Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thoughts on Amy

Okay, pardon me for getting uncharacteristically serious for a moment.

So I saw the Amy Winehouse documentary over the weekend. Short version: It's great, go see it, the music is incredible, blah blah blah.

And yes, it raises all sorts of issues that I frankly don't have the energy to write about at length.

That said -- here's the thing that truly flummoxes me.

On every level, the story Amy is telling is beyond cliche. I mean, from the first frames on screen, it's practically a parody of any Road to Ruin book or film or Behind the Music episode you've ever encountered. Doesn't miss a pathetic trick, from the whole "if only she had been loved" to the "this was a person trying to disappear" voice-over. And the fact that it's all true just makes your jaw drop at the utter predictability of the thing.

That said -- and please don't think I'm being insensitive here -- what makes Amy a little different from most other exemplars of its genre is that Winehouse came of age in a period when everybody's life was being obsessively documented on film or on video. In the case of Winehouse, the filmmakers had access to live footage of her starting practically before she was even Bat Mitzvahed. This is kind of unprecedented when you think of it.

And THAT is why I'm scratching my head. I mean, one of the things -- besides her prodigious talent -- the film makes clear is that yes, Winehouse was genuinely fucked up, but also that she was absolutely whip smart as well.

So how, in Jeebus' name, could she have watched the footage of her life unfolding in front of her video monitor in real time for close to a decade and not thought to herself -- Jeebus fuck, I've seen this stupid, made-for-TV admittedly tragic but ultimately pointless, movie before?

Words, as they often do, fail me.

Meanwhile, here's a performance clip of Winehouse at her peak that didn't make the movie.

God, she was amazing.


Mark said...

Great point about self-awareness, Steve.

In live radio engineering, a mix-minus is a mix of all audio sources MINUS the person to whom the audio mix is directed. In effect, each audio source (person) gets a separate mix-minus feed. Stage monitoring works the same way, too.

This mix-minus concept applies elsewhere, in fact, and my wife, a clinical social worker tells me stories of clients whose entire lives -- to my outsider perspective -- led directly to the Godforsaken crisis such clients find themselves in, and I'm left saying to myself, "How could they have missed the direction they were headed?"

It's really really REALLY hard to see yourself operating in the world.

steve simels said...

Believe me, my own history confirms that.:-)

Anonymous said...

Agree with all the above.
Another example of "I've seen this stupid, made-for-TV admittedly tragic but ultimately pointless, movie before" is right there in that clip: namely Paul Weller's haircut. Doesn't he own a mirror or a tv? Let's just hope someone intervenes before he ends up like Donald Trump.

Brooklyn Girl in Queens said...

There are people who think that if they put lit fireworks on their heads that somehow they will live through it, even though anyone else who has tried it has died. Who can truly accept their own mortality and live the (seemingly dull) life that acceptance might lead to? Amy herself said it after some awards show, "It's really boring without the drugs."

Charlie Ricci said...

I've been called very insensitive for saying things like this but I think it needs to be said again. If you take drugs it's your own fault if you die. While most many, many people become addicted once they start it is often too hard to stop. However, it is their fault for trying drugs in the first place. If you don't start you can't become an addict. We've all heard so many bad things about drugs it's a wonder anyone ever tries them. People made fun of Nancy Reagan when she said "Just say no," but it was the smartest advise anyone can give. Drugs have ruined so many lives I can't believe so many people act so stupidly. Go ahead, flame me.

steve simels said...

Thus reducing the complexities of actual life to judgemental moralistic bromides.

Sorry, Charlie, you're full of shit, as was Nancy Reagan.

Brooklyn Girl in Queens said...

Charlie, she didn't die from drug use. She died from alcohol and the long-term damage done by bulimia.

But thanks for playing Holier-Than-Thou.

steves said...

I was going to say something along the lines of what BGiQ already eloquently stated. So, I'll just note that after your mention of all the photo-documentation of Winehouse, I thought you were going to ask how Winehouse was able to look at photos/video of herself in her later years and not ask "WTF???" My guess is that she was inherently self destructive despite her formidable talent. Also see: Cobain, Kurt

Mark said...

