Guest Author - Jamise Grace Liddell
Reigning as the King of anything is a grand concept. The massively hyped film, �This Is It� highlights a side of Michael Jackson that few fans have ever seen. In a documentary format, �This Is It� offers a �head bopping, foot stomping� journey through the making of the pop star�s last concert. Featuring, telling editing, and prophetic snippets of �The Real Michael Jackson�; viewer�s witness the creative decision- making process of a mega icon; are treated to many of their favorite songs; and are left with a complete understanding of why MJ is the �King of Pop�.
When he was among the living, a typical Michael Jackson concert film would feature photos of �the talented one� and then long, sometimes unbearably long, cinematic sweeps of adoring crowd scenes. �This Is It� however, is full of imperfect moments, such as Jackson getting testy with his band director, demanding that he �let the music simmer�. Other times he speaks softly, but disappointingly to someone off camera, � I don�t want to sing, I don�t want to use my voice, I want to save my voice. You can use your voice (he says to a back-up singer with whom he singing a duet) but I want to save my voice.�
Snapshots of MJ�s humanity, showcase a character so talented, and strong that one forgets about the negative challenges to MJ�s character. At least for two hours, fans and foes can cease to think about sexual allegations with young people, MJ�s lightened skin, and distorted clown-like facial features and become lost in the celebrity�s immense talent, and the generally humble demeanor of �the artist known as Michael Jackson�.
So amazing, is the superstar singer, that at one point, while practicing the song , �Man in the Mirror�, with an audience comprised of back up singers, dancers and tour staff, all overcome with the power of Jackson�s practice performance. The group began to cheer like love struck fans, �whooping and hollering at the Jackson, encouraging and praising the magnificent dance moves.
�This Is It�, paints Michael Jackson as a really nice guy, and treats viewers to a very real, personal and intimate experience. Never will we know, why while when alive �MJ The Legend� would rarely grace the public with this �down to earth� view of an MJ, who corrects his musicians, who cracks jokes and challenges his crew to �give their all, their best.�
Watching the film made real the permanence of death. I will admit, without warning tears flowed from my eyes, because �This Is It� (what a title!) carefully cataloged the enormity of the loss of Michael Jackson the entertainer.
�This Is It� editors included footage of The Jackson Five performances while MJ 2009 practiced the 1970�s hit �I�ll Be There.� It was delightful and melancholy to remember Michael as a young, brown skinned boy with a wide nose and a huge afro, singing his heart out, while dancing with his brothers.
Cinematically, �This is It� is an often grainy compilation, pieced together from practice footage from the upcoming concert of the same name. The concert was to play in London. What heartache for the dancers and singers who had reached a pinnacle with this gig. Few would argue that singing, dancing, playing music, and performing in Jackson�s last film is greater than the exposure they would have received in London.
Frank Dileo has a prominent role in the film as he directs and placates to Jackson in an odd, childlike, and subservient manner. The conversations between the two are surreally, respectful and odd. At one point, Jackson fails to clearly express himself, claiming that the music sounds like someone is putting their �fists in my ear�. �What can we do to make that better for you?� Dileo asks in the same manner a mother would ask her small screaming child if he wants a cookie.
�This Is It� viewers are teased with new video segments filmed for the song �Thriller�. But the thrill for me was having a couple of legends, famed musician George Benson, and � The Greatest Boxer of all time� Muhammad Ali sitting in the row behind me at the Phoenix screening of the film. I sat with the legends as we watched �The King.