Making the Grades
This musical documentary’s title may have the sound of finality to it. But with a This Is It DVD release scheduled for next year—one that promises hours of additional footage—it is hard to believe this is the last we will see of Michael Jackson.
The production is the pet project of Director Kenny Ortega, whose movie credits also include the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour and the High School Musical series. Ortega, who worked with Jackson on the Dangerous World Tour and HIStory World Tour, pulled the film together from footage shot during the rehearsals for the planned 2009 London concerts.
It’s a love fest to say the least, focusing on the performer’s attention to detail, professionalism and consideration of the dancers, musicians and other stagehands. But with all the negative press and controversies that have surrounded the singer’s death, a little loving won’t be lost on his fans.
The clips include Jackson’s announcement of his proposed tour on March 5, 2009 at The O2 arena, along with a few other street shots. Yet for the most part, the film takes place inside the studio where Jackson and Ortega were in the midst of orchestrating what surely would have been one of the biggest comebacks ever. (Tickets for the concerts sold out in hours.)
Mixed in with scenes of song rehearsals and dance steps are testimonials by those who worked with the star. From a cast of what appears to be hundreds, only a handful is chosen to perform as backup dancers. It is a life dream come true for many of them and a second chance for at least one man who finds himself struggling for direction in his life. Hopefully the concert’s cancelation hasn’t set him back again. Jackson also shares a moment with lead guitarist Orianthi Panagaris, encouraging her to enjoy the spotlight during her moment on stage with him.
Jackson’s fans will be treated to bits and pieces of many of his greatest hits, along with a taste of the complications and intricacies inherent in producing one of these extravaganzas. As well, they will get a glimpse of some of the sets and film shot especially for the in-production show. The video features some graveyard ghouls made up for a revamped version of Thriller and depictions of environmental destruction.
While several scenes include portrayals of Jackson’s infamous crotch-grabbing dance move, there is little other content concern for parents of younger teens who may be interested in this tribute. But don’t count on a riveting, controversial tell-all. The film might be called Michael Jackson’s This Is It but it is really Kenny Ortega’s homage to the King of Pop.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Michael Jackson’s This Is It.
What things does Director Kenny Ortega choose to focus on in this tribute? How do filmmakers control the storyline, even in a documentary?
This film depicts the amount of behind the scenes work required for success. How do all the dancers, musicians and stagehands contribute to these performances?
Jackson’s music spanned several decades. What is your favorite Jackson song?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Michael Jackson’s This Is It.
Other documentaries with a musical theme include a behind the scenes look at the Jonas Brothers’ touring routine in Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience. The film Standing in the Shadows of Motown looks at The Funk Brothers, a group of session musicians who contributed to the distinctive sound of Motown. A less professional but certainly earnest group of singers are showcased in Young @ Heart, the story of senior citizens who aren’t afraid to take on a wide variety of musical styles.