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LIFE ITSELF: A MEMOIR BY ROGER EBERT – “Aren’t They Those Two Guys?”

January 12, 2012

Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert, 2011

448 pages, Grand Central Publishing, 27.99

Usually our “butting heads” approach to books is pitting one of them against another, but in the case of this Roger Ebert autobiography, we thought it might be interesting to invite our movie review critics, John and his dog. Spanky, in from the other room to get their take.

JOHN: Well this long book has some ups and downs, mainly because I think a reader goes to it for some specific interest (behind the scenes on his relationship with Gene Siskel or Ebert’s take on famous movie directors) and then has to wade through the rest. I did find his Catholic upbringing (which parallels mine and Martin Scorsese’s—not to mention James Joyce’s) got me to thinking, but his stuff on being a “newspaper man,” true or not, just seems kowtowing to the old stereotypes.

There were a few surprises. Russ Meyer, for whom Ebert wrote “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” apparently was reliving his military experience with old cohorts on film locations—in any case it resulted in a suprpise ride for the author through the British rock ‘n roll scene. Siskel comes across as a very private person (and of course he died), which makes us cheer all the more for Roger’s wonderful wife, Chaz, who’s been so important to him through his bouts with cancer.

SPANKY:  Parts of this book, the star stuff—interviews with Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne—seem like filler to me. But when he gets to the directors…we get depth and insight. For me his sections on Scorsese, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman and Werner Herzog make this worth reading , and make their movies worth another viewing. For example, he mention that Robert Altman in his last picture, Prairie Home Companion, is really personified by Garrison Keillor in Keillor’s portrayal of himself. I watched the movie again with new eyes.

Ebert isn’t us, but at times he takes our place, giving us up-front details and behind the screen glimpses at the movies which have defined (his and) our lives.

Buy this book directly from Amazon for $13.95. Click here: Life Itself: A Memoir

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