1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Movie critic Ebert reflects on ‘Life Itself’

  1. Closed captioning of: Movie critic Ebert reflects on ‘Life Itself’

    >>> a personal look at the life of one of the best-known film critics of our time. roger ebert is out with a new autobiography and natalie sat down with him recently.

    >> good morning to you, matt. roger ebert 's battle with thyroid cancer left him without his jaw and the ability to speak and eat. but he has not lost his voice as america's most beloved and prominent film critic and now blogger. in fact he's busier than ever with a new memoir called "life itself."

    >> at that moment i was thinking i don't like it.

    >> they were the famed duo that gave us the trademarked, thumb's up or thumb's down at "at the movies."

    >> initially, roger ebert and gene siskel were film critics . they were stars, their routine became legendary.

    >> we have to review the character on the screen, gene, not your theories about what these guys are like.

    >> but it came to a saddened when gene siskel died of cancer in 1999 . three years later, ebert was diagnosed with thyroid and salivary gland cancer. the disease took his lower jaw and his ability to speak, eat and drink.

    >> top on my list is " citizen cane ." now he speaks through alex, his computer-generated voice. we sat down to talk about his new memoir, "life itself."

    >> you did not know at the time that you had thyroid cancer , that you would never be able to speak again. as you began to realize that, what went through your mind?

    >> there was never a time when anyone told me i would never speak again. naturally, i felt awful. but i had to accept reality.

    >> a reality that included a new voice. and when ebert blogs, over 100 million people are reading. no surprise, last year, he was awarded a webby for person of the year.

    >> the conversations that you have with your readers online, writing your blogs, how much is that like sitting down at the dinner table with you, roger ebert ?

    >> with facebook, twitter and the comments on my blog, i feel i'm involved in an actual conversation with me, the social media really are social.

    >> but his bluntness online took some heat this summer, after "jackass" star, ryan dunn 's deadly crash. dunn had posted this photo of himself drinking before the accident. ebert tweeted -- friends don't let jackasses drink and drive. he later explained in his blog, i was probably too quick to tweet. but recently told us, the tweet was the truth. for ebert , honesty is the best policy. even when it's about his own appearance.

    >> you say the best thing that happened to you was when they showed a full-page photo of what you look like now in "esquire" magazine. why is that?

    >> well, this is what i look like, so there's no purpose in hiding it. what you see is what you get.

    >> your memories growing up are so descriptive about having root beers and frosty mugs with your father.

    >> i find that when i am actually writing, memories appear in my mind.

    >> vivid childhood memories , he writes i was born inside the movie of my life. he describes a good life. eating steakburgers at the steak and shake and chuckles candies at the movies. a childhood as american as a normal rockwell painting.

    >> i was always extroverted. now i am forced to live more within my mind.

    >> a beautiful day .

    >> ebert credits his wife of 20 years for encouraging him to keep going. he writes, she was like a wind pushing me back from the grave.

    >> chaz is a force of nature . when she decides on something, her determination is awesome. she knew i could still work as a film critic and she was right. she has done a great deal to make that possible.

    >> ebert still travels to film festivals , attends at least five screenings a week, and with his wife, chaz, produces " ebert presents at the movies."

    >> gene siskel , who you spent 23 years with, you two had a little bit of that love/hate relationship.

    >> it's thiler week on " siskel and ebert week at the movies."

    >> you said if you had a sitcom it would be called "best enemies." he really was like a brother to you. if he were alive today, what woe say to you now?

    >> he would have been wholehearted in my corner through the troubles. although as a way of life we shared a deep understanding of one another. he would also have continued to make jokes about me. well, at least you don't need a bookmark any more to find your chin.

    >> well, we saw roger walking in and they said, one of everything to go.

    >> you once asked your doctor to put coca-cola through your g-tube. why?

    >> i still have cokes once in a while . i like a caffeine.

    >> these guys, right? this is eventage.

    >> while ebert may be robbed of his ability to eat and drink, he still enjoys some guilty pleasures. two thumbs up. there's a beautiful passage in the book, really talks about how roger looks at life and ha he's been through. can you read that for me?

    >> we must try to contribute joy to the world . that is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. we must try. i didn't always know this, and i'm happy i lived long enough to find it out.

    >> i feel i'm lucky that i can still do what i love, and be of some use to people. it's a waste of time feeling sorry for yourself. because it doesn't change anything or help anything. you just have to keep on keeping on.

    >> and matt, one thing that roger ebert told me is that a lot of people say he's courageous for continuing to do and be busier than ever. but in fact, he says, that's not the case. because he continues to be the same person. he's just doing what he always did. don't call him courageous.

