Friday, March 25, 2011

839 Rethinking Jacko

839 Rethinking Jacko

Michael Jackson, famed dead megastar with a father who beat him as a child and maybe

☛Molested children.
☛Tried to make himself look like a white woman, possibly Elizabeth Taylor, may she rest.
☛Became addicted to prescription drugs.
☛Turned his estate into a petting zoo.
☛Turned his life into a parody of life.
☛Burned through money as if all he had to do was print it, though some thought he could.

And just before he died, as he was preparing the longest tour of his career and almost anyone else’s, he made an unintentional movie, “This is It.”

An unintentional movie? Yes. They shot footage, about a gazillion hours worth of rehearsals and revisions and music and talk and dance instruction -- footage that was not to see the light of public day but has, put there by Jackson’s handlers or bloodsuckers or whatever the people surrounding him were called. It ended up at just under two hours in final form.

The film’s been out about two years, but only recently has been released for TV showing. It’s a game changer. It makes you forget

☛Elizabeth Taylor.
☛Little boys in his bed.
☛Life parodied.
☛Squandered riches.

It makes you remember Martha Graham. Or more accurately, a Martha Graham who could take as well as give direction and had a sense of humility.

Even assuming that the “unintentional” film was one in which all were playing to the camera, the thing is stunning.

Dance that combines grace, athleticism, musicality; that tells stories and surrounds you with special effects that would make Spielberg jealous... smoke, lights, shooting stars, animations of butterflies and who knows what-all else.

But the real eye opener here was watching the interplay between Jackson and others in the troop. For a megastar this guy knew the moves, the music, the lighting and a whole lot more and shared it in a way that by Hollywood standards was downright polite.

He coached instrumentalists. He coached dancers, singers, lighting and audio people all with the grace of his own dance moves.

Two other people in this film deserve special recognition. First is Danny Ortega, the director of the film, and apparently of the routines that were to be made into the actual live show.

Ortega teaches a lesson to anyone interested in filmography just by holding conversations with Jackson. You see this guy on the street, you think you’re seeing a farmer or a miner. You’re really seeing unassuming directorial brilliance.

College film majors would learn more in ten minutes of watching this guy than they will in four years of high priced courses at NYU.

The second by-name mention: Jasmine Alveran, then seven years old and who plays “Earth Girl” in the song “Earth Song.” A heart tugging cutie who’s been in film and commercials since age three. That’s way too young, but it happens. Maybe a life of stardom won’t screw her up ten years from now.

But back to Jack-o. Martha Graham, eat your heart out.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
© WJR 2011

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