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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Michael Jackson's This Is It

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

It's best to approach the posthumous documentary "Michael Jackson's This Is It" (Columbia) with limited expectations.

Director Kenny Ortega's energetic, largely unobjectionable tribute to the controversial "king of pop" is narrowly focused and entirely worshipful, casting little light on the eccentric, if not inscrutable, personality of one of the late 20th century's most iconic entertainers. But the filmmaker does succeed in providing insight into the talent, vision and discipline that lay behind Jackson's global—and long-lasting—professional success.

Using footage originally intended for other purposes, Ortega captures the planning and rehearsals for the titular series of comeback concerts, scheduled to begin in London in July, but forestalled by Jackson's untimely death at age 50 the previous month.

Jackson is explicit about holding back on both his singing and dancing, saving his energy for the audiences who—as it turned out—were never to see him perform. Yet the appeal of his wide-ranging material, which easily embraced rhythm and blues, rock, disco and even the occasional heavy-metal guitar riff, remains unmistakable.

Fragments of a video cleverly incorporating Jackson into a series of scenes from old movies is particularly entertaining, while a montage of his career played out as he sings one of his childhood hits, "I'll Be There"—first recorded in his Motown days as the diminutive frontman for the Jackson 5—proves poignant. And it's intriguing to witness both Jackson's intuitive skill in guiding his backup musicians and the understated, quirky wit he sometimes reveals.

With his breathless voice and shy manner, Jackson displays an apparently sincere, though nonspecific, faith as he frequently invokes God's blessing on his collaborators and on the work he shares with them. He also seems somewhat taken aback when—in the closest anyone on-screen comes to verbal vulgarity—one of his fellow performers uses the term "booty" in a way that doesn't refer to footwear.

The only other factor likely to be of concern to parents of young fans is the mildly risque nature of some of the dancing, especially a characteristic move that mimics the self-adjustment sometimes indulged in by baseball players.

The film contains some skimpy costuming and suggestive dancing and at least one vaguely crass term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II— adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG— parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

****

Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Paul Miki and Companions: Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church. 
<p>Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross, Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” </p><p>When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.</p> American Catholic Blog By way of analogy, we are taught that we all have the same sun shining on us and we all have the same rain falling on us. It is how we deal with sun and rain, how we deal with the happy and the not-so-happy things of life that causes our interior weather. Basically, we do it to ourselves.

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