A confession: a lot of the time, I don’t feel like I deserve to sit here and write about movies. I’m pretty green and I go with my gut and I have no editor and hardly anyone reads these things to begin with. So, why bother? I’ll watch a film and think, “I should write about that.” Then, I don’t. And, when I do, I get barely 250 words out of the thousand or so I could have managed the moment the film ended. I have to decide if this is something I want to pursue fully, or to give in to my propensity to half-ass things after I get to a certain point of familiarity with them. This introspection is fully due to catching Life Itself on Netflix today. There is no way to review this movie. It’s far too personal in it’s story to engage it as simply a film. Instead, I’ll spend the remaining words I have in me about it to say that Roger Ebert really impacted my life, even though I never met the man.
As a kid, I would watch At The Movies with my father. I grew to appreciate film from that show. There was no internet. We didn’t live in Chicago. All I got was watching these two guys always
fighting talking passionately about their experience with whatever movie they had seen. It was a riot. It’s no coincidence that this bonding time with my dad shaped this part of me as an adult. I don’t express it nearly enough, since, as an adult, our life ideologies have landed on opposite sides of the spectrum, but it’s very true that I’m thankful that my father gave me the gift of loving movies. And part of that gift was seeing a fat guy like me on tv often eloquently fighting discussing his opinion about how he related to a film. It took me until very recently to realize that “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” was never a symbol of quality so much as a symbol of relation. Sure, there are objectively “bad” movies. And those would inevitably earn the dreaded down. But, something I believe in more and more is that movies affect all people in different ways. There are absolutely some universally enjoyable films. You’d have to be an alien to despise something like The Iron Giant or Raiders Of The Lost Ark. However, it’s equally true that some movies are great, but I never want to see them again(looking at you, Million Dollar Baby). The reason is simple: films are all about relativity. They exist as an acceptable lie. We are willingly deceived by them to sometimes great or sometimes terrible effect. Jurassic Park continues to thrill 20 years later, knowing dinosaurs do not currently(some exceptions apply) inhabit earth. Why couldn’t they just have left The Thing alone? Of course, these are just my simple opinions. I’m sure someone can and probably will disagree. Which is really the beauty of this artform. In Life Itself, there’s a moment where Roger is saying that the music critic from the Sun-Times who sits at the desk across from him was fawned over and held in a awestruck regard because he was so completely awesome at criticizing music or whatever and the same person doing all the oozing would turn to him and say his opinion of whatever film was worthless. While that’s a real mean thing to say to a man’s face, the hidden truth in it is that movies are for everyone. We claim them. We react to them in a unique way that transcends “like” or “dislike.” They pull us into their world and for 2 hours let us experience something outside ourselves that can feel intimate. It’s not mere entertainment. Moving pictures are our cave paintings. They are our Rembrandts and Michelangelos. They tell our story. They can inspire our greatest joy or our enduring regret. There is nothing quite like The Movies. Roger Ebert died in 2013, and in nearly two years, no one has risen to take his place because of one simple fact: no one can. If you adore film and all it’s flavors, I can’t recommend Life Itself enough.