Yesterday afternoon I took myself to see the movie This Is It about Michael Jackson. I decided I wanted to see it after watching an interview with Kenny Ortega, his friend and director of the movie. Only in theaters until Thanksgiving, eventually it will be available on DVD, but it's definitely one of those movies you need to see on the big screen.
Kenny Ortega put together the two-hour movie from 120 hours of video footage taken during rehearsals at Staples Center in Los Angeles between March and June of this year. This was to be the 50-year-old's comeback tour scheduled to open in London just days after his untimely death on June 25.
Because it was so close to the opening they had film of several of the big numbers with all their pyrotechnics and special effects. The screen is filled with performers, musicians, choreographers, and crew members and gives you a real feel for what happens behind the scenes of such a production. From the casting call on, it was fascinating to watch it all take shape.
The last time I paid much attention to MJ's music was when Thriller came out in 1983. I distinctly remember seeing the video when it debuted, and I thought the dancing and theatrics were fabulous. I had the album and still know most of the cuts. He got a little weird after that which turned me off to his music.
I thought it was very sad when he died so unexpectedly but I can't say I was surprised. So many stories of his eccentricities including his much-denied plastic surgery, reports of sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, living with Bubbles the monkey, and then the charges of child molestation made me forget about him long ago. All that said, you can't deny his incredible talent, and they did a wonderful job showcasing that talent in This Is It.
In the first part of the film they interviewed several of the dancers who all said how much of a dream it was to be on stage with their idol, Michael Jackson. Whatever was happening in his life, he was obviously in fantastic condition and kept up with dancers decades younger. Split screens convey Jackson, nearly always in sunglasses, performing the same number in different days with different wardrobes and different approaches. There's no question who the director is here. Jackson is in complete control. The few times he was shown correcting a performer, he was especially gentle in the delivery of the criticism, once saying simply 'This is why we rehearse.'
There's also several sequences of numbers done with the Jackson 5 in much younger days obviously not part of the recent filming but certainly included to show where he came from. Many times at the end of a number you expect to hear the reaction of a crowd and the camera pans to the groups of performers and crew watching who are on their feet jumping, clapping and cheering.
All the songs were familiar and for the most part didn't seem to vary much from their original recordings. Several of the musicians had quick interview clips. The one musician I wish they had interviewed was the lead guitarist, Australian born Orianthi Panagaris. Her bio says Orianthi has played with the likes of Eric Clapton and Santana and was named one the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists. Incredible to watch, her style made me think of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Apparently she played and sang at MJ's memorial in Los Angeles in July, and I'm sorry I missed it. I plan to look for it on YouTube.
Despite not having been a recent fan of Michael Jackson, I totally enjoyed This Is It, and I'm really glad I didn't miss it in the theater. I was really ambivalent about seeing it until I saw the interview with Kenny Ortega who seems like a very sincere, thoughtful man. The way he handles MJ in the movie proves it. If you ever enjoyed his music & dancing, go see the movie.
You won’t be disappointed