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Cinema in Focus: ‘This Is It!’

The film, a must-see, showcases the creative genius of Michael Jackson as he prepared to embark on a world tour

3 Stars — Entertaining

Michael Jackson’s personal life has been controversial, but there is no doubt that his creative genius has affected those not only in the United States but throughout the world.

So when he came out of his self-imposed exile after 10 years, the world was ready to hear from him again. Titling his tour This is It!, Jackson began to sell out venues for his world tour. His tragic death days before the tour began makes this film of his preparation and rehearsals priceless as well as entertaining.

Filmed for Jackson’s own use, the film is neither a documentary nor a feature film. It is, instead, a rare visual and auditory record of the apex of Jackson’s life as an entertainer. Rather than exploring Jackson as a person and noting his troubled childhood and eccentric lifestyle, the film reveals his unusual ability to create a moment that is more than entertainment, as he did throughout the decades of his life.

For those who of us who enjoyed Jackson’s music throughout our own lives, his singing, dancing and videos are not only a part of our pop culture, but a part of our collective unconsciousness. From his songs with the Jackson 5 to “Black and White” and “Man in the Mirror,” “Billy Jean” and “Thriller” to “Beat It” and “Smooth Criminal,” the music is inextricably connected with our shared experiences not only of viewing Jackson’s performances but of our sharing the evolving music of our lives.

Jackson is respectfully joined in a creative partnership with director Kenny Ortega. Demonstrating a wisdom that allows Jackson to excel, Ortega brings together an amazing group of musicians, dancers and visual special effects artists. While understanding the importance of the original music and videos, the tour ingeniously combines new elements into the classic songs.

The film not only reveals the vintage Jackson, including the Jackson 5 songs, but it reveals the more recent sensitivities of Jackson, as his concern for the environment and reforestation is the pinnacle of the film with dramatic and effective video and live action music.

Undoubtedly, the life that Jackson lived was full of unbelievable pain and unparalleled opportunity. But the King of Pop leaves us with a gift through this film. Realizing that the rehearsals themselves were creative masterpieces, it is obvious that his is a talent that is worthy of admiration.

Discussion:

» The ability demonstrated by Jackson as a 50-year-old artist clearly places him as one of the greatest dancers and musicians in history. Do you believe his personal life disqualifies him from this place of adulation? Why?

» The respect shown to Jackson by the musicians and dancers in his tour ensemble is obvious. Do you think this respect is one of the reasons excellence is achieved by the entire group?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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