Roger Ebert is one of those film critics that has me looking forward to bad movies. Upon first stink of an upcoming dud, I begin to anticipate Ebert’s review, his takes on the story’s absurdity or the director’s incompetence. His pans are not mean-spirited, typically. But they are funny.
About Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992), he wrote: “Columbus encounters friendly Indians, of which one—the chief's daughter—is positioned, bare-breasted, in the center of every composition. (I believe the chief's daughter is chosen by cup size.) Columbus sails back to Europe and the story is over. Another Columbus movie is promised us this fall. It cannot be worse than this. I especially look forward to the chief's daughter.” For Stargate (1994), Ebert opined, “It is also the kind of movie where the sun god Ra, who has harnessed the ability to traverse the universe at the speed of light, still needs slaves to build his pyramids.” And for The Brown Bunny (2003), about which the critic engaged in a very public conflict with its director, who called Ebert a fat pig, he wrote “I will one day be thin, but Vincent Gallo will always be the director of The Brown Bunny.”
Though bad movies are not the subject of Ebert’s latest book, I looked forward to Life Itself with equal anticipation, a memoir reflecting the casual structure, witty observations and sharp writing of his movie reviews. Ebert seems to touch upon all elements of his life here, from growing up in a small town, getting hired at the Chicago Sun-Times and dealing with alcoholism to his encounters with film greats, disagreements with Gene Siskel and a battle with thyroid cancer. It’s a smartly written work that will pass the time nicely until the next cinematic turkey is released.