By David Gordon, News Editor
There are certain things you'll remember for your entire life. For me, Michael Jackson's death is one of them. I was in Times Square when the news was flashed across the signs on ABC's studio. The world stopped. Everybody stared. Mouths dropped open. Men and women cried. The King of Pop was as dead as a door-nail, weeks before he began a concert engagement that was supposed to yet again rejuvenate his career.
Kenny Ortega, the mastermind behind the "High School Musical" franchise, poured over hours of rehearsal footage and other materials to create "Michael Jackson's This is It," a concert documentary that now serves as a memorial to the fallen icon, who, in his last days, according to the media, couldn't move and looked like death warmed over.
Except that, if videos prove anything at all, he didn't. Okay, he was a little skinny and his voice was thin in certain places, but beyond that, the man on screen was as energetic and fierce as in the days of yore. Only once does he look tired, during "Thriller," where he also visibly lip-syncs.
Watching the film, you see a side of Jackson not known to the general public, the humble perfectionist. When he's applauded, he responds by saying "God bless you." When there's a mistake while rehearsing, he responds with "that's what rehearsal is for." But he's also unafraid to tell the band members when he's not grooving what they're playing, in the nicest way possible, of course.
The film is meticulously edited (by Ortega, Don Brochu, Brandon Key, Tim Patterson and Kevin Stitt) to combine at least three days worth of footage into each song (you can tell by the costume changes). Some parts are in HD, others are so low definition they're almost grainy. Each song ends in a blackout; it's like the film is a series of connected videos.
The highest quality sequences are the visual effects which would have been shown to the concert audience. Among them, a remade "Thriller" that pales in comparison to the original and, more ingenious, Jackson planted into a scene from "Gilda," with the now-and-forever gorgeous Rita Hayworth tossing him her black glove and then being chased by Humphrey Bogart.
The film is slows down right at the halfway point and stops in its tracks during "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." The third to last song, "Earth Song," also stops the movie.
Leaving the movie theater, my companion and I couldn't help but muse about how spectacular the "This Is It" shows at the O2 Arena in London would have been. It's a shame that things ended as they did.