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This Is It (and it’s awesome.)

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post another MJ blog, because 1) it’s still legit sad to me and 2) I’m like 14% embarrassed about it… maybe more like 12%. And, when the promotion started for this concert/rehearsal/musical feature, documenting his preparation for the concerts that would never actually be (see… sad), I was half overcome with too-soon-syndrome. But I also knew I’d see it eventually, and decided it was one to see in the theatre. Cause who wants a DVD-size MJ when you can have big screen MJ, right? Exactly.

Setting aside all of my jokey rhetoric, it must be said that I was moved from start to finish. The film’s first series of shots are interviews with auditioning dancers, many of whom had traveled halfway across the world to perform in front of their idol. With overwhelming humility, they attempt to express the value of this moment in their lives. Many of them struggle to find the words, and it’s in these earnest, yet clumsy and unrefined confessions that we understand the poetic symmetry of being a dancer who has been selected to dance for Michael Jackson. Because for anyone who has ever aspired to perform on stage or work as a touring dancer, there is no greater inspiration than The King of Pop. And after bearing witness to his process, the same can be said for anyone who aspires to be great at… well, anything.

Though born with gifts that often made him seem otherworldly, MJ also possessed a meticulous and largely unmatched work ethic, one that is generously on display throughout the film’s entire 111 minutes. You get the feeling that while the physical show may have been a work in progress, the one in Michael’s mind was not only complete, but perfect. His eyes are often shielded behind enormous sunglasses or the brim of his hat, but there’s no mistaking who controls every maneuver on the stage, and always with such admirable professional grace. He corrects with smiles and encouragement, gentle reminders, always maintaining his calm. Michael had beautiful manners.

The songs featured are Jackson classics and never stray too far from their original incarnation, a testament to the lasting quality of his music. When did MJ ever need a club remix or Autotune to get people on their feet? The voice is still there, and brilliant. And the moves… even at the age of 50 and at half throttle (he’s in rehearsal mode, after all), are shake-your-head-this-guy-is-not-human impressive. But what is most clear (and not entirely unpainful to see) is that the artist in Jackson was still alive and well. Despite attempts to preserve his energy during rehearsals for Billie Jean, he can’t help but give in to the cheers and applause from the crew of dancers and musicians who are watching him; no doubt a heady experience for them all. And as they yell and root with appreciation, he simply smiles, nods his head and murmurs a heartfelt ‘thank you’, content that he has pleased his audience. And hopefully reminded, in some small way, that he is loved.

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