The truth is that seeing Michael Jackson on tv for the first time is one of my earliest childhood memories. He was performing live with his brothers. I was so blown away by the experience that, at 5 years old, the only way I knew how to express how I felt about him in that moment after he stopped singing was to kiss his face — right there on the screen. Something I’d never done before nor have I done since.

Ahhh we were both still so young and innocent then. Soon Michael would transform from awkward adolescent to the gorgeous boy-man creature of Thriller. His life would take some dark twists and turns in the years following his Thriller and “We Are The World” triumphs. His remains a complex and mixed legacy. I admit that I went to see “This Is It” in part just to understand who he was and what had happened to this iconic individual.

Just getting to the movie theater proved to be an adventure in and of itself. My friend texted me while I was in the city to send me a link to a local blog. A cable had snapped on the Bay Bridge. Getting to the East Bay was now a dangerous mission. I tweeted the news out and started to form another plan. It took another hour for it to hit the airwaves and by that time, I was headed over the other bridge to the East Bay. I saw the movie on IMAX just outside of Oakland. The crowd was mixed, but about 50% black. These were true fans — people eager to see the movie ASAP on the best screen possible on Tues at 10:30pm. I could have waited til the weekend but my friend who had originally bought tickets to the London concert wanted to be among the first to see the movie. I loved seeing it in the theater cuz well, you know how we do. Folks were singing along, snapping fingers, gasping at good parts and there was a warm round of applause after every song.

My thoughts on the movie itself and whether you should consider going…are after the jump. Above are a couple of bootleg video clips taken while I was in the theater. I can’t promise how long those will be available on YouTube.

I loved the movie. If you’re not a big fan, I think it’s ok to wait for the DVD, which I have a feeling will be out in time for Christmahanukwanzaa. Seeing it in IMAX was great though because the sound was incredible and the picture felt almost 3-D at times — crisp and clear. I definitely recommend it however just because it’s rare to see real genius at work, creating a masterpiece. Jackson may have been a desperate, disillusioned, disgraced drug addict looking for a comeback and a payday to mend his tattered finances. But man, that was not all he was by a long shot and goddammit — he still had it. No amount of drugs he could pour into his system could fully dim his incandescent light. Until they finally did.

What a loss. What a shame. What a light that shone brightly even through the physical frailty that is painfully evident in the film. It’s possible that he worked himself literally to death. At points in the film, it’s clear that his shoulders are smaller than those of the female dancers. His poor condition is stark in contrast to the healthy young dancers surrounding him. Still — even as delicate as he was — his dancing and singing remained strong until the end. His mental faculties, musical gift and human spirit were still very much intact. His talent was and is bigger than him. He knew it better than us — what a burden to carry — and it survives him. He is perhaps one of the greatest gifts Black America has given the world culture. MJ was truly a star — a far-off light giving off a magical glow from another galaxy.

The standout performances for me were Thriller (one of the clips above) — so cool to see it re-done with contemporary technology matched with MJ’s vision. He was involved in even the tiniest details of the show and it would have been spectacular. I think they should still do it and find a Jackson 2nd generation or talented imitator to do it. I think people would still go, especially if it were in Vegas. Even without him physically there, it would still have his unmistakable imprint. Smooth Criminal showed his brilliance and sense of humor.

I also loved his rendition of Human Nature. It’s the difference between a young Sinatra and the mature artist’s interpretation thickened with age and experience. So beautiful, still sweet yet with a fierce growl we haven’t heard before. There’s real bitterness tempered with a delicate optimism and a sense of shrugging forgiveness in it. It was almost like I was hearing it again for the first time. If you want to buy a single off the movie soundtrack — buy that one.

Finally, there’s Earth Song. If there was one message Michael intended as a takeaway for his audience, it’s that we “need to bring more love into the world” and that includes love for the planet. He speaks eloquently about his concern for the earth and his commitment to encourage action. “I love the planet,” he says in the film. He states that “we only have 4 years” before the damage is irreversible and we reach “the point of no return.” In other words, he was well-educated on the politics and science — and impact — of climate change caused by deforestation and pollution. He put it into his show. MJ says that “everyone talks about what the government…what ‘they’ should do”. But he says, it’s not “They”. It’s you, it’s us, it’s me who’s got to do it.

I’ll end with a couple of fashion predictions:

yes to his flat black sunglasses in the daytime. no to holographic pants in either gold or silver.


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