individuals, we face and deal with our individual problems on a daily basis. When we see others, we don’t typically see them for all their individual problems. We assume that others (“be like them”) are better at handling their situations (“lean back and breathe”) than we are at handling our situations. Weighed down with expectations and judgments from everyone around him, the main character expresses a wish to “shrug it off,” so-to-speak, but evidently has trouble doing so.

Nevertheless, that’s the goal: To try to live a life unburdened by societal pressures. To take it all in, and flush it all away. Is it a particularly healthy way to go about life? We may not be at liberty to make that judgment.

Screenshot from Glass Animals’ “Life Itself” music video

Glass Animals avoid taking sides on “Life Itself,” leaving any verdict or conclusions about the narrator’s story strictly up to the listener. Plenty of questions arise as a result: Are Glass Animals serious about this person’s story? Alternatively, do they intend to portray it in a jovial manner? Is it supposed to be comical? Does this person care about his situation? Does he want to improve?

Perhaps Glass Animals just want to present an unabridged tale of “Life Itself.”

Maybe this specific story is exaggerated, but suppose it isn’t? “Life Itself” can be interpreted as a snapshot of life, in some shape or form. It’s a naked truth – a truth our family-oriented, G-rated society so often attempts to shield its eyes from, or “fix” blindly so as to avoid confrontation. One anonymous comment posted in response to the song lyrics reads, “I’m autistic, and I’m having trouble with employment. This song sounds like it’s about me.” The band couldn’t ask for a more powerful reception.

In many ways, “Life Itself” is a song for the “underdogs” (a privileged word) of society – the shunned-from-conventional-life minority, some of whom brought themselves to that place, others of whom had little control over their fate. Glass Animals have the flexibility to accommodate both groups under their umbrella: Their message can speak to (and for) those who are struggling to fit in, as well as those who couldn’t care less. Either way, this song is a mantra and an anthem: “Life Itself” is about embracing yourself for who you are, and not for what society sees you to be.

Glass Animals © Neil Krug

Glass Animals made a nosedive into the human psyche on “Life Itself” and came out with moving results. Their forthcoming sophomore album How to Be a Human Being, out August 26 via Wolf Tone and Caroline International, reflects an anchoring on the band’s part to focus more on human elements in their subject matter than they did on 2014’s “exotic” debut record Zaba. In fact, many of Dave Bayley’s lyrical ideas came from live recordings of people saved on his phone, as though he’d been operating as some sort of “roaming journalist,” according to the band’s press release. “I try to sneakily record people, and I have hours and hours of these amazing rants from taxi drivers, strange people we met outside of shows, people at parties. People say the strangest shit when they don’t think they’re ever gonna see you again,” says the Glass Animals frontman.

“Life Itself” marks a big step for Glass Animals as the critically-acclaimed band discovers a new way to connect with its audience. It’s a fresh showing from a group celebrated largely for its music – and now, for its lyrics. “Life Itself” is certainly open to interpretation: Rather than evoking strong standalone emotions, Glass Animals’ new single implores us to think about how we see others differently from how we see ourselves, and to celebrate ourselves for who we are. “Keep calm and carry on,” as the saying goes.

In retrospect, Dave Bayley isn’t wrong in describing this song as being about a “guy who was born a bit strange,” but we can certainly learn a lot more from “Life Itself” if we peak below its surface. Thankfully, a full instruction guide is on its way.

Get ready for How to Be a Human Being, and catch Glass Animals on their 2016 tour!

How to Be a Human Being – Glass Animals (out 8/26 via Wolf Tone / Caroline International)

Connect with Glass Animals on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover more new music on Atwood’s Picks

:: Glass Animals :: Tour 2016 ::

06/15 – London, UK @ ICA
06/16 – Hilvarenbeek, NL @ Best Kept Secret Festival
06/20 – Berlin, DE @ Kantine Am Berghain
07/01 – Marmande, FR @ Garorock Festival
07/05 – Melborune, AU @ 170 Russell
07/06 – Melborune, AU @ 170 Russell
07/07 – Brisbane, AU @ The Triffid
07/09 – Sydney, AU @ Metro Theatre
07/15 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
07/16 – Birmingham, AL @ Sloss Music & Arts Festival
07/17 – Kansas City, MO @ KRBZ Beach Ball
07/18 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Criterion Theater
07/20 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
07/22 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
07/23 – Detroit, MI @ Mo Pop Festival
07/24 – Toronto, ON @ WayHome Music & Arts Festival
08/07 – Oxfordshire, UK @ Wilderness Festival 08/19 – Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
09/03 – Laois, IE @ Electric Picnic
09/24 – Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz
09/25 – Washington, DC @ Echostage
09/26 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
09/28 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
09/29 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
09/30 – Boston, MA @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
10/01 – Ithaca, NY @ State Theater
10/05 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Riverside
10/06 – Chicago, IL @ The Riv
10/07 – Minneapolis, MN. @ Myth
10/11 – Seattle, WA @ Paramount
10/12 – Vancouver, BC @ Queen Elizabeth Theater
10/13 – Portland, OR. @ Schnitzer
10/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Greek

Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York’s many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch’s words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com

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Life Itself – Teaser Trailer | Amazon Studios


One Day Official Trailer #1 – (2011) HD


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