Spike Lee Believes Michael Jackson’s “Bad” was a Watershed Moment In Time
The fact that “Bad” sold 45-million-copies and corresponded to one of the most innovative tour that had ever been attempted is enough to drive you to watch ABC television premiere debut, but you add the fact that the film is a Spike Lee Joint, makes it that much more of a must see event.
The documentary should not to be missed because Bad 25 is guaranteed to reveal Michael Jackson for the very first time to whether you’re a fan or not.
The timing for the ABC scheduled television premiere of Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed documentary “Bad 25,” could not have imaginatively come at a better time. With Forbes reporting that all of the pop stars enormousness debt is paid in full, there should be nothing holding anyone back from giving this documentary a fair and fastidious look.
The documentary had its public premiere at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this year and was released into theaters shortly afterwards.According to ABC, Lee trimmed almost an hour for the television version, nevertheless, critics say it will still have enough bit to be thankful for on this turkey night.
Award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee, reaches into the Michael Jackson catalog of hit albums and pulls out the one production that represents the opus of Jackson’s life, consumed with music and the inaccurate view that he was immorally bad. Lee craftily captures the pop star’s pain and glory, pictured with arms outstretched, head back in a Christ like posture on the cross. This one Lee got right. The director understood Michael’s the complex history. Clearly “Bad” appeared designed to tell the story only Lee could tell.
Undoubtedly, Jackson’s 1987 follow-up album represents not only his career peak, solidifying him as the “King of Pop,” it also epitomized the most accurate overall portrait of the fallen creative idol.
You have to applaud Lee. The documentary is a terrifically warm, affectionate and celebratory study of the “Bad” album, and Lee simply wanted to clear the tabloid smoke of erroneous sensationalism, and bring the focus back to Jackson’s professional craftsmanship and musical genius.
The film ABC will show its viewing audience tonight is a reassessment of Jackson the quintessential entertainer. Moreover, when all is said and done, it is clearly a stronger tribute to the musical monarch’s creative persona than 2009′s hasty hit “This Is It.”
A Spike Lee joint as the film is branded, but who could argue with the straight-ahead, which exhibits his unmistakable fingerprints throughout the narrative; a narrative I might remind you that reflects less of the firebrand filmmaker’s touch than much of his other nonfiction works. Lee’s personality is largely muted so as not to impose on that of Jackson, with whom Lee enjoyed a firsthand friendship. Nevertheless, it Lee’s firsthand friendship that brings forth a Michael many observers never knew.
If you’re one of those looking for a more critically insightful view on Jackson’s output you won’t find such a portrait in Michael Jackson: Bad 25; it’s not that complicated. Even devoted interviewees, admit to certain artistic miscalculations on “Bad,” such as the missed opportunity of lackluster Stevie Wonder collaboration “Just Good Friends,” or the curious choice of MOR ballad “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” as the propulsive LP’s lead single.
There were several tasty nuggets unearthed by Lee in the film, for instance, “Bad,” the single, was initially conceived as a Whitney Houston duet; when the soul diva, another prematurely departed pillar of 1980′s pop culture, presents Jackson with a career tribute in a choice bit of archive footage, which Lee was able to subtly integrate into the documentary.
Lee begins the journey by looking at Jackson’s earlier album, Thriller, which established the singer’s extraordinary global dominance. And then “Bad” comes along, during a time in Jackson’s life he was beginning to feel as though his star was beginning to wane. Audiences seemed to be seeking something new, and Prince appeared on the scene as the new pop sensation as a time when hip-hop was first emerging. Moreover, Michael felt he was being criticized on the issue of African-American solidarity and also for having allegedly failed to exert enough raunchy virility. Lee’s penetrating efforts palpably expose some of this pain, which was quite real to Jackson.
“Bad” intended to change all of Jackson’s shortcomings: an intensely competitive counteroffensive, which effectively separated itself from all competition as the first album to be conceived on a stadium scale. Jackson had in mind a bold new video, or “short film” based on the true-life story of a black boy shot by a New York cop. Scorsese directed the film that showed Jackson as a shy student, confronting Wesley Snipes’s tough guy, outfacing him with his dance moves and finally getting street respect: he’s “Bad.” Lee allows the audience to pick up on this as he seeks to demonstrate that Michael’s art imitated life; his life.
I’m hopeful that ABC and Lee were able to keep a fairly funny interviewshowing Scorsese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker watching the film now, with a touch of bemusement. Obviously, he isn’t convincing as a warrior, but the point is that Michael Jackson, that delicate pop aesthete, alchemizes his vulnerability and naivety into pure strength. And it works: he really is and was “Bad.” Lee takes no credit as he clearly puts Michael Jackson’s brilliance and glory on the stage for all to see.
