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Friday, October 30, 2009

Michael Jackson ~ This is It

These days it isn’t that hard to grab yourself a fan base. Heck, even Spencer Pratt and his Will o’ the Wisp flesh-colored beard have people who worship him, and that is not so far from adoring a hemorrhoid with a transparent merkin on his chin. My cousin Winona, whose only discernable talent seems to be the ability to breathe with her mouth closed, has a Facebook page with 874 “friends.” Okay, so “friends” may not be exactly the same as “fans”, but considering she lives in a single-wide near an ice-flow along the James Ross Strait in Nunavut, EBF, Canada and spends her days knitting custom yarmulkes for people’s pets, it proves that almost anybody with an Internet connection can find someone to like them. Granted, I’m assuming that at least half of those 874 “friends” are actually human and at least 10% of those have truly met her, so apparently there really is a sucker born every minute. We don’t even invite Winona to family reunions, but that is mostly because everyone in her immediate gene pool knows that it is impossible to tell which of her eyes to look into when trying to carry on a conversation with her. Unfortunately, Winona was born with two lazy eyes, and neither one of them has wandered onto the same path since. My Uncle Dominick, her father, always said the biggest blessing in Winona’s life was that she was born a girl because with those eyes she’d never be able to write her name in the snow, if you know what I mean. Rumor has it she may have drowned the family cat trying to take aim, but that’s a visual I try not to think about.

Speaking of trying to avoid something, I waited until a week after it premiered to see Michael Jackson: This is It because I had about as much enthusiasm for hearing or seeing anything more even remotely associated with Michael Jackson as I do for giving Larry King a Brazilian wax with my teeth. I’m sorry, but I was never a fan of the self-proclaimed “King of Pop.” Maybe that title was part of the problem. I don’t really like people who crown themselves as royalty. It’s not much different than what George Bush managed to pull off in 2004 or Idi Amin did in 1971. I will give him credit though. Calling himself the “King of Pop” may have proved to be a self-fulfilling prophesy; perhaps I should begin referring to myself as the “Queen of the Internet” and wait for the riches to roll in.

You know, liking Michael Jackson has not been an easy task. With everything from his bizarre fetish for cosmetic surgery, the peculiar way he dressed his children in masks whenever they went out in public, his odd penchant for obtaining The Elephant Man’s remains, and, of course, that whole child-diddling issue all act as heavy barriers to my even wanting to bother with acknowledging the talents the man had. He went out of the way to separate himself from the masses with his weird tastes, whether it was by bleaching his skin, wearing those odd militaristic (yet fabulously sequined) costumes in his private life off-stage, or by turning his home into an amusement park where his best friend and companion was a cranky chimpanzee named Bubbles, Michael practically begged to be mocked. It almost seems like he wanted us to think he was crazy. Maybe he was; Jackson’s personal life was a mess and apparently always had been thanks to his hideously abusive father. The days of his “Thriller” fame were only a painful memory of when Michael was a young, sexy, black man long before he morphed into a middle-aged, androgynous-looking white woman. It’s only now, after his death, that the truth about his rampant drug use has been revealed and has clouded his reputation even further.

Still, despite all of his peculiarities, there was an amazingly talented person behind the tabloid headlines and Michael Jackson: This is It is a grand opportunity to see the legend devoid of his peculiarities and revealed to be the great musician he actually was. While Michael Jackson: This is It is not what one could call a great concert film, it is a very personal event. Made up of footage from Jackson’s rehearsals for his planned London comeback concert series, Michael Jackson: This is It strips away a lot of the “exotic” hoopla that always followed Jackson and concentrates on the artist at work. Michael is shown working with his dance troupe, his band, and choreographer and director Kenny Ortega (who assembled the footage and brought Michael Jackson: This is It to life) as he works to develop the precision moves and cues he has always been known for in his act. Whatever questions people may have held about him being too frail or drug dependent to perform this comeback should be doused by the picture of the man on-screen. Michael was on fire creatively and physically, able to manage moves no ordinary 50 year old guy could do.

Michael Jackson: This is It is Michael Jackson at his best. There are updated versions of several of his past hits, including a peek at was to be a new 3-D “Thriller” and a salute to his years as the front-man for the Jackson Five.  The most fascinating thing though has to be seeing ~ even in small glimpses ~ the kindness of the man that is usually lost in the hype and mythology that surrounded him in life and now continues since his death. How rare to see an artist of his stature granting those in his circle time on-stage during his show to shine as individual talents beyond being his “background” performers. Truly, Michael had a generous spirit.

I’m sure Michael Jackson: This is It won’t be the absolute last we hear from the deceased singer considering the huge archives of his work that must exist, but this is definitely a fitting tribute to Michael and a gift to his fans worth cherishing. I’ll admit I may not have been one before, but after Michael Jackson: This is It I have a newfound respect for the man even if it does mean I have to admit I was wrong about the man. Better late than never I suppose.

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