Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some notes on MJ's This Is It.

Last night I took in Michael Jackson's This is It - in IMAX, no less!

Though I'm certainly an MJ fan, I had my doubts about the London O2 concerts. The live performances that I'd seen from the HIStory tour and the 30th Anniversary show at Madison Square Garden didn't give me much hope that MJ could ever reclaim his throne of pop showmanship.

This is It now has me thinking that those concerts really could have rejuvenated his reputation in global pop culture.

I was encouraged by the promotional clips that had been circulating, which indicated live vocals - and good live vocals at that. The majority of the songs in the film are in fact sung live, and I'm amazed that he was able to get his voice back in shape. This was probably the greatest and most convincing aspect of the film for me.

The dancing wasn't exactly the high-octane performance of MJ's legend. That may be partially due to the fact that these were rehearsals, and may also be the product of middle age. That's not to say the film is devoid of MJ's dancing, just that it's a bit more subdued than one might expect. I will say that in this video footage, his face looked better than it had in the previous 10-15 years.

Most of the man's biggest hits are here"
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
They Don't Care About Us
Human Nature
The Way You Make Me Feel
Beat It
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
I Want You Back/The Love You Save/I'll Be There
Earth Song
Black or White
Man in the Mirror

Noticeably absent are any tracks from the much-revered Off the Wall album. Whether or not those were planned for the shows is unclear. It's possible that their absence is simply a product of what footage existed. (the bulk of the performances hail from four or five days' worth of rehearsals).

As much of the press has noted, what's really interesting to see is MJ in the midst of his creative process. Granted, it's not quite the same as getting access to a slew of demo recordings and hearing those classic tracks take shape. But there is definitely a sense of vision and MJ working to realize that vision of what could have been his reclamation of relevance in popular culture. Of course, the unsettling irony is that he achieved that reclamation in death.

Granted, the film was meticulously edited from something like 80 hours of footage. No doubt the producers of the film worked to present MJ in the best possible light. Even so, you do not get the sense of watching someone on the verge of collapse. This doesn't appear to be a chemically dependent man, out of touch with reality. Quite the contrary - he seems focused, energized and set on blowing the O2 arena to bits.

In short, it was a worthwhile look into the construction of Jackson's O2 stint, and I think a fitting final testament. A concert film classic? Probably not. But something that any fan should make a point to see over the next two weeks (though I'm betting on an extended run. One can't help but think the "two week limited engagement" was a means to drum up advanced sales).

No comments: