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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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