Must See Movie – “Amy”

Posted by The G on July 3, 2015 under G Reviews | Read the First Comment

Photo and words by G.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse

When I first ‘discovered’ the music of Amy Winehouse in 2007, it was love at first listen.  I hadn’t discovered her music in time to see her perform in the extremely intimate New York venues Joe’s Pub and Bowery Ballroom, but luckily for me, she came back around a 3rd time to play the recently (at the time) opened Highline Ballroom, which is a 15 minute walk from where I live (bonus!).  My friend April made me a deal – she would get the tickets if I secured us a spot in line.  Done.  As luck would have it, when I turned up to the venue to get in line, Amy Winehouse had just finished sound-checking and was exiting the venue at the very moment I arrived.   Amy couldn’t have been a lovelier person and she was so happy to see that I had her first album “Frank” which I asked her to autograph for me, because at the time, it was only available as an import in the US.  It was a week before she’d be married, and she was healthy and very happy. It was the ultimate Amy Winehouse experience because I got to talk to her, her soon to be husband Blake Civil Fielder took our picture together, she autographed both of my CDs, and I was able to secure a front row center spot to see her perform and as she exited the stage for the last time that night, she handed me the set list!  At the time, I had a pretty shitty camera, but April had a good camera, luckily, and her amazing shots of the concert can be seen here, and I highly recommend you check them out at this link which will open in a new window.  The concert which was supposed to be the beginning of her rise to stardom US, turned out to be her final trip to New York. When I would tell people about my experience, they found it hard to believe, because shortly after this concert, her life became a tabloid-ridden mess.   I would hear these stories and see these tabloid pictures and every time, a piece of my heart would break because the person I was reading about in the news was not this lovely lady that I had met.  As soon as you’d hear that she was doing ok, she was back in the news again for something dubious and this downward spiral continued for the rest of her short life.

Amy Winehouse and Geoffrey Dicker.  Photo by Blake Fielder

Amy Winehouse and Geoffrey Dicker. Photo by Blake Fielder

Filmmaker Asif Kapadia decided to make some sense out of this tragedy and he made the exquisitely beautiful, but monumentally sad documentary “Amy,” which is in theaters today.  Like with the Kurt Cobain documentary “Montage of Heck,” what you thought you knew about these famous rock stars is only a sliver of what really happened and both films bring these huge talents back to life, even if only for a few hours.

“Amy” shows that from a very young age, Amy Winehouse had the gift of song and possessed one of the most unique voices to ever grace the stage.  Intimate footage shows her singing her earliest gigs, auditioning for a record label and despite having a powerful voice, she was just a shy Jewish girl from the UK.  Though she had a wicked sense of humor, she was very fragile and after her parents divorced early on in her life, she seemingly never recovered fully from it.

She never saw herself as a star and she didn’t even think her music was accessible to a wide audience.  She was just a girl with some songs.  She started to gain a following in the UK, winning some awards and it was at this point, you realize she never had a chance at survival.  Her manager was a promoter, her father, whom Amy worshiped, had dollar signs in his eyes, and she met Blake Civil Fielder, a man that was poison to her life.  The tempestuous relationship with Blake was a “can’t live with or without” him situation for the rest of her days.

Already known to be able to drink people under the table, Blake introduced her to heroin and crack cocaine and her life became a yo-yo of getting clean and falling off the wagon.  The pair broke up and Amy channeled her pain into the songs that would make up her classic album “Back to Black.”  “Amy” features fantastic studio footage of her laying down the vocal for the song along with producer Mark Ronson and after Amy delivers the song, it shows her stunned by how sad the song turned out.

“Back to Black” was recorded and the album sounded like a throwback to the girl group sound of the 1950s, but with a voice so unique and with modern lyrics about destruction and getting your heart broken that people of every generation related to it.  One of her final chances at survival came before the release of this album as an intervention was staged to take her to rehab, but it was decided by the people around her that the album should go forward instead.  Though she was involved with shady characters, it’s easy to point the finger knowing what we know now, and the good thing about this film is that it doesn’t point fingers.  Everyone involved in her life was to blame to some extent (aside from her childhood friends) and it is abundantly clear when you watch this film.

The song that put her on the map, “Rehab,” would also be the beginning of her demise as the global hit turned her into fodder for the paparazzi to follow Amy everywhere she went.  The ample footage of her being swarmed by paparazzi is disgusting and you wonder why laws haven’t been created to prevent paparazzi from being able to stalk a person at their place of residence.  She reconciled with Blake, did a quick tour of the US (see opening paragraph) and they got married.  The honeymoon did not last long as Amy was torn between a tempestuous relationship, non-stop partying and contractual singing obligations.

