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Showing 1-10 of 155 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 226 reviews
VINE VOICEon June 29, 2015
I spent many years going through Ebert's list of great movies and getting them on Netflix. He aided my cultural enrichment over the years. This book is much like this reviews: an honest accounting of what he feels and how he thinks. He's a great writer and vividly draws his life, especially the Normal Rockwell-esque Americana of his youth and his infatuation with London. You can see the highs as well as the lows.

I appreciate the story of a person who simply pursues something they love and finds a way to make it work. Ebert ended up being an all-time great movie critic not because he loved movies, but because he loved to write. Along the way, he fell in love. This is an interesting twist on the "do what you love" pablum so often handed out to young people. It's worth thinking about.

If I could critique, parts of the book are a bit scattershot, like the same stories being told in multiple sections. It almost reads like he repurposed some blog entries as chapters in the book. Of course, this is fine, as chapters are work and flow well (like, well, columns). The chapters on old stars like Lee Marvin and John Wayne may be lost on younger folk who found Ebert because of his website. The Russ Meyer chapter is great, although, of course, his work is downright tame compared to what we can get today within seconds. But that's the point. Ebert is an old-fashioned guy from a different world and a different time. Even then it's impressive how he leveraged the internet to gain a new audience - something only briefly touched upon here.
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on March 14, 2012
Seems strange to review Roger Ebert. He and Gene Siskel made watching the movies a little more fun and actually forced viewers to think about what they spent their money on. I am glad for that. I certainly see the whole process of film making entirely different now. But Roger is also an excellent writer, not only of reviews of the films but of life itself. If nothing else, Roger Ebert is honest. He had to be to face the demons and challenges in his personal life and if he weren't, I don't believe he would be here today. Roger takes us from his childhood in a typical religious educated family of the 1940's and Catholic schools into the 1950's segueing into his awakenings in collegiate life, to international travels and friends, where he experienced much wonder and much pain. So much of this life prepared him for successes including a Pulitzer prize, a very popular television show and fame as half the best movie reviewing couple in tv history. But along the way, came excesses including overeating and alcohol. Sometimes people have a cathartic moment or meeting and this happened to Roger. It was this person who prepared him for recovering from his excesses and gave him the ability to dig deep in his psyche to deal with what was to come health wise and for the loss of his business partner and friend Gene. You will laugh, roll your eyes, probably be stunned and read in awe, but mostly you will fly thru this book, feeling as if Roger is sitting in the room with you, telling you these tales as he would reveal them to a friend. I highly recommend this wonderful and accessible memoir and I hope Roger Ebert had another book of small treasures ahead. I don't think the stories will ever get old nor will he run out of them.
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on March 19, 2014
I don't recall when I discovered Siskel and Ebert...maybe when I was in college getting ready to go out for an evening of fun in D.C. It served as background patter until a very heated debate arose between them and after sitting down to see what "all the fuss was about", I was hooked. I was entranced by their passion - for all movies but some more than others. At that time they were the closest thing to a reality show that we had! They often agreed and a film would be blessed with the infamous " 2 THUMBS UP." The public trusted them because I think that they saw 2 very bright men who could dissect a film, plot, characters, director,and actors very quickly and succinctly and who could feel so strongly that they were able to drive each other into a frenzy. I learned a great deal from them both, about movies as well as about life. After Gene Siskel died, you could see that Roger still had movies to sustain him and even tried other partners. It wasn't the same. Nothing CAN stay the same. His memoir "Life Itself" taught me about things apart from films...His childhood, his happy marriage, and his grace when faced with health challenges that would have beaten down a lesser man. Those are the things I wanted to know more about. Roger Ebert brought the same passion to life as movies had brought to him. Please read this autobiography. He's worth it.
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on March 24, 2015
Being a Chicagoan, I clearly remember the days of Sneak Previews on WTTW and at the movies and all the rest. Personally I tended to follow Gene Siskel rather than Roger Ebert. I found that Ebert's reviews on occasion would include items that really did not have anything to do with the movie itself. But that is my personal opinion. I did enjoy them both on t.v. and their contrasting reviews. Some reviewers of this book said that there was some sections that should be skipped. Early days,growing up and some later toward the end of his life. At first I thought that some of the comments were suspect. If you are from the midwest or the Chicago area the early days are worth reading. The chapters toward the end...not so much. Yet if you are a fan of either one, it is worth reading. Probably the most amazing statement was that being a movie critic was basically dropped into his lap. Another comment is that I don't think that he really understood how much influence on popular culture that he really had.
Hey Roger, don't forget to save me an aisle seat.
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on October 20, 2011
I enjoyed listening to the CD on my drive. As other reviewers have stated he at times early on spent a lot of time going into his catholic personal history and upbringing. While I am not a catholic, it was informative as to how his religion shaped his ideas and his strong work ethic. It did seem to drone on a bit about how catholicism had helped him form his innate ability to have a critical eye in becoming a film critic, because it helped him develop a set of good core values to look appraisingly at the world and its films.

I loved his recounting his conversations with John Wayne and other well known actors of the time. I wish he had talked more about any encounters or interviews he might have had with George Lucas or Steven Spielberg as they are such icons in the history of the film world of today and the recent past. At times I thought he sounded a tad arrodite or as if he were above the fray, concerning some of the people and films he wrote about. Still, his amazing track record as a leading film critic have made him earn his stripes, and when he talks a lot of people like myself shut up and listen, because honestly, he has earned those stripes over time and having spent thousands of hours reviewing movies I might never see in my lifetime.