    >> a remarkable guy.

    >> he really is. so vibrant.

IMAGE: Roger Ebert
Daniel Boczarski  /  Getty Images file
Film critic Roger Ebert has written some stellar lines over the years.
By
TODAY.com
updated 9/13/2011 12:45:39 PM ET 2011-09-13T16:45:39
OPINION

I confess, I don't always agree with Roger Ebert's movie reviews (I loved "Senna" and "The Usual Suspects," he ... didn't), but I almost always love the way he writes them. The acclaimed critic isn't one of those people who just lives in a theater 24-7. He brings his whole life and his entire understanding of human nature, plus a great sense of humor, into his reviews. Sometimes it just takes him a few sentences to completely sum up an entire film or even a trend in moviedom. Often, the movies that made him suffer the most give us the most delightful reviews.

Here are some of his gems.

The Pullet Surprise
My favorite line of his is a classic. Back in 2005, Rob Schneider complained that another reviewer who didn't like "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" wasn't qualified to review it because he didn't have a Pulitzer Prize. In response, Ebert wrote, "Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

Scoop: Loss of voice was 'awful' for Roger Ebert

Where the stars don't shine
"I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine."   —From review of "The Human Centipede"

Tell us how you really feel, Roger
"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."   —From "North" review

Story: Lights, camera, awful! Movies we hate the most

Soft-soap job
"One of the details that "A Christmas Story" gets right is the threat of having your mouth washed out with Lifebuoy soap. Not any soap. Lifebuoy. Never Ivory or Palmolive. Lifebuoy, which apparently contained an ingredient able to nullify bad language. The only other soap ever mentioned for this task was Lava, but that was the nuclear weapon of mouth-washing soaps, so powerful it was used for words we still didn't even know."  —From"A Christmas Story" review

A kiss is still a...
"(Rhett Butler) tells Scarlett in a key early scene, 'You need kissing badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.' For 'kissed,'' substitute the word you're thinking of."    —From "Gone With the Wind" review

Over the rainbow
"...The elements in 'The Wizard of Oz'' powerfully fill a void that exists inside many children. For kids of a certain age, home is everything, the center of the world. But over the rainbow, dimly guessed at, is the wide earth, fascinating and terrifying. There is a deep fundamental fear that events might conspire to transport the child from the safety of home and strand him far away in a strange land. And what would he hope to find there? Why, new friends, to advise and protect him. And Toto, of course, because children have such a strong symbiotic relationship with their pets that they assume they would get lost together."  —From "Wizard of Oz" review

Story: Movies we're looking forward to this fall

  1. More Entertainment stories
    1. Autistic ballerina dances her way into hearts

      In a popular YouTube video, the beaming little ballerina dances an entire four-minute routine seemingly perfectly, matchin...

    2. Every on-screen drink in 'Mad Men' in 5 minutes
    3. See the 'Dancing' stars' most memorable moves
    4. Emmy's biggest snubs? Cranston, Hamm, more
    5. 'Toy Story' toys burn up in prank on mom

A galaxy far, far away
"It's as goofy as a children's tale, as shallow as an old Saturday afternoon serial, as corny as Kansas in August — and a masterpiece. Those who analyze its philosophy do so, I imagine, with a smile in their minds. May the Force be with them."   —From "Star Wars" review

Airsickness bag, please
"Was there no one connected with this project who read the screenplay, considered the story, evaluated the proposed film and vomited?"  —From "Last Rites" review

Story: Cut! Cut! Movies so bad, you had to leave

He's a poet
"This is an old idea, beautifully expressed by Wordsworth, who said, 'Heaven lies about us in our infancy.' If I could quote the whole poem instead of completing this review, believe me, we'd all be happier. But I press on."    —From "Baby Geniuses" review

Story: 'Mystery Science' alums know bad movies better than anyone

Where's that bus?
"Watching 'Mad Dog Time' is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line."    —From "Mad Dog Time" review

Are you a fan of Roger Ebert? Discuss with us on Facebook.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAY.com's movies editor.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: September movies

loading photos...
  1. 'Apollo 18'

    Stars: Lloyd Owen, Warren Christie

    Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    Think there wasn't an "Apollo 18" lunar mission? Think again. Decades-old found footage from the supposed secret expedition reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon. Hint: Didja see "Alien"? (The Weinstein Company) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'The Debt'

    Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson

    Director: John Madden

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    "The Debt" begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Mirren) and Stefan (Wilkinson) about their former colleague David. The group supposedly tracked down a Nazi war criminal in 1966 -- or did they? (Miramax Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Shark Night 3D'

