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Review: ‘As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM’ charts rise and fall of mash-up artist

“As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM”
Adam Goldstein on the job in the documentary “As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM.”
(Niko Achtipes / Abramorama)

When Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein died of a drug overdose in 2009, he was one of the best-known turntablists in the world, yet aside from a posthumous cameo in “Iron Man 2” and a few scattered appearances on other people’s songs, he didn’t leave behind the kind of recorded legacy that other popular artists do.

If nothing else, Kevin Kerslake’s documentary “As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM” offers a chance to see and hear what made Goldstein a millionaire. A master of the “mash-up” — that crowd-pleasing style that weaves multiple songs into one delirious mega-mix — DJ AM delighted drunken dancers by making sonic connections that few could imagine.

But given how little of the man’s best work is commercially available, it’s disappointing that Kerslake’s film  skews so much toward the personal over the professional, dwelling on Goldstein’s turbulent childhood, his struggles with obesity, his debilitating crack habit and — for some reason — his sneaker collection.

Kerslake does chart how Goldstein helped legitimize the kind of celebrity DJ who makes millions for spinning at superstars’ birthdays. “As I AM” is also a useful document of a minor cultural revolution, facilitated by advances in music-splicing software.

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It’s just that too much of the film prioritizes the DJ’s problematic personal life over what made him famous. AM’s fans should get a lot out of the doc, but casual music-lovers may wish Kerslake would just get back to the party.

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‘As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM’

MPAA rating: None

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Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Playing: Arclight Cinema, Hollywood


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