Movie Review: Amy (2015) #atozchallenge

This is my entry for “A” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “A” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Ai Weiwei: Never SorryAfrica: The SerengetiAmerican Experience: Blackout,  American Experience: Into the Amazon, and American Experience: Walt Disney

Release Date: July 3, 2015
Director: Asif Kapadia
Production Company: Film4 Productions

This documentary traces the life of singer Amy Winehouse from her first steps into the music business as a teenager, to her tragic death at the age of 27.  The movie is almost entirely made up of home videos made by Winehouse and her friends and colleagues.  These offer occasional moments of startling intimacy, but also can be quite awkward as most people – even brilliant vocalists – generally say empty things to the video camera.

These clips to show, though, an amazing talented vocalist with a clear vision of the creative path she wants to follow. She’s not quite developed her performance skills yet, but the raw talent and drive is unmistakable.  She can be sharp in her options, yet alternately very shy.  Especially, in the first half of the film, lyrics of her song are projected on the screen, unfolding in parallel to her life experiences, and her interior struggles.

The second part of the film inevitable focuses on Winehouse’s struggles with depression, substance abuse, and bulimia, as she spirals out of control towards her early death.  Winehouse’s addictions are reinforced by her on-again off-again relationship with boyfriend, and then husband of two years, Blake Fielder.  They bring out the worst in one another.  Footage from the latter half of the film is clearly from the same papperazi who constantly stalked Winehouse and made her life a living hell. As a viewer, it makes me feel complicit in the exploitation of Winehouse’s despair.

There’s one very sweet moment near the end of the film in footage of Winehouse recording a duet with Tony Bennet.  She is clearly starstruck to be working with her idol while simultaneously struggling with her own sense of inadequacy.  Bennet graciously – and correctly – recognizes her own amazing talent.  But what others could recognize in Winehouse was clearly not enough to get her to come to terms with her mental health problems.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

The parts with the lyrics on the screen are illustrative of the creative process of writing and composing a song and bringing it to life.

The overall theme is an indictment of the celebrity culture that devours a human being for the enjoyment of the masses, and we all play a part in that.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Listen to Back in Black, Amy Winehouse’s gift to the world.

Source: Netfix

Rating: **

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: “Always on My Mind” #AtoZChallenge

Let’s kick off the 2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge with a song by the legendary Willie Nelson:

Always on My Mind

This song always reminds me of my father.  In his final years, when his health deteriorated due to Multiple Sclerosis, my father took a liking to listening to country music.  Now, back in the early 1980s, a man who grew up in Brooklyn and then settled in the Connecticut suburbs typically didn’t listen to country music, and my dad had been a rock and roll kind of guy up to that point.  But perhaps he was just ahead of the trend of the late 80s and 90s when country boomed well outside of its core constituencies in the South and the West, and even Manhattan had country line dancing bars.

Now, as a kid, I wasn’t too interested in country, but even I loved hearing the warm voice of Willie Nelson as he sang the melancholy title track of his 1982 album Always on My Mind.  Years later, I heard some of the cool kids in high school talking about a new song by the Pet Shop Boys called “Always on My Mind.”  I snootily informed them that the Pet Shop Boys did NOT write that song, it was Willie Nelson.  The joke was on me, because even more years later I learned that “Always on My Mind” was a hit song for Elvis Presley a decade before Willie Nelson recorded his version. And the song didn’t even start with the King! It was written by Johnny Christopher, Mark James, and Wayne Carson and first recorded by B.J. Thomas in 1969.  Brend Lee got the song to chart before Elvis did, and there are probably dozens of versions out there.

Compare and contrast:

Elvis Presley, or…

The Pet Shop Boys?

Nevertheless, it’s the Willie Nelson version I always come back to.  His voice and instrumentation always make the song sound so sweet, albeit sad.  Pull back the layers though, and it this song of apology may be a bit deceptive. Is the narrator of this song really trustworthy or is he just a jerk who’s going to disapoint us again?  Could be both.  And suitably, it’s appropriate that I associate this song with my father who often disappointed his family, and I’m sure he felt bad about it, but we never quite came to reconciliation.  He died in 1991, but all these years later when I hear Willie’s plaintive voice, it’s my father I think of.

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.