Her husband got arrested and jailed and once again, Amy’s chance of turning her life around all but vanished.  She’d get clean for a brief period of time and then go back to drugs and drinking.  There is heart wrenching footage of her accepting a Grammy award live via satellite in London and she pretty much freaks out that Tony Bennett, one of her idols, is the man presenting the award.  Despite how messed up she was, she was so happy to be recognized for her accomplishment and it is possibly one of the final moments in her life when she was happy.  She confided to a friend that without drugs and drinking, life didn’t have much meaning for her and the downward spiral began to escalate at this point.

She took 6 months off to go to a rehab facility in St. Lucia and she was met by her father, who turned up with a reality TV crew!  Disgusting.  There is footage of some fans wanting to take a picture with Amy and on camera, her father yells at her.  Amy obliges the photo and she tells her father not to make a fool of her both on camera and in front of her fans.  It’s just another example of how this fragile person had the wrong people in her inner circle.

This is when the movie becomes really depressing as her life is just a series of getting clean, falling off the wagon, getting chased by the paparazzi and being a mess in public appearances.  Perhaps to spare us all of the gory details, footage of her smoking crack, that at the time leaked onto the internet, with the lead singer of Baby Shambles was not shown, nor was her seemingly random desire to get breast implants.  Even the footage of her final full length concert in Serbia didn’t show the full extent of how bad off she was as they focused on her being too messed up to sing, but if you search the internet, you can see how sad it was when she actually did sing at that show.  What does make it into the film; however, is the audio of a conversation she has where she says that if she could give her voice back in exchange for not being hassled when she goes out in public, she would.  Too sad for words.

In her final studio appearance, she sang at Abbey Road Studios with her idol, Tony Bennett, as he was recording a duets album.  You see how nervous she was and after not being pleased with her vocal take, she apologizes to Tony Bennett for wasting his time.  Bennett, ever the gentleman, is not mad and in fact he encourages Amy and tells her that they will get the perfect take and not to worry about it.  You wish his presence in her life would have shown up sooner, but alas, it was not meant to be.

After calls to her childhood friends, in which they described hearing the voice on the phone of the Amy they knew and loved, where she really sounded serious about turning her life around, a typical day in the life of Amy Winehouse where she drank from morning to night found her with 4 times the legal limit of alcohol in her system and it caused her heart to stop and she died in her sleep at the age of 27.

You will be angered by the tragedy of what could have been if only she’d gotten clean.  You will be angered by all the poisonous people in her inner circle.  You will be angered when you see what the vicious paparazzi can do to a fragile person.  On the other side of the coin, you will be thankful that although the world will never have any more new music from Amy Winehouse, we have the masterpiece “Back to Black,” and the memory of one of the best voices of all time, preserved in this beautiful portrait of a beautifully tragic girl.  Rest in peace, Amy.

Denzel Washington Attends Premiere of “Flight” in NYC

Posted by The G on October 15, 2012 under Encounters with G, G Reviews | Read the First Comment

Photos by G.

Denzel Washington and Robert Zemeckis

“Flight” star Denzel Washington and director Robert Zemeckis

On October 14, 2012 Robert Zemeckis’ latest film “Flight” made its world premiere at the closing night of the New York Film Festival.  Aside from some way too real scenes of an airplane crashing, the film plays like an after school special about the dangers of becoming an alcoholic. It’s extremely predictable and considering that Robert Zemeckis has made worldwide classics such as the “Back to the Future” franchise, you’d think he’d change this to an Alan Smithee film as the plane crash is not the only disaster you will see if you check out “Flight.”  John Goodman, though only in the film briefly, is definitely the highlight, unless you enjoy watching Denzel Washington smoke cigarettes.

The Cast of Flight

The Cast of Flight (including Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Don Cheadle)

But regardless of the movie failing to take off before crashing and burning (pun definitely intended), I am grateful for the experience and had fun.  Plus, I even got to meet a few awesome stars at the premiere.  See who after the jump.

Robert Zemeckis

How many weeks will this film be in a theatre before going straight to DVD? Robert Zemeckis has the answer.

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Must See Documentary: “Jobriath A.D.”

Posted by The G on December 28, 2011 under G Reviews | 3 Comments to Read

Jobriath

Without Jobriath there would be no Lady Gaga.  Without Jobriath there would be no Morrissey.  The question on your lips right now is undoubtedly, who in the hell is Jobriath?  Kieran Turner’s new documentary “Jobriath A.D.” explores the life and times of one of the most influential and one of the most forgotten musicians of all time, Jobriath Boone.  Jobriath’s musical career began in the late 1960s, as he performed in the stage production of “Hair.”  He caught the eye of the svengali-like manager Jerry Brandt and the pair set out to set the music world on fire.  Jobriath had it all – great looks, tremendous musical talent (including writing, arranging, singing and playing multiple instruments), a major promotional campaign and a unique gimmick that had never been done before in pop music – being openly and flamboyantly gay.

