Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Is It

I've always been a half-hearted Michael Jackson fan. I love many of his songs ("Thriller," "Billie Jean," "Leave Me Alone," "Remember the Time," etc.). But like everyone else in the world, I'm weirded out by the oddball habits he acquired in the latter part of his tragic life, by his appearance, and (especially) by his relationship choices. He's a study in all kinds of psychological phenomena. He was an angry, messed up man and a victim of untold abuses by family members and fans. And many of his songs - the syrupy-sweet and socio-political commentary ones in particular - grate on my nerves.

So when my wife and I went to see the new documentary movie This Is It, my expectations were low and my defenses high.

But I want to see it again. It was that good.

I liked just about everything about this behind-the-scenes look at MJ's rehearsals for the 50-date tour that never happened. From a technical standpoint it's a fascinating movie to watch. I love documentaries anyway, and this is one of the best ever made. You see a lot of the work that goes into mega-concerts and you come away with a great appreciation for the talent and skill of concert producers. Plus MJ's songs sound really excellent here. I was not expecting to hear such great sound and clarity. The musicians, dancers, and singers he recruited for the tour are amazing, especially a female guitar player that stands out. Michael's voice is sometimes flat, but he explains several times that he's trying to save his voice for the real thing, and you believe him.

Even Michael the man comes off impressively in the movie. He's a perfectionist but a gentle one. He knows what he wants but he's not arrogant about it. He compliments people and, best of all, you like him. His dancing is understated here, but once again you realize that if this were the real concert he'd amaze us. I expected him to look more sickly than he does in the film. He's thin but not emaciated. The movie leaves us with the Michael Jackson we all wanted him to be and wished he could be.

Of course, the whole movie is tinged with sadness because you know, the whole time you're watching the movie, that the show did not go on. All that work, all that talent, all that time went into a concert tour that never happened because of Jackson's untimely death on June 25 of this year - less than three weeks before the London kick-off of the This Is It tour. Because of the mystery surrounding his death, you're left with unanswered questions. My wife and I wonder if MJ took his own life because he feared the failure of the concert tour. Or was it his final act of rage and revenge against his abusive parents? We'll never know.

Michael Jackson's life and music stand as a testimony to the reality of God's common grace and to the sadness of a life lived to the glory of man rather than God.

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