Friday Oct 30, 2009

Michael Jackson's This is It!

Wednesday night, my friends and I went to the Century Cinemas 16 on Shoreline to catch Michael Jackson's "This is It".  I can only say that it was so much better than I expected, and I was amazed at what they were able to put together, considering this was clearly not a planned film.

I've always loved Michael Jackson - I think anyone born before 1990 was a fan at least at one point in their lives. True, I lost interest in him as he got more and more out there, but always appreciated his incredible talent. I even found that his more recent albums would grow on me, as their tracks would come up on my iPod's random shuffle.  I expected him to just fade off with other aging rock stars, but never to die so suddenly of a drug overdose.

This movie was a touching glimpse at what this tour could've been. We start off with the announcement by Michael of his last tour, and quickly move into watching hundreds of amazing dancers hoping to make one of the few spots as an "MJ principal dancer". After getting their slot, each of the dancers takes a moment to reflect on camera how much it means to them to work with Michael and what an influence he's been on dancing - each of us in the audience relates and knowing how the story ends, our hearts just start to break a little.

Many of the numbers are a cut-together of several different rehearsals, which shows us all what a professional and perfectionist Michael was. The dance sequences continue with no breaks, even though you can tell it was cut-together due to the different outfits he is wearing.  Really, if nothing else, the editors for this movie deserve an Academy Award.

I will admit that Michael's taste in clothing did seem to actually be getting more eccentric. I mean, glittery gold pants? as rehearsal clothes? He also had some new funky expression of shoulder pads that seemed more appropriate for Dracula than a pop star, but I guess being a pop star gives you more leeway in your wardrobe than the rest of us have.

It was clear that everyone working with him on the tour were amazingly talented, had great visions for the concert, and were "yes men", which may have been Michael's undoing. Sometimes you need a good friend to tell you that you are going off the deep end, or that you shouldn't be doing things like taking surgical grade anesthetics to go to sleep...

One thing that so impressed me is that Michael Jackson is a true performer. There was absolutely no lip syncing going on. Even in rehearsals, he was in full voice (though sometimes he openly worried about losing his voice). He knew every word to every song he's ever sung, and was constantly working on ways to freshen up the classics while not taking away from anyone's memory of how the song should be. Every dance step was done with passion, integrity and focus - never marked. Modern day "singers" should watch this and be ashamed of themselves.

Michael Jackson had planned on incorporating aerialists, "pole dancing experts", a new 3D Thriller sequence, never before seen lighting and pyrotechnics, and amazing costumes. None of that will ever see a real audience. This movie is a wonderful glimpse at what was and what could've been. I understand it is a limited time release, so go catch it now while you can.

Thursday Feb 26, 2009

Coraline in 3D

I went to see the latest movie based on a Neil Gaiman book, Coraline, this past weekend. It was in 3D! And not at all like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets throwing popcorn at you, either, it was really 3D! This was a really cool use stop-animation and old camera techniques to really bring the audience into the movie, without any of the silly gimmicks like throwing ... well, popcorn at you.  I did find I had to sit very still when the movie first started, to avoid getting queasy at the perceived motion.  After the intro, though, the motion seemed to slow down - avoiding the problem that the latest Bond film had for me, so I could actually focus and look at what was going on. The protaganist was a smart young woman, played by Dakota Fanning, that was so reminiscient of my niece. :-)

The fact that this was done with real object, vs computer animation, brought a certain quaint realism to the characters, endearing them to all of us.  I can't imagine all the knitting work that must've gone on!

I am a huge Gaiman fan, and while I haven't read this particular book, the story definitely had his traditional mark of slightly creepy, intriguing and delightful on it.

To truly appreciate this film, you do need to go see it in the theaters in 3D. I'm sure that's why they filmed it this way (and why we saw so many previews for more movies coming in 3D). It's a good way to get butts in the seats instead of people waiting to see the film on DVD.


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