Lee makes sure the audience is aware of Jackson’s distinct dance talent is not taken for granted as he links it to a tradition encompassing Fred Astaire and Buster Keaton, and he makes a persuasive claim that Michael is a centrally important figure in that tradition.
Unlike Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley, Jackson did not make conventional feature films, and so we don’t have that as a visual resource, and of course the videos and live footage, startling and brilliant though they are, can’t give us an extended view of what Jackson was like in ordinary, walking-and-talking real life. Moreover, his interviews were rare, and almost always guarded. Nevertheless, Jackson vigorous work towards perfection produced supreme artistic accomplishment and is cleverly revealed by Jackson with aching pain and triumphant glory.
Lee emphasizes what Jackson’s achieved in the public arena, and his exuberant reverence for the lonely Pop King is contagious throughout.
No narration is necessary since the upside of Lee’s closeness to his subject – and, of course, his individual clout – is that he’s been able to assemble a growing ensemble of top-drawer celebrity names, from super-producer Quincy Jones and “Bad” video director Martin Scorsese to longtime entourage members to fans like Mariah Carey and a typically boisterous Kanye West. The latter contingent adds youth appeal to this silver-anniversary nostalgia piece, though one wonders if Lee is sometimes cheekily using them to further flatter his subject.
Lee also makes sure he shows Jackson’s relevance as he includes a scene where current teen phenom Justin Bieber remarks that Jackson’s video for “The Way You Make Me Feel” was an influence on his own hit “Baby,” the artistic disparity between them is politely implicit.
“Bad 25″ is refreshingly uninterested in celebrity mythos, focusing principally on the practical and physical nuts and bolts of Jackson’s talent as a songwriter, producer, dancer and vocalist. (Another archive rarity that will thrill fans is a recording of one of Jackson’s vocal coaching sessions.) In this regard, Lee’s unstylish but methodical structure for the documentary moving through the album on a track-by-track basis, the cinematic equivalent of highly detailed liner notes – proves an asset; and for the documentary to keep its magical continuity the edited version prepared for ABC must maintain this chronological approach.
If the edit is able to retain Lee’s full vision, it will doubtlessly reflect TIME Magazine’s accurate critique stating that it’s “an intimate view of a performer at his peak in the intense splendor of creativity.”
The requisite montage of interviewees’ “where was I when … ” reactions to Jackson’s death is attached to a specific song, the self-realization anthem “Man in the Mirror,” which proved the biggest radio hit from his catalogue in the immediate wake of his passing, isn’t allowed to overwhelm the dominant spirit of musical celebration.
The documentary’s final image is taken from film of his famous July 16, 1998 concert at Wembley Stadium in England of the “Bad Tour.” Jackson finishes singing “Man in the Mirror,” which proved the biggest radio hit from his catalog in the immediate wake of his passing. It was a song that has become Jackson’s unofficial anthem; but the closing image was particularly important to Spike Lee as Jackson throws back his arms and head in a final flourish sort of resembling his tragic life.
“I am not going to say Michael was Jesus Christ,” Lee remarked in a news conference at the festival. “But if you look at the performance, he was somewhere else. That was one of the greatest performances, ever, ever, ever. He is not of this world.”
With that said, Lee was inspired to leave an indelible image of Jackson pop-star who had been so misunderstood by many whom he came across during his short lived life. So Lee, in his own genius leaves a glorious and simultaneously disturbing image on the screen for all to see, and it was “Bad” 25 years after; the image completely captured Jackson’s pain and glory.
The Bad 25 that people will see on ABC tonight will be a documentary film that highlight’s just about every contribution to its recording and subsequent tour. The television audience will appreciate an understanding that at the time Bad was being made, five years had passed since the recording of Thriller, the biggest-selling album of all time and the work that crowned Jackson King of Pop in the 1980s.
Jackson was so fixated on topping that success, he wrote the figure 100 million time after time in hotel rooms and studios as he recorded. That’s how many albums he wanted to sell.
Michael Jackson performs in 1990. He did an international tour after releasing Bad.
He hired Richard Price to write the screenplay for the video of Bad and Martin Scorsese to direct it as the singer had the big picture in mind.
Spike Lee’s BAD 25 goes back to all those collaborators, with Lee interviewing them about the Jackson they knew. It involved sifting through hours of behind the scenes archival footage from the time . And it gathers interviews with stars such as Cee Lo Green and other that I have already mentioned who were inspired by Jackson.
Contributor D. Chandler
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