Think of it as like how Kady O’Malley would liveblog parliamentary committees here, but this time with literal instead of figurative crotch-yanking.
12:58 A film featuring documentary footage of Michael Jackson rehearsing for his big comeback performances in London. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well.
1:02 Dear Scotiabank: No, I’m not. Stop telling me that I am.
1:05 Still not sold on Avatar, but the new trailer is a big improvement in that it doesn’t make me want to invent my own futuristic world in which the movie doesn’t exist.
1:08 What’s this? A movie featuring both Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. What a shame I’m only going to be able to not see it once.
1:11 I’ve been keeping track and I’m pretty sure the only global icons not to be destroyed in trailers for 2012 are the Louvre and Scarlett Johansson’s cleavage.
1:14 Michael Jackson’s This Is It opens with a montage of teary-eyed dancers staring into the camera during a rehearsal break and thanking Michael for the opportunity to dance with him. It’s kind of touching, actually. Kind of makes you think Michael might not have been the raving megalomaniac who — whoa! They just showed the video footage that would have opened his concert and it juxtaposes him with Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. Abort posthumous re-evaluation of character!
1:20 Michael in rehearsal. Kinda mumbling the words to some song or other. It must be early in the process because he’s clearly still working on new dance steps. They’re not fully formed. At least, I hope they’re not, because if they are I think this one is going to be called the Arthritic Robot.
1:23 Less than 10 minutes into the movie and Michael has mentioned “love” approximately 3,800 times. Who does he love? He loves you. What’s it all for? “It’s all for love.” Wait, it’s been five seconds: Have you forgotten who he loves? Because he just reiterated that he loves you. Also, that guy over there. And he’s pretty fond of that blender. Feelings are definitely growing for the blender.
1:26 We see some footage of the tryouts to join Michael Jackson dance troupe. A woman explains that Michael Jackson will not just accept any ol’ dancer. Rather, he wants dancers who can “rock it.” But wait — “If you don’t have that goo, that ooze, coming out of you, you’re not going to get the job.” I’m no dance expert, but I’m pretty sure this means you can lock up one position in the dance troupe for Jeff Goldblum’s character in The Fly.
1:31 For a guy who used to have his meals hand-fed to him by Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson looks to be in pretty fine health in this footage. In fact, he seems normal in every way — which is, of course, the whole point of a movie like this. I might even buy the image of Michael Jackson as a well-adjusted average Joe if only it weren’t for the existence of certain small things, such as the last 25 years. Still, the filmmakers sure are trying. I keep expecting Ron Popeil to burst into the frame and also try to sell me Bill Clinton as a devoted husband and Lindsay Lohan as a virgin.
1:38 In addition to the rehearsal footage, we’re also getting glimpses of some of the video elements that would have appeared during the London performances. For one song, they use green-screen technology to make it look as though Michael Jackson has tens of thousands of dancers, all dressed up as what I can only assume are space marines from the universe’s gayest planet. Now, they’ve cut Jackson into a film noir because, yeah, who better to stand up to Humphrey Bogart. I mean, Bogart’s got a machine gun but Jackson is armed with toe-tappingness. (Full marks, though: they were sparing no expense for these shows. They would have been awesome.)
1:46 Musical director: “MJ is always hands-on in everything he does.” Just ask Macaulay Culkin. (Too soon?)
1:50 I have every confidence that Kenny Ortega (who directed this movie, and was directing and overseeing the London shows) did everything possible to excise scenes of outright divaness on the part of Jackson and outright sycophancy on the part of everyone else. But slowly it’s becoming apparent that the role of the dance troupe is to sometimes dance but at all times to wildly cheer every single thing Michael Jackson does. I’m here to tell you: Life would be so much better if we all had our own 10-member sycophantic dance pack. Goodbye self-esteem issues.
1:52 We’re getting pretty far into this thing and it just occurred to me that Michael Jackson has yet to grab his crotch (or, for that matter, anyone else’s). What’s he got against doing the classics? (Full disclosure: he did hump the floor for a few moments. Enjoyable.)
1:54 Whoa, hang on, here we go! Some full-on crotch grabbery during the rehearsal of The Way You Make Me Feel. Followed by a bit where he follows a hot chick as she sashays across the stage, just like in the video. Is there any chemistry between Michael Jackson and the pretty lady? No. Not only that, there’s also no math, no geography and definitely no phys ed between them.