    Stars: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan and Alyssa Diaz

    Director: David R. Ellis

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    The title, "Sharl Night 3D," says it all. But sharks in a freshwater lake? Hollywood will do anything to get the blood, bikinis and severed limbs flying in 3-D. (Relativity Media) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy'

    Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb and Tyler Labine

    Directors: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    In "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy," Jason Sudeikis and pals have partied for years at his dad's beach house. But when dad (Don Johnson) announces he's selling the place, his son decides it's time for the ultimate party. (Samuel Goldwyn Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'Contagion'

    Stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law

    Director: Steven Soderbergh

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    Have your face masks ready -- you'll want one after seeing "Contagion." The action thriller follows people trying to survive a lethal virus. Big stars abound, and it sure looks like from promos that things don't go well for Gwyneth Paltrow. (Warner Bros) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star'

    Stars: Nick Swardson, Don Johnson and Christina Ricci

    Director: Tom Brady

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    "Bucky Larson" is a kid from the Midwest who moves out to Hollywood in order to follow in his parents footsteps -- which for him, means becoming a porn star. (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Warrior'

    Stars: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton

    Director: Gavin O'Connor

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    In "Warrior," two estranged brothers face the fight of a lifetime. Nick Nolte plays their alcoholic dad, who trains one to eventually land in the ring against the other in a mixed martial-arts tournament. (Chuck Zlotnick) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'Straw Dogs'

    Stars: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard

    Director: Rod Lurie

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    "Straw Dogs" is a remake of the 1971 Dustin Hoffman thriller, infamous for its controversial rape scene. L.A. screenwriter David Sumner relocates with his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both. (Screen Gems) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. 'I Don't Know How She Does It'

    Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammer

    Director: Douglas McGrath

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    "I Don't Know How She Does It" is a comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy (Parker), a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids. Based on the best-selling novel. (The Weinstein Company) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 'Drive'

    Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston

    Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    In "Drive," Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman. After a heist goes wrong, he discovers that a contract has been put on his life. (Richard Foreman Jr Smpsp / FilmDistrict) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 'Moneyball'

    Stars: Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill

    Director: Bennett Miller

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball," based on Michael Lewis' book. The focus is on Beane's attempt to create a competitive team despite Oakland's unfavorable financial situation. (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'Abduction'

    Stars: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins and Alfred Molina

    Director: John Singleton

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    In "Abduction," Taylor Lautner plays a young man who sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing persons website. (Lionsgate) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 'Dolphin Tale'

    Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.

    Director: Charles Martin Smith

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    IThe 3-D film "Dolphin Tale" is is inspired by the true story of a bottlenose dolphin named Winter who lost her tail in a crab trap. Her human friends work frantically to create a prosthetic so she can still swim. (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Dream House'

    Stars: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts

    Director: Jim Sheridan

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    The beautiful home in "Dream House" is more of a nightmare. Soon after moving in, a family learns that a mother and her children were brutally murdered there. (Universal Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. '50/50'

    Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick

    Director: Jonathan Levine

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    "50/50" is a comedic account of a 27-year-old man's cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. (Summit Entertainment) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 'Killer Elite'

    Stars: Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro

    Director: Gary McKendry

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    Action film "Killer Elite" focuses on a retired member of Britain's Elite Special Air Service (Jason Statham) who is forced into action when his mentor (Robert De Niro) is taken hostage. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader (Clive Owen). (Open Road Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'What's Your Number?'

    Stars: Anna Faris, Chris Pratt and Chris Evans

    Director: Mark Mylod

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    "What's Your Number?" refers to the number of men a woman has slept with. Anna Faris plays Ally, a woman whose number is 20, as she looks back at those men wondering if any of them are her true love. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

More on TODAY.com

TODAY's Takeaway
  1. Getty Images; TODAY

    Natalie celebrates Boston Marathon triumphs; Willie rings in Earth Day

    4/22/2014 8:39:34 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T20:39:34
  1. Danh Tang via Facebook; David Ab

    'Incredible': Runners with dwarfism on return to Boston Marathon

    4/22/2014 8:52:13 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T20:52:13
  1. Jason Merritt / Getty Images

    Girl power: Drew Barrymore welcomes her second daughter

    4/22/2014 9:35:41 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T21:35:41
  1. Mat Hayward / Getty Images Contributor

    Snoop Dogg loves Brian Williams' rap of 'Gin and Juice'

    4/22/2014 8:15:04 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T20:15:04