Tuesday, May 19, 2015


There's plenty to be sad about when you talk about Amy Winehouse:

One of the odder byproducts of recent biographical documentaries, which, to a certain extent, have become a classier form of tabloid journalism, is the propensity of media mavens to mine them for so-called “secrets” or “revelations.”It almost makes one wonder if it would be better for documentarians to close up shop and merely generate listicles detailing what they’ve learned from researching their subjects.

Still, inquiring minds want to know about the celebrities we either love or love to loathe and Asif Kapadia’s Amy, a new film profile of the late, great British pop singer Amy Winehouse that premiered at a midnight screening at Cannes, doesn’t stint on tidbits that will appeal to those of us who consider the Daily Mail a guilty pleasure. Nevertheless, despite the litany of gossipy reveals regurgitated online, Kapadia’s biggest achievement lies in creating considerable empathy for a woman who had become, by the end of her life, the cruel butt of jokes told by smirking late-night comics (the film includes some cringe-worthy footage of Jay Leno making vile cracks about the troubled singer’s problems with substance abuse.)

Self-destructive people who make art are always going to be of interest to the public, but Winehouse took it as far as anyone could without ending up like Pete Doherty or Robert Downey Jr.

She left this Earth in full possession of her art and no amount of exploitation will erase what she accomplished in a few short years. She was steeped in music, knowledgeable about obscure jazz and whatever else was relevant to her, and now we're stuck with the imitators and the dribble of commercially appealing do-overs put out by Mitchell Winehouse.

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