1:58 The first sign of real frustration from Jackson. He’s rehearsing a series of Jackson 5 numbers when he rips out his earpiece and goes off on a tangent about how the sound is so loud that it’s like a fist being pushed into his head. He says a bunch of other stuff too but, alas, there are no subtitles to translate from crazy. But the best part is that he ends his tirade the way he ends pretty much every sentence. “I’m trying to adjust to the pressure in my inner ear with love. With love. L-O-V-E, love.” Then he’s off, presumably to go grab a ham sandwich with love, with love. L-O-V-E, love. And mustard. L-O-V-E, mustard.
2:02 My favourite part of this (or any) movie so far: a brief scene in which Jackson’s dancers are instructed, presumably by paid professionals, on how exactly to grab their crotches. The name “Baryshnikov” is cited. A Russian lady compares cultural subtleties in preferred methods of crotch grabbing. The men touch their crotches. They touch their crotches again. A thought occurs: Maybe I could have been a dancer after all.
2:08 Kenny Ortega’s bootlicking laughter enters its third minute. Ed McMahon’s record could be in jeopardy.
2:12 Just want to reiterate: the overall impression here is that the London shows would have been fiercely entertaining. That said, we’ve arrived at one of my most favourite of my least favourite things about concerts — that being the juncture at which the artist extends the ending of the song for reasons of pointless drum clanging or, in this case, vocal gymnastics. The song: I Just Can’t Stop Loving You. The music stopped about five minutes ago but Jackson and his female co-singer keep cooing “I just can’t stop loving you” to each other, over and over. Had the concerts actually taken place, this would have been an ideal moment at which to slip out to go to the bathroom and a two-week African safari. Wouldn’t have missed a thing.
2:18 O. M. F-ing. G. It’s Thriller. But it’s new footage of Thriller. And it’s in 3D. And there’s a Zombie Napoleon. Damn you, Grim Reaper — you couldn’t have waited til the fall to take this man? He was going to give the world a Zombie Napoleon! (As I begin to calm myself, I see now that Zombie Napoleon may in fact just be Anonymous Military Uniform Guy Zombie — but to me, he will always be Zombie Napoleon.) FYI: There’s also a zombie mummy, but come on: that’s just implausible.
2:21 Zombie crotch grabbing! Director Kenny Ortega, you may officially begin composing your Golden Globe acceptance speech.
2:23 Hardbodied, bikined ladies are hanging from a chandelier while working with a person described as “a pole-dancing expert.” Director Kenny Ortega, you may officially begin composing your Oscar acceptance speech.
2:26 The name of the concerts’ wardrobe designer? Zaldy. Just Zaldy.
2:29 The whole enterprise has been moving along pretty swiftly but we’re hitting a bit of a slow patch now. I’m not saying this part of the movie is filler, but it’s been about two minutes and we’re still watching Michael Jackson riding around very slowly about eight feet off the ground in a cherry picker. Wait, here comes the big climax: “It’s very nice,” Jackson says. And… scene!
2:33 It’s been several minutes since anyone pointed out that Michael Jackson is great, and the dancers have already pointed out that Michael Jackson is great, so now it’s the turn of the musicians to point out that Michael Jackson is great. In other news, have you heard that Michael Jackson is great? “Greatest artist of our time,” says one. “A perfectionist and a genius,” says another. Generous humanitarian, icon of performance, has soft hands, etc, etc.
2:35 “I love the planet,” Michael Jackson says. “I love trees. I have this thing for trees.” Oh, no, here comes that tedious enviro-song of his that everyone hates. But first: some hypocrisy! A long and weepy rant about the need to protect our planet from the guy with the private jets, the 418 rooms of knick-knacks and the Shaquille O’Neal of environmental footprints.
2:39 It’s still going on. “The planet is sick, like a fever.” Ugh. For this to be any more preachy, it would have had to involve Ed Begley Jr.
2:40 He’s completely lost me… but wait: Slow-motion crotch-grabbing during Billie Jean. Michael Jackson, redeemed!
2:46 The rehearsals are winding down, and so is the film. The dancers, musicians and the crew are gathered together, holding hands in a circle on the rehearsal stage. Jackson is there. Kenny Ortega declares this “one of the most extraordinary experiences of my creative life.” And remember — this is the man who directed not only High School Musical but also High School Musical 2.
2:50 The film closes with a rendition of Man in the Mirror. Jackson performs in slow-motion. His dance pack overcheers his performance in slow-motion. And then all is black.