October 28, 2009, - 12:35 am
Had he lived, one thing is for certain. Michael Jackson’s concert would have been amazing (minus the global warming/green BS).
“This Is It,” out in theaters today, chronicles rehearsals for the late Jackson’s planned fifty concert dates in a tour of the same name. I expected to hate it. But I was pleasantly surprised. It shows us a Michael Jackson who was intensely involved in every note, every shot, every movement of his show. We see an intense perfectionist, but also a guy who was extremely nice to all in his crew and respected and loved by them. (At the end of his rehearsals, Jackson verbally returns the feeling, telling his dancers, musicians and assorted crew, “I love you. We’re all family.”)
“This Is It” is the next best thing to going to a Jackson concert. Audiences will see not just Jackson and his dancers performing many of his major hits, but also elaborate videos–essentially mini-movies–shot to go along with them and be shown on-stage at his shows.
Michael Jackson is clearly not the dying, out-of-it druggie we were told about. The movie consistently shows us a Michael Jackson who is not the sickly, exhausted, weak, but a guy who has more energy at age 50 than most men have at age 30. I was amazed at his strength and stamina, even if his legs were bone thin. Jackson’s non-stop dance moves and endless supply of energy through long rehearsals are simply fascinating. And he’s extremely lucid, engaging, and funny (sometimes unintentionally).
Jackson’s talent to hear specific notes and insist on them with his crew, as well as his acute sense of timing–all on display here as he instructs his production staff–show the genius of Michael Jackson. We’ve heard that word, genius, casualy used to describe Jackson far too many times. But this movie shows it to us in spades.
And while some of the singing appears dubbed in, most of it is Michael Jackson’s undoctored voice, still mellifluous and able to reach very high notes at the usually limiting age fifty.
The sets, the videos, the costumes–a good deal of which we see–are amazing, whether it’s the newly-shot scary video and costumes for “Thriller,” or the giant spider out of which Jackson appears.
Also fascinating is phenomenal 24-year-old Australian blonde female lead guitarist, Orianthi Panagaris, the best female guitarist I’ve ever seen or heard. She’s spectacular–the female Joe Satriani–and Jackson tells her to shine as he helps direct her electric slide solo. Also cool is extremely talented guitarist, Tommy Organ.
While we never really know what people are like when the cameras are turned off, what’s most notable in this movie are not just Jackson’s singing, dancing, and musical talent and that he’s completely in control of his faculties, physique, and composure. No, what comes through here even more than any of those things is what a nice guy Jackson seems to be. Even when he’s briefly in pain or disagrees, he’s nice and calm to an amazing degree and good to the people around him. In contrast is his sycophantic, cheesy tour director, Kenny Ortega. I also note that Jackson–despite all of the interviews and articles noting his estrangement from father, Joe Jackson–specifically asks during the performance of a medley of Jackson Five songs, “May G-d Bless Joseph and Katharine.”
I could have done without “environmental scholar” Michael Jackson’s pronouncement that “we only have four years left to repair the damage” we’ve caused through our “mismanagement of the planet.” Spare me. This is a guy who flew in private planes and used more energy with mansions and concert halls than an entire rural town. And Jackson made clear that this was “the important message I want to relay with my concert,” complete with little girl with an Arabic tattoo on her forehead, watching her jungle forest destroyed by a bulldozer. But other than that politically correct absurdity, the documentary was politics-free.
While I felt the hype and revisionist worship of Michael Jackson after his death was excessive to the nth, “This Is It” shows what a tragedy it was that this incredible talent died before his time. It also shows that he was in great shape and not on his way to his death bed–not even close–just days before he tragically passed away.
Frankly, “This Is It” is a far better tribute to the late Michael Jackson than all of the phony tributes and monologues delivered at his memorial service, this past summer.
It’s a little long, but akin to a full-length Jackson concert. If you’re not a Michael Jackson fan, this movie isn’t for you, and you might be bored. But if you are, it’s well done and well worth your $10. Go see it.
This Is It: This Was Worth It.
Tags: guitarist, Joe Jackson, Kenny Ortega, Michael Jackson, Movie Reviews, Orianthi, Orianthi Panagaris, This Is It, Thriller, Tommy Organ