I grew up without a father, so hearing his story of how he was raised was touching. His upbringing and the lessons he garnered from both his mother and father were insightful. His observations about his past surgeries and how it has changed him, I also learned a good deal from. I am grateful he did take the time to explain how it changed his ability to communicate and how he does so now.

I appreciated hearing his reflections on how he was a social drinker, and yes, perhaps an alcoholic in his past and how that might have effected his take on the world at times and the people who were in and out of his life. Those kinds of introspections and then being able to talk them about helped show his past experiences have made him come "full circle" as he has. I like that he talked about being married to a woman who is savey, smart and one tough cookie who has hung with him, even during some of his toughest medical problems and surgeries. I was glad to see he transcended the race card and in so doing literally has enriched his past and current life.

Bottomline: It is a good book on tape to listen to if you have a 14 hour drive ahead of you. To the author and his lovely family, I say well done, well written, holding back hardly any punches and for having talked very well about, well, Life Itself... Thank you for having made 14 hours of life on the road a more tolerable and nicer place to be able to reflect on how lucky we are to have film critics like yourself and to be living the lives we now are. I appreciate more of what I have now, knowing the struggle yet ahead of me to overcome what ever life is going to be throwing at me. Sincerely, Adam Thomson, III
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VINE VOICEon July 25, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. Roger Ebert was a wonderful film critic and a gifted writer, as this book will attest.

What a life this man led. He lived large and loved even larger. Very interesting to read about the most important relationships in his life with his mercurial alcoholic mother, Gene Siskell and his wife, Chaz as well as his longest "relationship" with his journey of sobriety. He also tells with great courage and candor the story of his cancer and reconstructive facial surgeries - all of which will pretty much blow you away.

I would have given this book 5 stars, but I found myself rolling my eyes every time Ebert felt the need to use the label of "liberal" when describing a person of whom he approved or shared his life - which was at LEAST once in every other chapter.

I like to keep politics out of my recreational reading and cannot be alone in my weariness of celebrities casting their liberal labels (with the undertone of superiority and disapproval of anyone who doesn't agree with them); it ruins this reader's enjoyment of being a neutral participant of an otherwise really interesting and engaging book.

I have always enjoyed Ebert's insights and interviews and, despite this one irritant as a reader, enjoyed this book very much. I look forward to seeing the film of his life as well.
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on August 2, 2014
The structure of the book is a little bit jarring. You naturally assume that somebody's memoirs are going to be a linear timeline, but Ebert did something a little unusual, essentially dividing his entire life into categories and devoting a chapter to each category. It doesn't work as effectively as I think Ebert wanted--I think what throws you off is that the first few chapters DO follow a linear timeline, and then when he veers into the category structure, it takes you a few chapters to wrap your head around what he's doing.

Really, though, my only knock on the book is structure. Content leaves a reader wanting for nothing. He's frank and blunt, even when he is his own subject (he delves into his own medical history and blames himself for his impending demise from cancer, and is humble enough to admit that partner/rival Gene Siskel adapted to television much better than he did). It's honest, it's touching, it's sincere, it's introspective, it's insightful. It's everything.
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on July 30, 2014
Ebert's writing style is almost stream of consciousness. He jumps back and forth from past to present and from one part of his past to another part of the past. Yet, once you accept how he writes, it's a fun read. I trusted Roger Ebert's reviews because he gave thumbs up to "popcorn movies" if they were done well, and thumbs down to artsy films if they were done poorly. And, he was a scholar of the film industry. I grew up a few miles from Roger's home town and went to the University of Illinois a few years after him and it was fun reading about buildings, bars, professors, etc. that I knew. He mentioned that he witnessed a local actor kiss another man and he and all his "bohemian" friends were shocked. I was in a play with that actor. I struggled to continue reading when he began to describe his battles with cancer, but he wrote with such grace that I was uplifted. Even though Roger died far too soon, he lived an incredibly rich life. I miss him.
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on June 16, 2012
It's clear, from reading Roger Ebert's superb memoirs, just how much his embracing of blogging has really affected his writing - and that's not a bad thing. Life Itself is organized into short chapters that each focus on a specific theme, person, or period of Ebert's life, and the result is a remarkably accessible and entertaining read, one that covers everything from Ebert's childhood to his marriage to his cancer diagnosis and beyond, ultimately ending with his thoughts about death and his own mortality. Anyone who reads Ebert's reviews knows that his writing is a joy, and Life Itself is no exception; it's incredibly warm and funny, and Ebert's love and passion for the things he writes about - be they film, his wife, travel, or the mentors in his life - shines through on every page. Just as effective, though, is his genuine and open emotional honesty; whether discussing his alcoholism or his relationship with the late Gene Siskel, Ebert's book reads like someone who has made a conscious decision to hold nothing back. The end result is one of the most enjoyable, entertaining, accessible, joyous, and moving memoirs I've had the pleasure or reading. I've always been a fan of Ebert's work, and his memoirs only show just how much talent and craft he brings to his prose. Life Itself is the story of an incredibly fascinating life, and it's told by a man who brings absolute joy and passion to every word. I can't recommend it enough.
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on April 30, 2015
Ebert wrote a very reflective and introspective memoir, candidly revealing and addressing the hard parts of his life. The detail with which he recalls and describes his travel and conversations is remarkable and brings to life the many places he's walked and people he's known. You are left understanding not only why Ebert was such a successful film critic but the extent to which he immersed himself in learning. His deep examination of dining and speech was remarkable, revealing our most fundamental human desire to socialize. And his way of reconciling this loss by elevating his ability to think more deeply, internalizing the conversations he can still hear, was inspiring. Great read!
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