It seemed there was no way they could lose and yet, Jobriath’s career went nowhere.  The world was just not ready to accept an out and proud icon.  Interviews with close friends, associates and musical peers in “Jobriath A.D.” help fill in the tragic story of a man who seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, time and time again throughout his life.  The end of his life saw him reduced to playing piano bars and pimping himself to survive before his death at age 36 from AIDS.

Though he was never able to see the effects of his influence or see financial success in his lifetime, Jobriath should be considered the dynamite that broke down a barrier for creative individuals who think and act outside the box and are uncompromising in their artistic beliefs.  Fans of Jobriath such as Morrissey and Def Leppard, helped get his music out there to a new generation of fans and nearly 25 years after his death, Jobriath’s career is finally starting to gain the momentum he initially set out to build. 

As of press time, a release date for “Jobriath A.D.” is still being worked out.  You will definitely want to see this film as it is absolutely tragic (but necessary) to see how a person’s sexuality can ruin their life due to the small-minded society we live in.  I learned so much about the life of an extraordinary individual who was so far ahead of his time. Unfortunately, the world did not enjoy the tremendous gift of Jobriath while he was alive and it is our responsibility to make sure this does not happen again.  On a personal note, I am extremely honored that a photo I took of Scissor Sisters lead singer Jake Shears appears in the film and I would like to thank Kieran Turner for including it in his great film.

George Clooney Attends NYC Premiere of “The Descendants”

Posted by The G on October 16, 2011 under G Reviews | Be the First to Comment

Photos by G.

George Clooney

George Clooney

The 2011 New York Film Festival came to a close on October 16, 2011 with the premiere of the new George Clooney vehichle, “The Descendants.”  Clooney was in the house to wave goodbye to the festival (as you can see pictured above).  The film is about a man whose wife is in a coma (due to a boating accident), his two troubled daughters, new information that his wife had an affair on Georgey and the fact that Clooney’s character has the sole right to sell or keep a ton of land in Hawaii.  While the film was shot beautifully on location in Hawaii, the film would have been a better Lifetime movie of the week as it was totally predictable and not really that well acted. There were holes in the plot as deep as the bodies of water the film was made in and I found myself wishing that they would just pull the plug on his damned wife so this movie would end.  Interestingly, the film takes place in tropical weather and there was not one scene were George Clooney was shirtless.  That wouldn’t have made the movie all that much better for me, but I am just pointing it out since a lot of people get wet when they think of ole GC.  He does wear shorts in some scenes and he has quite nice legs.  I had to pay attention to something other than the movie and since so many people appeared to be enjoying it, I wasn’t going to be “that guy” who is a total dickbag at movies and starts texting.   Of course by now you know I am a movie curmudgeon, so this movie will probably win every award known to man and you’ll hear talk around town that everyone loved it.  Everyone except me!  Don’t forget that!

The Descendants

The Descendants.

Photos: “Arrested Development” Cast Reunion

Posted by The G on October 2, 2011 under Celebrities | Read the First Comment

Photos by G.

From left to right: Portia De Rossi, David Cross, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett

The hottest ticket in town on October 2, 2011 was the cast reunion of the TV show “Arrested Development” as part of the New Yorker Festival.  Before I get into what the program for this afternoon was all about – here’s the information you are all dying to know:

Writer/Creator Mitchell Hurwitz confirmed that an “Arrested Development” movie is happening.  The script is half way finished and they are aiming to begin shooting in the summer of 2012.  Leading up to the film, there will be up to 10 installments (one per character) letting the audience know what everyone’s been up to since the show went off the air.  Distribution methods are still being worked out, but one might expect webisodes or non-traditional means of delivery.

Michael Cera, Jason Bateman

Ron Howard called in and Liza was not in attendance, but the rest of the principals on “Arrested Development” were on stage talking about the ups and downs of the show, some of their heroes and influences and there was also a brief question and answer session with the audience.

Portia DeRossi, David Cross

As you can expect from the cast, they cracked jokes constantly and also spoke about their proudest moments on the show.  The audience consisted of “Arrested Development” die-hards and you could hear a pin drop when the cast spoke about the show.

Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter

The cast would not reveal too much about the plot on the upcoming film, but they did advise that each character will probably screw things up when the script is locked.

Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat

At the end of the hour long presentation, the cast did the chicken dance!

Jason Bateman, Will Arnett

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