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As I AM: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM
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by Jason Whyte

"This. Movie. Is. ALIVE."
5 stars

It is rare for a documentary to completely capture the spirit of not only the music but the era around it, but here we are with the documentary AS I AM: THE LIFE & TIMES OF D.J . AM, a stunning piece of work from filmmaker Kevin Kerslake that perfectly captures an era of music through the eyes of a spirited and legendary individual that is forever immortalized in a fascinating visual and aural design.

D.J. AM (whose real name is Adam Goldstein) grew up under hardship and as a teenager started by playing clubs in LA, utilizing a type of DJ-spinning music that in later years would be constantly imitated (and then equaled, in many ways, by Gregg Gillis’ music, better known as Girl Talk). But back in the 90s, his style of music was unique then eventually in high demand as he began to play more industry and celebrity parties in LA, eventually leading him to gigs in Las Vegas and a relationship with Nicole Richie that put him into the stratosphere. He was famous but he still just wanted to work and play his music.

With that fame came a lot of hardships, however; DJ AM had problems with drugs and alcohol over the years and of course everyone tried to be a part of his life whether he liked it or not. He also had problems with his weight growing up (something I can completely relate to) and as well living a lifestyle where he continually had to resist for his own work and health. There was also lots of issues with his family in his past that also kept resurfacing, but DJ AM kept pushing forward and inspiring many in the industry.

In part this is a rags-to-riches story, but I also deeply admired that it captures the feeling and momentum of creating from the mid 90’s to today. Back around when DJ AM began he would simply spin records; in later years technology like the Serrato Audio Research system would allow him to create even more mash-ups with his music and even more-so today when you can pretty much create any type of music for next to no money on a computer.

Director Kevin Kerslake, an incredibly prolific director behind many music related documentaries, shows no fear in presenting DJ AM completely as is, and blends in archival photographs, animation, video (even the opening shot, which hints at a significant event in AM’s life, is powerful) and interview subjects ranging from many types of people in and around his life. The movie’s energy is relentless as it follows the crazy-busy life of AM and those around him and my eyes were glued to the screen for the entire 110 minute running time.

Slowly but surely, as the documentary progresses and moves along in years, Kerslake also has a really unique hook up his sleeve; we see the world around DJ AM evolve as he does; what initially goes from what the LA club scene was like (I especially liked a recurring shot where you could see a Mac Classic, also a staple of my growing up, sitting on his apartment shelf), leading to Vegas as to where a talent like AM can “make it”, to AM’s life dating Nicole Richie and the surrounding Hollywood media craze, to the Paparazzi fueled scene that follows talent around, all the way to the reality TV craze and social media aspect of today is an incredible storytelling design. It’s a subtle trick that Kerslake uses throughout as it tells AM’s story through the decades, but it is an unforgettable one.

When the film turns tragic in the third act, we are reminded that DJ AM is someone who really is trying to keep his head above water, and the sequences of him post an infamous plane crash (which baffles some of his friends; “Who ever survives a plane crash? Do you anyone who has survived one?”) are incredibly stirring. That it leads to an even darker final chapter was incredibly difficult, but necessary viewing.

One of the best documentaries of 2016, AS I AM is a beyond fearless and triumphant documentary that not only recounts a memorable fixture on modern music but has no fear in covering the good sides and bad sides of both the industry in performance as well as the business behind it, and shows a tragic lead figure that is just trying to do the right thing. My hope is that AS I AM is seen well across the marketplace in an already busy doc marketplace; while it does feature incredibly strong dramatic material about dealing with addiction and overcoming a tragedy, overall the film is a hip, loud and proud feeling and the type of movie for the big screen that really does have it all...and so did AM, in good and bad, but at least he tried, leading to a quote that can inspire others; “I like to be happy. I like to help other people. And I don’t wanna hurt nobody.” @jasonwhyte

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=30471&reviewer=350
originally posted: 06/02/16 11:23:31
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USA
  03-Jun-2016 (PG-13)

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[trailer] Trailer


Directed by
  Kevin Kerslake

Written by
  Kevin Kerslake

Cast
  D.J. AM



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