If God forbid you should live long enough to pass through the illusion of immortality and an urge to self-destruct (artistically or otherwise), and to live long enough to want to do battle with self-control, and maybe, just maybe begin to understand that the fault's truly not in our stars, even then you may not be able to write a song like Let’s Live Like Were Dyin’ by Ike Reilly (at https://app.box.com/s/17fg7f8l2bphch9ifph1spr6mq38f90q), from his new album, BORN ON FIRE. But you can still enjoy the song and appreciate the simple idea within. The refrain goes like this.

I used to want to die young
I used to want to die loud
Maybe crash up in my car
Or blow my own brains out
I used to wanna die young
But it’s too late now.

Ike’ll be in NYC at The Mercury Lounge on Thursday and I for one intend to be there. I may even have a beer.

Anonymous said...

Almost no one has the internal discipline it takes to do drugs properly. They don't give them the respect they deserve.

Think I'll skip the film. Seen enough train wrecks.


Anonymous said...

that was an astonishingly ignorant and arrogant comment, charlie. without even thinking about it, i can name four close friends and relatives whose lives were destroyed, and in three cases, ended, by drug habits that originated in the treatment of pain consequent upon severe injuries. not one of them made a 'choice' to use opiates. if you ever find yourself in an ER with a broken back and say, 'no painkillers, doc, i'll tough it out', let me know and i'll apologise for thinking you're an asshole.

The anonymous DB said...

While it's true that one is complicit in one's own life, so much of what we are and what happens to us is printed in our genes at the very split second of conception. Studies of identical twins raised separately (accidental switching in the hospital, for example) show amazing similarities despite being raised differently and ignorant of the other.

Addiction is in our genes. So is self-worth, or the lack of it. Other people influence those genetic tendencies, to be sure.

We are, first and foremost, animals. And each animal is a chemical machine, with a unique chemistry and wiring. Our influence on our own behavior is actually quite small, and usually overrated by the "blame yourself first" crowd. I don't tend to blame those folks for that attitude. Like those of us with other delusions that lead to addiction or self-destructive behavior, they are incapable of reflection. Irony is a motherfucker.

One is complicit in one's own life, if one is able, and even then, the margins are rather thin.

Anonymous said...

Never got off on Amy's hairdo or makeup. That Ronettes junkie trash look bugs me. What bothers me even worse are the fans who wrap themselves in her identity. Fuck, the receptionist at my doctor's office looked exactly like Amy Winehouse. And she wasn't exactly civil. I told him to fire the bitch if he wanted people to take him seriously. She didn't work there long, probably for a lot of reasons.

As far as genes and environment go, I try to blend them together with a lustful passion as often as possible. I scream "Free Will" when I come.:-)

The Gene Genie loves chimney stacks.


Alzo said...

Drugs are fun. Until they're not fun. Then they destroy you.

Anonymous said...

so Charile never had a drink?

Charlie Ricci said...

Yes I have had a drink. I'm not talking about pain killer addiction. I'm talking about hard, illegal drugs. I have a relative who became a coke addict. He knew the dangers. He was not a stupid kid. He didn't have the demons that would drive him to do such a thing. He was just part of a wild party crowd who would do things just for the adventure. He did hard drugs "just for the hell of it," as he said. it took him years to straighten himself out. He cost his family a lot of grief and money simply because he wanted to experiment. If you could ask him in person he would freely admit he had no reason to do what he did other than just for the excitement. Now that he's clean he also believes like I do. Don't be stupid. Just don't do it. There are a lot of people like him, more than you realize.

Anonymous said...

addictions to painkillers and heroin are the same thing, and the former precedes the latter all too frequently. you're using your limited perspective to inform an unfounded criticism.

Anonymous said...

yeah I don't see your drawing a line between having a drink/being an alcoholic to trying a drug/becoming an addict. but hey everyone else is wrong and you are right, sounds like a way of life and state of mind for you...