Friday, July 9, 2010

Michael Jackson's This is It

Directed by Kenny Ortega.
2009. Rated PG, 111 minutes.
Michael Jackson
Kenny Ortega
Stacy Walker
Brittany Perry-Russell
Mo Pleasure
Jonathan Moffett

The King of Pop prepares for his then upcoming European concert tour shortly before his untimely passing in 2009. We get a glimpse at the work, creativity and craftsmanship that goes into a massive production such as an MJ show. We see dancers auditioned, routines rehearsed, apparatuses tested and of course, lots of songs sang.

We learn that Michael is an effective boss. The fact everyone around him is clearly in awe of him doesn’t faze him. He never wields his iconic status as a weapon. There is no ranting, raving or putting his foot down. He lets everyone do their job but is adamant without being abrasive when he wants something changed or done a certain way. This way they’re more than just performers in his show, they’re part of and share in his vision.

At Michael Jackson’s funeral, Rev. Al Sharpton told MJ’s children “Your daddy wasn’t strange. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with.” Indeed, very few people have had to contend with the extreme levels of adoration and scrutiny he has. Over four decades of it has not only affected him, but us as well. So while watching this, I realized how much Michael had become an object in our minds. As children we don’t realize that famous people have to do all the mundane things that regular folks do. Michael had become an amalgamation of hit songs, tabloid gossip, rumor, innuendo, plastic surgery and outrageous assumptions. Whether our beliefs about him are founded or not, we sometimes forget he was a person. This led to an odd moment for me. He walks into a rehearsal eating something from his hand, candy or grapes or something else small, I couldn’t tell. It gave me a moment of pause. I actually realized that despite having grown up with him and watching him for all of the nearly 40 years of my own existence, I had never seen him eating before. I’m not a child anymore and know that he did. However, he had become such a “thing” to me, a figure so far removed from reality that it was weird to see him do something so normal.

This is It has a number of moments like this. They’re fascinating if for no other reason than it’s Michael Jackson doing it, or saying it. This is most evident when he was interacting with and instructing the band. I think I’ll forever remember his body language as he tells them “You’ve got to let it simmer.” Speaking of the music, since most of, if not all of us know the songs I won’t go into it. I will say if you’re not a Michael Jackson fan, this probably isn’t for you. Even if you are, beware this isn’t a straight concert film though there are plenty of numbers performed. It’s simply about watching the man put his show together.

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