Thursday, November 5, 2009
This Is It - Michael Jackson's Final Gift To His Fans
The new movie about Michael Jackson's last show, This Is It, opens with the words, "For the fans", and that is exactly what it is - an absolute gift to anyone who ever danced along to "Billie Jean" or "Beat It" ... who sang along to The Jackson Five ... who watched the "Thriller" video 3,000 times ... who stayed home from the Circus to watch Michael perform The Moonwalk the first time on t.v. (me) ... or just someone who can appreciate an otherworldly talent that we'll never see again. This is truly it.
I'm so glad I saw this film, because now the lasting impression I have of Michael Jackson is not at all the tabloid freak show our society turned him into ... instead, it is of a man who LOVED what he did, and who was still the very best at it. This was not a man who wanted to die. He is firmly in charge. He is clearly excited to, as he put it, "show people talent they've never seen before." This live show would have been the absolute best show that ever was. The movie succeeds in blowing your mind with anticipation for the real deal, and then crushing your heart to know that it will never happen, and the world has lost someone incredibly special.
The movie (and the show) goes through all the stages of Michael's career, and he still sings a lot like the little kid we all fell in love with. It's all rehearsal footage, so he's just marking a lot of the dances, to save his energy, but when he cuts loose ... he shows you exactly why he was dubbed The King Of Pop. At one point, he does a kind of dance solo that leaves all his backup dancers laughing and falling on the ground in admiration, and from getting schooled. The entire movie I felt my body twitching while watching him, like you just want to get up and try his moves with him. They're not just the old, familiar ones either - this guy was always pushing forward: new dance moves (sideways Moonwalk!), so precise they're like robot moves, aerial artists, film technology (new "Thriller" segments!) you've never seen in a live show before, fresh new costumes (new, pointy shouldered jacket!), and best of all, Michael Jackson showing you how it's done. As everyone is left gasping at his moves, he humbly says, "At least that helps you get a feel for it." Everyone laughed out loud in the theater at the understatement.
It also rocks. It's a great movie, and would've been a great show, because you know every note and beat of each song, so you feel it more. "Beat It" is as rock as ever, only now he has a cute blonde girl shredding the guitar solo instead of Eddie Van Halen. Michael sort of shadow boxes at one point during it, and looks strong (almost buff?) for a second, instead of the frail guy that you just hope will get through it all. Which he did not - but when you watch him singing and dancing, it becomes pretty clear that there was some serious foul play involved, because no one works that hard and puts up this big of a production to not want to see it through. It is tragic for everyone involved on screen that this show will never come to pass. I applaud the decision to share this footage with the world, because it shows the sheer artistic mastery and perfectionism of Michael Jackson, and his desire to "Put some love back into the world."
So if you ever sang along or mimicked MJ's moves, (or got into a fight with your neighbor over the photo of him in the "Say, Say, Say" yellow vest and hat that there was only one magazine left of - again, me) go see "This Is It". As my friend Kwaku said, "Michael Jackson is our Elvis." He really was. There will likely never be anyone bigger, or more culture changing, in the world again. Sad as it is to see this life force snuffed out and gone, the film celebrates everything spectacular that Michael Jackson contributed to this planet. And it remains thrilling.