Thursday, October 29, 2009




Mark Bego

Judging by the hordes of people waiting in line for over six hours in Tucson to get the first glimpse of Michael Jackson's posthumous big screen concert film debut, he has achieved a lifelong dream, and now has a hit movie to his credit. "This Is It," with its international two-weeks-only big screen run, has accomplished what "The Wiz" failed to do three decades ago. As the world's first non-concert concert film, "This Is It" also accomplishes--as a rehearsal documentary--what many big budget rock & roll do not. With the universal impression of "What a great concert experience would have made," viewing "The King of Pop" take his Cracker Jack cast and crew through grueling sound checks and repetitive run-through's, makes for the musical movie event of the year, if not the decade, or of all time. Although it is bittersweet to watch, knowing the Jackson is no longer with us, what this film does do is to bring us a very alive, and a very focused thriller of a portrayal. At one point in the film, Jackson looks at the camera and says, "I want to bring love back in the world." In his hour and a half final film, he does just that. Celebrity "comebacks" are tricky business. Elvis Presley died a bloated, drugged out mess. Judy Garland walked through her final concerts in the '60s in a daze. And Whitney Houston has struggled with a now-ruined voice to attempt her own. What makes "This Is It" so special, is that it shows a thin but animated Michael Jackson at the top of his game. His voice is still there, his image is intact, and he is seen as a strong and in-shape 50-year-old. He does not look like he is in the final weeks of his life at all. Cobbled together from several rehearsals, musical numbers are accomplished with split screens and lots of "jump cutting" of film of Jacko in "street clothes." Well, for Michael, street clothes include a silver lame jacket and bright orange jeans, so he manages to deliver the flash that we have come to know him for. It is as if the past 16 years of tabloid headlines are being eclipsed by his sheer talent and musical magic. Highlights from "This Is It" include the filming of a new 3-D interpretation of "Thriller," pyrotechnics run-through's, and a "green screen" filming of "Smooth Criminal" that finds Michael catching Rita Hayworth's strip-tease flung glove from the '40s film "Gilda," and being chased by machine-gun wielding Humphrey Bogart. Michael Jackson spent his career longing to be a classic film star, and now in death, his goal has ironically been realized.

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