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‘Life Itself’: a stirring tribute to Roger Ebert from the director of ‘Hoop Dreams’


The movies, Roger Ebert said, “are like a machine that generates empathy… It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” Life Itself, an engrossing new documentary based on Ebert’s memoir of the same name, inspires more than its share of empathy as it chronicles its subject’s final days. But the film by Hoop Dreams director Steve James also generates a sense of wonder. How did a chubby know-it-all from Urbana, Illinois, come through decades of alcoholism and loneliness to redefine film criticism and become one of the country’s greatest popular writers? The then-undistinguished job of film critic falls in his lap, and he throws himself into it, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975.

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