I tend toward constant vacillation (and I say that chagrined, not bragging) so I really wanted to see Life Itself when the doc news was first revealed. But typically, in the lag time between announcing and screening, I started to dread the gruesome medical procedure discussed by the director on an NPR feature.
Yet, I am so glad I went anyways. Part of what drew me was Ebert’s insistence to have Steve James direct due to his love of James’s Hoop Dreams from 1995. While James made the map most recently with The Interrupters in 2011, he is not the most famous director to choose for your walk off the planet life story.
But as proof to Ebert’s keen expertise Life Itself is gorgeously organized and filmed! While I never want to to ruin the surprise elements of anecdotes, I think telling my strongest epiphany won’t be a ‘spoiler’.
Anyone in the 29th year of the same career (23 years in the same building, a vindication to my self-deprecating vacillation intro) certainly has a touch of jaded cynicism. I still love my students and obsess about ways to help them learn, but this documentary reminded me that my encouragement, like Roger Ebert’s was to Scorsese, can be life altering to anyone at life’s crucial tipping point. In fact, we can each be kind mentors to each other, encouraging creativity and nurturing confidence.
According to the film’s recent Scorsese interview, Scorsese went through a rather cocaine infused confidence crisis in the 80’s. Ebert’s faith in him and his insistence that Scorsese go with him to the Toronto Film Fest during this dark period, saved Scorsese’s career.
I actually hope to buy the dvd for Christmas gifts, if the sale date coincides with the holidays. Roger Ebert’s evolution from selfish writer to ‘pay it forward’ Buddha is truly heroic.