If you are all like me, you viewed the release of Micheal Jackson’s This is it! With a great deal of suspicion and cynicism. The endless torrent of tabloid information surrounding his career, coupled with the bizarre reality of the actual circumstances of his untimely death, overshadowed any chance of objectivity walking into this film.
Then when it was reported that the Jackson family collected a cool sixty million turning the rights over to Sony while Micheal’s body lay waiting somewhere to be buried – it just added to the weirdness surrounding this project.
Nothing like contempt before the investigation – I had it in spades.
Jackson has always been a bit of an enigma to me. I always wondered how he wrote songs when he couldn’t play instruments. How much of his success was due to Quincy Jones?
The nasty allegations, never proven in a court of law, reportedly led to his withdrawal from public life. Where are these true?
Whatever the facts, Jackson had undeniably created one odd public persona. Naming kids Paris, Prince Micheal, and Blanket didn’t precisely allay the public’s suspicions that there was one eccentric dude.
This is It!, expertly and affectionately culled from hours of rehearsal footage for the show that was to debut in London 8 days after his death, was full of surprises that shattered almost all my preconceptions. Director and show co-creator Kenny Ortega deserve a great deal of credit for assembling such a coherent and complete picture of Jackson in such short order after his death.
Jackson comes across in ways that completely surprised me. It had been reported that Jackson had become some drugged-out zombie-weirdo who was being manipulated by those around him. There was no evidence of that in This is It!, where Jackson appears engaged and entirely in charge of virtually all aspects of the creation and refinement of the show that had pre-sold 800,000 tickets.
His input into musical arrangements, dance routines, and other show details was crisp, pointed, and insightful in a way that almost always improved the outcome. He came across as a show business pro of the highest order who knew precisely what he was doing and had the attention and respect of all those working with him.
What was also evident was the remarkable talent and charisma Jackson had. Even performing at 50%, he was never less than riveting. There had been stories Jackson had lost his voice, and the London shows would all be lip-synced. Yet in the movie, his voice was strong, textured, and rich with his trademark vibrato throughout the rehearsals – no lip sync appeared necessary.
They also said he was frail and weak and couldn’t dance, yet his dancing stopped other dancers in their tracks to watch. No one can dance like Michael Jackson – you must see the opening five minutes of This is It! when he breaks into Wanna Be Startin’ Something to realize what a talent this man was. Don’t be surprised if you get goosebumps.
In the end, however, the movie was sad. What caused him to live that life of drug-induced sleep that eventually killed him? He seemed like a humble and friendly person. Why did this have to happen to him? It’s sad.
These questions, I am afraid, may never be answered, but so many others are in This is It!
Music Video of the Year, hands down.