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posted: 2/13/2014 5:00 AM

Reel life: Ebert documentary director to speak

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'Life' director to speak
During Roger Ebert's final days in April of 2013, the Chicago film critic was exchanging emails with Chicago director Steve James, who was shooting the documentary "Life Itself," based on Ebert's published biography.

In the movie, which I saw Monday at its Chicago premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center, James noted that Ebert's emails became shorter and shorter. Finally, they came down to "I'm fading."

Then, simply, "I can't."

This reminded me of one of Ebert's favorite movies, Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," where HAL the computer fades away as its memory is slowly depleted. Until, nothing. I wondered if Ebert made the same connection.

After the screening, James joined a panel of speakers, including the critic's wife Chaz Ebert, Siskel's widow Marlene Iglitzaen and veteran Chicago film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. He asked James why other critics such as Ebert's one-time TV partner Richard Roeper didn't make the final cut.

"There are a hundred other people we could have interviewed for this movie," James said. "That just wasn't possible... There are so many aspects to Roger's life... to cover it you would have to make a miniseries."

James' resume includes the classic sports doc "Hoop Dreams" and the Chicago street violence doc "The Interrupters" as well as "Life Itself," scheduled for theatrical release later this year.

You can meet and speak with James plus see segments of his new movie during a program called "The Human Library: What It's Like To Be a Movie Director," 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights.

I will join James on the stage for a discussion of his remarkable career at Chicago's legendary Kartemquin Films. Free admission. Go to

More Oscar mire
Still can't make sense of the 2014 Academy Awards nominees? Dann & Raymond's Movie Club can help. I predict the winners with film historian and novelist Raymond Benson (who won a Lovey Award last weekend at the Love is Murder Mystery Writers Conference in Rosemont) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Palatine Public Library, 700 N. North Court, Palatine. Clips, comments and criticism. Free admission, too!

Monumental mistake?
I saw George Clooney's WW II drama "Monuments Men" one more time just to be sure I wasn't too tough on it in my review. I wasn't.

Take the scene where the Nazis hurriedly packed up all those master paintings from Paris' Jeu de Paume art gallery before escaping the advancing Allied forces.

Why did Nazis leave behind a few priceless works of art on the wall? Didn't like their color schemes?

If the Nazis were in such a hurry, why did they take time to remove several paintings from their frames, then rehang the frames on the wall? I'm just curious.

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