Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

October 30, 2009

The final countdown

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 9:16 pm

October 30, 2009
Director: Kenny Ortega

So much has been written and said about Michael Jackson’s apparently exhausted condition while rehearsing for his London concerts prior to his death in June that you instinctively find yourself looking for signs of an impending collapse in the documentary, This Is It.

The film, which has been assembled out of nearly 120 hours of rehearsal footage, shows Jackson in pretty good shape for a 50-year-old, and in fact nothing in this documentary even remotely suggests he was pushing himself tirelessly, or that he was too weak or drugged to go on tour.

The Michael Jackson you get a glimpse of here is an entertainer in full control of his performance. He matches steps perfectly with the half-dozen dancers on stage who’re younger and highly trained. He gives detailed instructions to the musical director, corrects timing, sets his own cues, and more-or-less stage-directs the production himself. There are disagreements, but none that get ugly or even loud. He requests changes gently, almost whispering out the words so you need captions to follow him.

This Is It, directed by Kenny Ortega, is really chunks of behind-the-scenes B-roll that’s been artfully stitched together to create complete song sequences. Combined with the finest pyrotechnics, special effects and production design, each sequence is a stunning treat both for the eyes and the ears. For a performance of Smooth Criminal Jackson is inserted into black-and-white footage of a 40s film starring Humphrey Bogart and Rita Hayworth that ultimately climaxes in a live finale by the entertainer.

For Thriller, a pre-filmed video featuring witches and ghosts at a cemetery plays out before Jackson makes a live appearance. The set itself involves trapdoors, massive cranes and fireworks which are tried and tested and rehearsed by Jackson and his crew several times. The truth is, even without the gimmicks, it’s one hell of a watch.

How can you not tap your feet as Jackson belts out The Way You Make Me Feel while rehearsing the steps with a female dancer? How can you not smile when he repeats the famous crotch-grab? Almost everything seems to hint it was going to be one spectacular show.

Even if Michael Jackson didn’t get the chance to present that “one final curtain call” he promised his fans at a London press conference, this film is a good enough goodbye present. An hour and fifty-one minutes is a long running time for any documentary, especially one in which the protagonist has barely any speaking lines.

But for MJ fans, indeed, this is it. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Michael Jackson’s This Is It. It’s not a typical concert film, and it’s not exactly the story of Jackson’s last few weeks alive. It is in fact, a permanent reminder of the fact that a star is gone.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

1 Comment »

  1. Wish you had efficiently noticed the “clever editing” of the performances in This Is It, and multiple change of clothes for just one song. Did you also happen to notice the comfortable, light, summer clothes of the dancing troupe and Michael’s overdressed look in the heat of June? I guess not.
    The man was sick, cold, dehydrated and bone thin, along with not much control over the production of the whole concert. And now that the fact is out from his doctor’s own mouth that he injected Michael with Propofol every night for two months prior to his death, will you still say that Michael didn’t look too weak? I hope you do know what Propofol does to you if given for two months.

    Of course he was pushing himself tirelessly because of the perfectionist he was, and because he was being pushed by the concert promoter AEG LIVE.

    I regard your marking of this film purely based on the “master editing” by the editor and the director, Kenny Ortega. Those points are for Ortega and not Michael’s performance because you can’t rate or review it. It’s beyond any rating meter in the world.
    However, I wish you were there when this documentary was being diligently filmed (only during the last two days of his life) to have seen what Michael Jackson was being put through for his final (and quickest than ever) curtain call.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Neha Walia — April 30, 2011 @ 12:11 am

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