Amy, Brian and Chris — a few films that spiced up the summer

Amy, Brian and Chris — a few films that spiced up the summer

Amy Winehouse

Everyone has returned to school. Labor Day is on the horizon and nobody’s favorite month, gloomy September looms. We just seem to check our messages every 30 seconds, while the NFL, Premier League, Canes, Pop Warner, Donald, Bernie and Hillary dominate every other autumn moment. I look at the late August event schedule for inspiration and mutter, “Say it isn’t so. There has to be more going on beside Miami Spice.” But there isn’t. Therefore, before we look forward to September and October, let’s look back a bit. This summer, nothing topped Amy, Asif Kapadia’s extraordinary documentary, which had a healthy local run at Sunset, the Tower and the trusty O Cinema. If you missed it, you should be both ashamed and determined to make up for it. I am not in the prediction business despite having mistakenly done this repeatedly here over the past few years. Despite this, I suspect that if you are still reading, there may be one or two more opportunities to catch Amy in a theater, which I stalwartly recommend unless your home theater is up to the sound test.

You know that trite question – living or dead – who would you like to have dinner with? And we answer Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, Moses, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. For me, no kidding, it’s Amy Winehouse. Tormented, conflicted, confused, dynamic, frightened – take your pick – but when she sang, what happened was the magic of a lifetime.

Amy, Brian and Chris — a few films that spiced up the summer

Chris Brown

Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Elvis, Frank Sinatra – all transcended and this again is what we’re talking about. Having died before fully reaching the masses, too many can’t fathom the depth of such inexplicable, supernatural talent; she’s just another statistical reminder of a world that doesn’t have mental health or addiction answers. Still, nobody has sufficient vocabulary to do Amy Winehouse justice. Kapadia’s documentary though nails it, and you MUST see it. To whet your appetite, seriously, go to YouTube, search Gastonbury 2004 or Live in London 2007, and let yourself go. Hopefully you will have enough time, because the visual matrix will suck you in, and you will need Internet rehab.

Lyrically creating fountains of tears, musically dropping jaws, and styling way ahead of her time, the scope of tragedy of such a loss is heartbreaking. The film though is unforgiving and never maudlin, while the blame, plenty of which there is to go around, seems reasonably and candidly distributed between drugs, choices, fragility, freedom, fate, and fame. I’m clearly biased, but Amy is a masterpiece.

Amy, Brian and Chris — a few films that spiced up the summer

Love & Mercy

Almost as enjoyable was a fictional take on the true story of Brian Wilson’s tragic, famous, brilliant career in Love & Mercy. Genius behind the Beach Boys, Wilson’s harmonies often soared uncannily into spaces few others have ever visited. Yes, the Beach Boys produced Fun, Fun, Fun wearing frightening striped, short-sleeved shirts, which made them look like ice cream vendors in 60’s California pre-Abercrombie, but as creepy as that sometimes seems now, it didn’t take long for their melodies to become somehow ethereal. Try getting your church choir onto Good Vibrations or God Only Knows.

Bill Pohlad’s film stars Paul Dano as a young, brilliant Brian Wilson tormented by his father and a simple Mike Love, and John Cusack as a 40 something mental patient spiraling downhill with a push from a crazed Paul Giamatti, the psychiatrist supposedly helping him. Love & Mercy’s long run at the Coral Gables Art Cinema justifies a night of video for all of you who missed it there. Finally, for any of you disinclined to look back, the AAA is hosting Chris Brown’s One Hell of a Nite Tour with Kid Ink, Omarion, Fetty Wap, Teyana Taylor and Migos on Thursday Sept. 3. Front row seats are available for a $1,000 each. I look forward to fall.

Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to

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