'Amy' a powerful documentary sure to contend for Oscar gold

Rating: ★★★★★

Amy Winehouse was a popular jazz singer from the United Kingdom. She was young, original, a very gifted talent and she died when she was only 28 years old. In a deeply touching and shocking documentary by Asif Kapadia, her life and death are examined in a film simply titled "Amy."

It was a friend that urged Amy Winehouse to record her voice for a few demos, which helped Amy to get her first record contract. Not only was she an amazing singer, but she was a guitar player and wrote her own songs. Her songs came from her own personal life and each tune served as a chapter of Amy's life.

This film, magically strings together interviews of those close to her, those that worked for her, sound bites and interviews of Amy in chronological order. As Amy's music gained popularity, she made more money and started to separate herself from her dear friends. She hired others to care for her, along with the unfortunate decision to allow her own father to make many choices for her.

As a teenager Amy was plagued by an eating disorder and depression. She addressed these problems as starting when her father left the house when her parents divorced. But as she was starting her career, she was in a good place. She knew what she wanted musically and she had a wonderful group of friends that truly loved her and wanted the best for her.

As she worked on her first recordings, one of friends told her she was so good that one day she would be famous. Her reply was, "I hope not, I would simply go mad if I was famous."

It was a prophetic thing to say, and sadly she was completely right. The remaining of the film shows how that as Amy became more famous, she pushed away those that were good for her and chose the three most toxic men in her life to dictate her actions (always to their benefit, as well). As a result Amy's health declined, including continuing bulimia, depression and the abusive use of drugs and alcohol. As the story is told, Amy's own songs, that are weaved into the story, clearly show that she was chronicling her own life story.

Asif Kapadia effectively combines all the elements into a cacique story that ultimately ends up being powerful cautionary tale about fame and addiction.

Probably the most endearing portions of the film are her scenes with Tony Bennett, who she idolized. She proved her artistic abilities when she paired with Bennett for a duet for an album Bennett was recording. The scenes clearly show the long career that could have been ahead of her, if only she made better choices and had those supporting her, truly looking after her best interests.

Watch for "Amy" to be nominated for an Academy Award for 2015. Although completely sad, it is a powerful film and stands a very good chance of winning the Oscar for Best Documentary of 2015. It's one of the most powerful documentaries that I have ever seen.

"Amy" is rated R for language and drug material and has a run-time of 128 minutes.


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